Rowing: Pinsent and Cracknell enjoy a cruise before the storm

Hugh Matheson
Tuesday 07 January 2014 04:35
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Henley Royal Regatta shook off the damp grey of its opening three days to produce sparkling races with world-class performers yesterday. Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell continued their untroubled preparation for the real showdown of their season when they will meet the only crew with an entirely different approach to racing.

In Lucerne next weekend they will face James Tompkins and Drew Ginn of Australia who sweet-talk the boat over the 2,000-metre course in contrast to the raw power of the British world champions who yesterday overcame the lightweights Ned Kittoe and Nick English. Today they will have a harder time against the South Africans Ramon di Clemente and Donavan Cech.

British interest stayed alive in the Princess Elizabeth Cup when Groton School turned a small crab into a massive one soon after the start and had to begin again from about two lengths down against Abingdon School. Groton chased bravely but crossed the line two-thirds of a length behind. Groton train in fours and have had less than a month to practise in the eights. In the other half of the draw St Paul's ran away from another American crew, Tabor Academy, to make it an all-British final.

The British junior world champion single sculler of 2001, Matt Langridge, has struck lucky in his first Diamond Sculls with none of the top men entering. Yesterday he disposed of the last foreign challenger, beating the American Sean Casey.

In the women's sculls Rumyana Neikova, who lost the Olympic final in Sydney by a minute margin beat the upcoming French sculler, Sophie Balmary with ease and will face Catherine Rutschow of Germany. Neikova took last year off to have a son and Rutschow won the world championship.

The British eight had a tough task in the grand Challenge Cup against Hansa Dortmund, who had beaten the German national crew to win their domestic championships. The British eight had lost a week of training with the same bug that has kept the world champion four out of the Steward's Cup. Steve Gunn, the coach, was not too distressed to see his crew go out by two lengths. He expects a better show in Lucerne next week.

In the new Remenham Cup for women's eights, two seeded crews of women who had either been dropped from or quit the national squads of Germany and Great Britain respectively had a great race. The crews were within a few feet all the way until a thrust took the Britons through by one length.

Today's racing will bring a crop of close contests with one or two exhibitions by the best crews in the world. It is hard to see the Double Sculls Challenge Cup being taken from the Hungarian World Champions, Peto and Haller, who looked utterly superb in yesterday's semi-final.

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