Rowing: Oxford crew burst through late

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The Independent Online
Henley opened with a mixed bag of rain and races, and with a changeable headwind it was a day for Barbours, not blazers. The revised rules for the lesser events for eights were challenged immediately when Up- per Thames, a Henley club, objected to racing a crew from Essen Kupferdreh, Germany, because it breached the rule that "no crew of a boat club of any university, college or secondary school" may enter.

The Essen boys happily confessed to being German student champions and to have cast round for a club to race for in the Thames Cup because there are no student clubs in Germany. They went for the Thames Cup because some of them had raced for it last year. The objection was dismissed.

The best race of the day came in the Britannia Cup for coxed fours when an Oxford "exam" crew with three practice outings, rowing as Isis, had allowed Sons of the Thames a two-length lead to Fawley before bursting through to win by three feet. Isis was still a length down at the mile and one-eighth, but came up to level for an agonisingly long period before a final heave took them to victory.

There were few indicators of the eventual winner of the Diamond Sculls as the selected scullers are all scheduled to begin racing today. But the Irish lightweight Gearoid Towey set a fast time in beating John Burton, of Australia. Towey, 19, was fifth in the Junior World Championships last year and has beaten Niall O'Toole, the 1991 world champion.

In the Temple Cup, Eton upset the progress of the new Resolute boat being developed for the United States Olympic squad when the Orange Coast College crew was unable to hold them off in the closing stages of the race. Eton's finishing time of 5min 53sec was the fastest on a blustery day. The Resolute boat has a new hull shape, being widest at the No 3 seat as well as a novel construction with no bulkheads. It is said to be favoured by the US eight but not by their English coach, Mike Spracklen.

In the Princess Elizabeth, Shiplake College found they too had a newly shaped boat after several of the outriggers were altered between their morning practice and the race, which had to be postponed. It made little difference to their smooth progress through Westminster School to a meeting today with St Edward's Oxford, the favourites for the school eights event.

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