Rowing: Redgrave looks to be the home banker

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The Independent Online
Henley Royal Regatta will have to wait until Sunday for the first and only appearance in a race of its hero, Steve Redgrave, its most successful competitor in history.

In the Stewards' Cup for coxless fours his crew will face only one rival, the lightweights from Nottinghamshire county. Nottingham were rowing in the eight in Paris two weeks ago when the Redgrave four went within a quarter second of the world record in only their fourth competitive outing. If his race is a foregone conclusion, nowhere else will it be so easy.

The regatta opens today with 88 races, spread over 11 hours, which will under no circumstances be delayed however heavy the rain. Remarkably, the river, which has had to absorb 40mm of rain in the past week, is well under control and should make conditions on the course as fair as in any year. Brian Greenfield, of the Environment Agency, said the river was very low before and the land has taken up most of the rain. There was a small increase in flow, which has already started to drop away."

Today's racing in the three eights events that attract a large entry, the Thames Cup for clubs, the Temple for academic institutions and the Princess Elizabeth for schools, will provide the opening evidence of changes in the normal pecking order. In the schools, Radley, have climbed back to the top of the heap, after decades in the wilderness, and the "A" crew should go through against Cheltenham. Eton, no longer confidently on top and fourth at the National Schools Regatta, will race the Oratory School with less than their usual aplomb.

In the Thames Cup, there is no outstanding crew, with the stronger candidates being encouraged to upgrade to the Ladies Plate, where racing will begin on Friday with international crews including the British lightweights, who finished second in Munich, and the American West Coast champions, the University of Washington.

In the Diamond Sculls, Peter Haining, three times lightweight world champion, will race D Atkins, of Nottingham and Union, who was obliged to come in through the qualifying races last Friday. Haining, who has withdrawn from national team selection after failing to finish at Paris two weeks ago, has been weakened by a virus this year and has not approached his past form.

If he goes through today against an unranked man, he is unlikely to reach the sort of showdown against one of the top heavyweights that he relishes. The entry includes the British Olympic gold medallist, Greg Searle, and the American world champion, Jamie Koven, both of whom have opted to go it alone after glittering careers in crews.

The Grand Challenge Cup for the top eights has three national crews, from Australia, Britain and Germany. The Australians, sixth in the Olympics, looked superb when winning in Paris only five days after touching down in Europe and they will be looking for a couple of sharpeners before going to Lausanne in 10 days' time.

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