Rowing: Crews spring tide of surprise

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The Independent Online
While the British world of rowing waits to hear what Steve Redgrave, four-times Olympic champion, is to announce at a scheduled press conference on 28 November, most of his Atlanta colleagues appeared in different guises in the Fullers Four's Head of the River race on Saturday on London's Tideway.

The Searle brothers, Olympic champions in 1992 and bronze medallists this summer, were first to appear in the leading quadruple scull from Molesey and the University of London. Leander Club, as last year's winners, should have led off but curiously they had put their strongest crew in as a new entry at No 295, which started an hour later, and then cancelled their No 1 spot on account of "injury".

This gamesmanship meant Ben Hunt Davis and Richard Hamilton from the Olympic eight and Bobby Thatcher and James Cracknell from the double scull had the best of a slack tide under them and were able to finish in nominal first place, more than 20sec ahead of a Tideway Scullers crew and the Searle's Molesey crew. Other late starters also shot up the list. Roskilde Roklub of Denmark, with three Danish champions and Auriol Kensington, took third. Peter Haining, the most successful lightweight sculler ever, was supposed to race with them but popped up in the Tideway Scullers' crew which finished fourth, 6sec back.

The winning coxless four came from Oxford, with Tim Foster from the Olympic bronze medal crew at stroke and behind him Roberto Blanda of the Italian eight. This crew was selected to be equal with another four who had the Oxford president, Ed Bellamy, at bow. His deputy Damien West dropped out with injury and was replaced by a distinguished but incompatible substitute. They dropped some 30sec behind.

Cambridge took the honours in the coxed fours, finishing 26th with a crew made up of their president Ethan Ayer and Canadian Olympic spare Brad Crombie. Despite starting near the front, they had 6sec in hand over another Leander new entry stroked by Matthew Pinsent, the Olympic champion. He had an excuse for starting at the back after an appearance in the Lord Mayor's show. He was so late after the security cordon had stopped him riding a motorbike from the City of London that he missed his start point and had to slot in 100 places lower, when the best of the stream had waned.

In his most exhausted moment, minutes after winning his fourth successive Olympic championship, Steve Redgrave told the cameras he would never row again. At that time he and Pinsent had not been beaten in five years in the pair, and the relief from the strains that record imposed seemed to outweigh his triumph.

A return to the pair would be the most improbable announcement in two weeks' time, but it is possible Redgrave will allow himself to start training again to compete in a big crew like an eight or perhaps coxless four in the 1997 season.

Results, Digest, page 19