Searle muscles in as inner strength takes control

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Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent led a fleet of British winners on the opening two days of the World Championships here.

In near perfect conditions, Redgrave and his crew, who also included James Cracknell and Tim Foster, began at a furious pace in the coxless fours. At the half-way stage in the qualifying heats they were 3.5 seconds faster than any other crew, but then relaxed to let Slovenia come back to within a second before still recording the fastest time of the opening day.

Redgrave experienced few problems, other than some cross washes from umpires' launches. "The water is so flat that for the first time I never had to think about the steering," he said.

Greg Searle, who is among 22 entries in the men's single sculls, transformed his early season record to cruise into the semi-finals with a startling win over Fredrik Bekken. The Norwegian had finished a confident second in Lucerne six weeks ago.

Searle's time was beaten only by the American Jamie Koven, the man he defeated in the Diamond Sculls at Henley this summer. "My coach, Harry Mahon, has given me the verbal guidance on what has to come from within," Searle said. "He has helped me to race it all the way and to stay on it. I was so pleased to be in a race where I was the one in control after half-way and, although it was hard, I felt great."

The British women's team came of age with wins in the double sculls and coxless pairs and a strong third place in the heats of the eights. Mike Spracklen, who returned after eight years and two gold medals with the Canadian and American men's team to coach the British women, is ahead of schedule on his planned approach to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. "It is a big surprise the way they have responded," Spracklen said. "These are all good results."

Half of the women's eight are entered in the coxless four and they have taken a bye direct to the final next Saturday because the event has been dropped from the Olympic programme and the entries here have dropped to six.

The men's eight came through late in the race to finish second after drawing through the new United States crew who had led the heat until the last 500 metres. The British crew, with an average age of 22 and with only one of the Atlanta Olympics contingent remaining, have improved immeasurably since Lucerne and are in a group of four crews who should end up racing for the medals.

The lightweight men's eight also finished second in the heats, with Canada and the United States strong winners. However, coach Len Robertson felt it was a good opening performance given that only three men, including the cox, John Deakin, had any experience at this level.