Rowing: Hollow victory for Redgrave

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The Independent Online
On finals day at Henley Royal Regatta the Stewards' Cup for coxless fours was always destined for Steve Redgrave's locker as he now sits in the No 2 seat of the fastest four in the world, and none of the internationals which have felt the rough edge of his blade this year was prepared to come to the Thames for further punishment.

Nottinghamshire County had entered two fours to cover the reshuffle of the lightweight national eight, but reduced this to one by the time of the draw. They stuck to their work and when the big four relaxed to a paddle at 26 strokes to the minute after Fawley, they were allowed back to level opposite the enclosures, before Matthew Pinsent released a shattering burst of 50 strokes to the minute and crossed the line two and a half lengths ahead.

Redgrave, not happy about only having one opponent, said: "I'm disappointed really, disappointed with the regatta as a whole. To me it doesn't seem the same regatta." The regatta is known more for its place in the British social calendar than as a leading international event. Last week, top British rowing official David Tanner said Henley needed more money to attract a higher quality of international crews if it wanted to move forward with the times.

The Australian National eight has certainly moved forward, sweeping all before it in the Continental regattas, and yesterday they met an old, but talented, German crew from Berlin and Tagle in the final of the Grand Challenge Cup. The Germans staked all on a fast start and, helped by a shipwreck from the Olympic champion Drew Ginn, gained a three-quarter length lead at the barrier, which they reached only three seconds outside the record. The Austrians responded with a devastating push in the lead- up to Fawley and reversed the order in less than 30 seconds.

The Australians go on to Lucerne for the final of the FISA World Cup at one-all with the German National crew. If they can overcome the effect of four regattas on four successive weekends they are probably favourites for the title.

Greg Searle, the 1992 Olympic champion in coxed pairs, came to Henley in search of his first significant win in his new discipline, the single scull. On Saturday, in the semi-final, he faced his US counterpart, Jamie Koven, who also made the switch after winning the world championships in the eight. They raced like titans, with barely a length between them, each serving an accelerated apprenticeship in side-by-side sculling, where tactics and nerve outweigh even the muscle these 15-stone men bring to the event.

Yesterday, in Peter Haining, Searle faced the greatest of lightweight scullers, who on best form would have given him a tough race. But Haining has suffered this year from a persistent virus and has not performed well, and Searle had put himself out of reach before the Barrier and took an "easily" verdict on the line.

There was nothing easy about the Ladies' Plate final, once again contested by crews nearly three stone different in weight. Nottinghamshire County and Oxford Brookes is a trial version of the British national lightweight crew and the University of Washington, who are unbeaten and intercollegiate champions in the United States. County sped off the start but could not show in front until the Barrier.

At Fawley, County had two thirds of a length but Washington reeled them back in and came level at the mile and one eighth and led by a few feet up the enclosures before County raised the rate to 41 strokes to the minute and squeezed through to win by one foot.

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