Britain has two crews in today's final of the World Cup coxless fours after the second-string boat qualified through a repêchage yesterday. In perfect conditions of sunshine and flat water Tom Stallard, Steve Trapmore, Luka Grubor and stroke Kieran West cruised home a second and a half behind a Slovenian quartet.
This may well be the first regatta this year in which these men are having a good time. Stallard was bowman in the Cambridge crew that lost an epic Boat Race after leading for four miles, while the other three are Olympic champions from Britain's eight in Sydney 2000 who, until a week ago, formed the engine room of the present eight. The eight has gone nowhere for two seasons, and release from its frustrations shows in the way the Olympians raced in the four yesterday, although they are not a threat to the other British crew.
Rick Dunn, Toby Garbett and Steve Williams and Ed Coode, currently injured, are world champions in this event, winning a tightly contested event last year. They were comparatively faster in their first year than the old Sydney coxless four of Redgrave and company. Josh West, a Cambridge man like stroke Dunn, replaced Coode this season, and they won the first round of the World Cup before injury intervened at both Henley and Lucerne three weeks ago. They won their heat here on Thursday and look safe for the World Championships in Seville next month. This will relegate the Olympic four to take a cox on board for that event.
Meanwhile, the greener and younger men who replaced the Olympians in the eight heralded a turnaround yesterday by storming home in a well-judged repêchage to qualify for the final in second place, a length behind Croatia but a bow-ball ahead of Romania.
Britain has eight World Cup finalists (and five more in non-Olympic events), among them Tim Male and Tom Kay in the lightweight double sculls, who controlled their semi-final superbly yesterday, and Guin Batten, the Olympic medallist from the Sydney quadruple sculls who returned to the single scull this season after injury. She is on a "recovery through racing experience programme", said David Tanner, the director of international rowing. Batten was pleased with yesterday's performance, saying: "Thank God I've still got a life".
The double scullers Helen Casey and Tracy Langlands, hoping to win today in the absence of the German crew who pushed them to second place in both previous rounds of the cup, were second in their semi-final behind Marit van Eupen and Hedi Poot of the Netherlands. Another emerging threat are the Australians Sally Anne Causby and Amber Jae Halliday, winners of the fastest semi.
The double scullers and cup leaders Frances Houghton and Debbie Flood reached their final directly from Thursday's heat, and the quadruple scullers Alison Mowbray, Sarah Winckless, Katherine Grainger and Rebecca Romero qualified easily in a repêchage yesterday.
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