Rowing: Coxless fours lead way in trial

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S ROWING team opened its season with a long and confusing time trial in the first round of the International Rowing Federation World Cup at Hazenwinkel in Belgium yesterday. The FISA Cup transferred here from Munich after the German Federation objected to a beer sponsorship, the sponsor then resigned and the Cup was left to continue without either money or a German team.

The governing body then decided to run a time trial, in place of knock- out heats, as a training exercise in case of unfair conditions at a World or Olympic Championship.

This has importance because the Olympic regatta is scheduled to hit the worst week for cross-winds on the purpose-built course at Penrith near Sydney.

FISA has a newly constituted "fairness committee", which will use the time trial method with crews following each other down one lane at 30 second intervals only as a last resort. In spite of complaints from several coaches and managers the rehearsal was a success, and preferable to hearing the same complaints when it is imposed in treacherous conditions without warning at a major final.

The strength of the British Olympic team was visible with the top crews mostly performing well but unwilling to stand out before the side-by-side racing starts today.

Three members of the men's coxless four world champion crew - Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell - raced, with Ed Coode replacing Tim Foster who is using the single scull as a fitness test after having a disc removed from his spine last December. Their time was equalled by the second British four of Jim Walker, Jonny Singfield, Jonny Searle and Richard Dunn - all theoretically in reserve for the eight, which has a straight final tomorrow.

The women's team unveiled a new quadruple scull with Olympic single sculls finalist Guin Batten at stroke, Sarah Winkless behind her, Katherine Grainger - who came down from Scotland only a month ago - at two and the 1997 coxless fours world champion Lisa Eyre at bow.

In winning, admittedly without the Germans to give a benchmark time, they showed real potential which will be put to the test in tomorrow's final.

The women's double scull of Miriam Batten and Gillian Lindsay took the honours, as expected of world champions, along with Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop who won the coxless pairs.

However, the women's eight had to be reshuffled after injury and never got going in an event dominated by the rejuvenated Dutch, who finished 12 seconds ahead of Romania. The British men's eight, already drawn into their final, came second in the time trial behind Romania.