Women's eight prove worth

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The British women's eight took their first confident step toward Olympic qualification with a decisive victory in the 56th Women's Head of the River race on London's Tideway on Saturday.

The national squad was concentrated into the eight a year ago and just failed to win early qualification at the 1995 World Championships. On Saturday, the restyled crew beat the Dutch eight, who were third in the world in 1995, by 16 seconds.

This was partly because the Dutch started an hour later than the British and had perhaps 10 seconds less help from the stream. However, the British showed clear evidence of the work Bill Mason, their coach, has put in. He has selected bigger athletes and has adapted their style to bring a quicker catch to the stroke, while ensuring that it is drawn through more solidly to the finish. It works.

The Dutch crew was followed home by the British national lightweights who had started directly in front and had managed to avoid being passed until Hammersmith Bridge with over half of the 18-minute race gone.