An afternoon of semifinals on the Rotsee
The 2014 World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland continued with an afternoon of semifinals. On the Lake of the Gods, the Rotsee, the rain stayed away, the sun peeked out, temperatures got a little warmer and the water remained flat.
A spectacular visual of rowing boats against a backdrop of rolling hills and trees helped show why this is such a special place to row.
Men's Pair (M2-) - Semifinals
What a finish! The first Semifinal of the men's pair set the standard for the afternoon with four boats fighting it out for the qualifying three spots. Italy's Marco Di Costanzo and Matteo Castaldo got into the lead at the start with South Africa Two of Lawrence Brittain and David Hunt chasing hard. Costanzo and Castaldo formed as a duo last year and finished the season in a credible sixth place spot. They continued to lead with Aiguebelette medallists, Bastian Bechler and Anton Braun of Germany now moving up.
Then the field began to close. As Italy held on grimly to their lead, South Africa, Germany and Great Britain One of James Foad and Matt Langridge charged for the line as if they were racing in a final. The effort after the finish was obvious. The wait for result confirmation felt like eternity. Italy, Great Britain and South Africa made the final.
South Africa One of Shaun Keeling and Vincent Breet came storming out at the start in Semifinal Two. They were up against World and Olympic Champions, Murray and Bond of New Zealand and Keeling and Breet were prepared to stick with the New Zealanders as long as possible. But by the middle of the race Murray and Bond had made the rest of the field look like they were paddling. With an open water lead, Murray and Bond continued on their dominating ways in the pair.
The race now turned into a procession with Murray and Bond looking extremely comfortable on a 34 stroke rate. Keeling and Breet did a push, rating 43, to get back into second and Veselin Savic and Dusan Bogicevic of Serbia One shook off their country's number two crew to grab the final qualifying spot.
South Africa will be celebrating tonight being in enviable position of having two top pairs in the world.
Qualifiers: ITA1, GBR1, RSA2, NZL, SRB1, RSA1
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls (LM2x) - Semifinals
Semifinal One opened with Andrea Micheletti and Pietro Ruta of Italy getting out to a fast start and into the lead. Micheletti and Ruta have been hovering just outside of the medals with a fourth place finish at both the 2013 World Rowing Championships and the 2014 European Rowing Championships. By the middle of the race Jan and Ondrej Vetesnik of the Czech Republic had inched out in front with Great Britain (William Fletcher and Jamie Kirkwood) closing in.
With 500m left to row less than a second separated the top four crews of the Vetesnik's, the Italians, the British and the Germans. Fletcher and Kirkwood had the highest rating (41) and crossed the line in the lead. Italy and the Czech Republic retained just enough energy to earn the remaining qualifying spots.
So far this season Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou of France have not lost a race. They recorded the fastest time in the heats yesterday and looked to be continuing on their dominating way. Today, however, Delayre and Azou were not so in control. Despite having the lead in Semifinal Two, Delayre and Azou had both Norway and Switzerland right on their heels.
Norway's Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli kept the overlap with the French, while Simon Schuerch and Mario Gyr of Switzerland were hardly a bow ball behind. In the final sprint the Muda twins of the Netherlands joined in the chase keeping the pace hot for a qualifying spot. France remained just ahead in first. Switzerland used the huge crowd support to take second and World Champions, Norway, managed to just hold off the Muda's.
Qualifiers: GBR, ITA, CZE, FRA, SUI, NOR
Lightweight Women's Double Sculls (LW2x) - Semifinals
This is going to be one hot final. The six qualifying boats from these two semifinals all finished within three seconds of each other. Here's how it panned out. In Semifinal One winners of the World Rowing Cup in Aiguebelette, Imogen Walsh and Katherine Copelend of Great Britain set the pace. Walsh and Copeland are in their first season together after Olympic Champion, Copeland, took 2013 off from rowing.
Walsh and Copeland did just enough to hold off Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee of Canada. Jennerich and Obee raced at the London Olympic Games together and have come back in the double this year after some time away from the boat. Poland's Joanna Dorociak and Weronika Deresz had to race twice yesterday by coming to this semifinal through the repechages. It didn't seem to impact them today and they held the leaders pace.
In the final sprint, Germany came on strong making it a four boat tussle. The Germans missed out. Great Britain, Canada and Poland got to move on to the final.
Semifinal Two saw the reigning World Champions, Laura Milani and Elisabetta Sancassani of Italy start at the back of the field. This is not unusual for Milani and Sancassani, the question is can they catch up? By the half way point Milani and Sanscassani had moved into fourth with Australia's new 2014 combination of Alice McNamara and Ella Flecker out in front. McNamara and Flecker raced in the b-final at Aiguebelette so this is a positive step up for the duo.
Coming towards the line four boats were on the pace for a qualifying spot - Australia in front, South Africa hanging in there, Sweden's Cecilia Lilja and Emma Fredh pushing hard and Italy flying. At the line South Africa had missed out by a fraction. The line up for the final was set.
Qualifiers: GBR, CAN, POL, AUS1, ITA, SWE
Men's Quadruple Sculls (M4x) - Semifinals
Looking like a repeat of the final at the World Rowing Cup last month in Aiguebelette, Great Britain was in the lead with Germany chasing. This is how Semifinal One was taking place. But instead of Germany being in second they were back a bit with the new United States crew locked in on Great Britain's pace. The United States crew rows together at a new elite rowing school in Vermont, USA and the school has been producing some top athletes.
Coming through into the final 500 metres Great Britain's Thomas, Townsend, Cousins and Lambert remained in front with Germany and the United States both pushing for second. At the line the British secured the fastest qualifying time, with Germany in second and the United States in third.
Finishing in a time just a fraction slower than Great Britain in Semifinal Two was Estonia. The Estonians finished fourth at the London Olympic Games and have regularly focused on the quad as their priority boat in a nation where the number of rowers is small. Today Estonia's Kuslap, Raja, Anderson and Taimsoo got out in front at the start, but with the five other crews all still very much on the pace.
By the middle of the race Estonia managed to gain a small leading margin followed by New Zealand's Uru, Storey, Flannery and Harris with Poland in third. By the last 500 the order had been established, but the sprint was still to come. Estonia and New Zealand both hit a 39 stroke rate. Poland looked like they had run out of steam. Lucky for these crews the order did not change. New Zealand and Poland both step up from a b-final finish at the World Rowing Cup in Aiguebelette.
Qualifiers: GBR, GER, USA, EST, NZL, POL
Men's Double Sculls (M2x) - Semifinals
Lithuania's Saulius Ritter and Rolandas Mascinskas started off the season by winning the World Rowing Cup in Sydney. They then won at the European Rowing Championships. Today they led Semifinal One from start to finish despite strong challenges from Great Britain and Australia One who were pacing each other side-by-side down the 2000m course.
Great Britain's John Collins and Jonathan Walton had finished fifth at Aiguebelette while James McRae and Alexander Belonogoff of Australia One were the bronze medallists. Today they both chased Lithuania and closed in during the final sprint. At the line Ritter and Mascinskas rated 38 to stay in front with the two other crews at 39. The order did not change.
Semifinal Two was the faster of the two semis with winners of the World Rowing Cup in Aiguebelette, Croatia's Martin and Valent Sinkovic in the lead. By the middle of the race the World Champions from the men's quad, Croatia, had a full boat length lead over Hans Gruhne and Stephen Krueger of Germany. Behind them World Champions Norway was having a huge battle with the Manson brothers of New Zealand. At Aiguebelette New Zealand finished fourth and Norway took sixth.
As the Sinkovic's cruised home rating 31, New Zealand and Germany kept the pressure on. Germany took second and New Zealand qualified from third. Norway had run out of steam and will race in the B-final tomorrow.
Qualifiers: LTU, AUS1, GBR, CRO1, GER, NZL
Men's Single Sculls (M1x) - Semifinals
For the first time this season, 2008 Olympic Champion Olaf Tufte of Norway has made the A-final. Rowing hero Tufte did it in Semifinal One when he chased down leader and current Olympic Champion, Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand. Sandwiched in between this chase was Holland Beker regatta winner, Roel Braas of the Netherlands.
In the final sprint, Drysdale held the lead rating 32 with Braas holding second and also rating 32. Tufte, at 38, was taking no chances and perhaps using this race as a test for tomorrow's final. These three top scullers will race again in the final on Sunday.
The faster of the two semifinals turned out to be Semifinal Two. In the lead at the start was Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania with the usual fast starting Marcel Hacker of Germany back in third behind World Champion Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic. Mindaugas remained in first through the middle of the race with both Synek and Hacker looking like they were content to remain in their second and third placed spots.
Then coming through the third 500 Hacker did a push. Both Mindaugas and Synek countered the push with Synek then deciding that he'd like the lead. The long limbed Synek got ahead of Mindaugas who seemed unconcerned. Synek, Mindaugas and Hacker were in the final.
Qualifiers: NZL, NED, NOR, CZE, LTU, GER1
Women's Single Sculls (W1x) - Semifinals
World Champion, Kim Crow of Australia led the way in Semifinal One. Crow was the fastest qualifier from yesterday's heats and she was in a class of her own as she moved away to an open water lead over the rest of the field. Bronze medallist from the World Rowing Cup in Aiguebelette, Magdalena Lobnig of Austria gave it a good shot, but was under no pressure in terms of a qualifying spot.
The race then turned into a procession with Crow looking classy in the lead, Lobnig following back in second and Chantal Achterberg of the Netherlands One putting in a closing sprint to catch up with Lobnig.
World Cup leader, Emma Twigg of New Zealand has not lost a race so far this season. Twigg raced at the head of the field in Semifinal Two and looked like she was making easy work of it. Behind Twigg, Olympic Champion Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic found herself under a fair bit of pressure from both Sanita Puspure of Ireland and Victoria Thornley of Great Britain.
In the last 500m Twigg had enough of a lead that she did not need to sprint. Knapkova went to 34 to hold off a big sprint battle that was going on between Puspure and Thornley. At the line Thornley had triumphed. The final line up was decided.
Qualifiers: AUS1, AUT, NED1, NZL, CZE, GBR