Rowing: Britons quash new threat

In winning the coxless fours at the World Cup regatta here yesterday, Steven Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent carried on where they left off last year, making certain that each threat was dealt with before it emerges.

Four years ago they decided to "whap every crew that we race to be certain that nobody thinks they can beat us when we line up in the Olympic final", as Redgrave put it at the time.

Faced with a strong French crew yesterday, they were marking out their territory and it was important that they imposed themselves. Off the start they took a lead of a few feet which they held throughout the race until the last 350 metres when they swept to victory by half a length - their 66th win in a row.

Tim Foster, who with James Cracknell made up the four, said: "It did not feel as close as it looks on the time sheet. I always knew we would win, it was just a question of how much. They were working harder than us just to keep up."

Several of the British team have suffered from a stomach bug and two crew changes were forced. Redgrave, who lost two weeks of training following an appendectomy in April, also suffered. "I didn't feel 100 per cent but I am happy it made no difference to the result."

Jurgen Grobler, who has coached Redgrave and Pincent since 1991, and is the chief of the British men's team, said: "We have found some speed since Munich, and they stayed better together in the attack at the end. Now we probably have only Italy, the champions in 1995, to meet this year."

The sharp end of the women's team which had performed in the quadruple scull in Munich split into a double scull and pair, and each went extremely well on its debut. Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop, in the pair, were slow off the start and lying fourth at the end of the first quarter, but in the second half they pulled right back and closed on the Romanians to finish second on the line. Bishop was "pleased that we went well in the rough water but we need more confidence off the start".

The double scull of Miriam Batten and Gillian Lindsay also lost, but only to a new German crew. Batten, who steers the boat which is stroked by Lindsay, said: "It is nice to find we can go well and it felt good to chomp the Swiss when we made our move".

The men's coxless pair, also second, took the lead in the World Cup, after the same result as in Munich. But Ben Hunt-Davis who strokes the crew with Bobby Thatcher at bow was angry that they took the lead with 500 metres to go and were unable to hold the Lithuanians.

Greg Searle, the double Olympic medallist, has taken to the single scull and reached a big final for the first time. "I made my big race on Saturday. Although I enjoyed the first half today it was inefficient and I slipped to last place in the second 1,000 metres."

Results, Digest, page 23