Brandenburg becomes the rowing capital for European Champs racing
The 2016 European Rowing Championships in Brandenburg, Germany got underway with the first day of racing. This regatta attracted 34 European nations. For the first day of heats the weather showed warm spring conditions with a slight head cross wind on the waters of the Beetzsee regatta course.
Lightweight Men's Single Sculls (LM1x) - Heats
The top three in each of these three heats would get to go to tomorrow's semifinals and in Heat One Germany's Konstantin Steinhuebel led from start to finish. Steinhuebel easily led over Norway's Ask Jarl Tjoem with Timothee Heijbrock of the Netherlands in third. Heijbrock is making his way back into top form after overtraining last year.
As the lightweight single is a non-Olympic boat class, most of the athletes in this boat class are trying to work their way into an Olympic boat. This meant that racing was intense as these athletes continue to try and prove themselves.
Hungary's Daniel Matyasovszki got away the quickest in Heat Two with Jamie Kirkwood of Great Britain chasing hard. In the last 500m gaps closed with Hungary, Great Britain, Croatia and Switzerland all going for the three qualifying positions. Matyasovszki got to a 38 stroke rate pace but was pipped at the line by Luka Radonic of Croatia and Kirkwood. Radonic recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Bulgaria got away the quickest before Slovenia's Rajko Hrvat pushed into the lead. Hrvat won last month at World Rowing Cup I in Varese and he was now showing his form in the second half of the race. Medallist from the 2015 World Rowing Championships, Lukas Babac of Slovakia then pulled into second. The order was decided with 1500m to row and no boat looked to be sprinting to the finish with Hrvat remaining in first.
Qualifiers: GER, NOR, NED, CRO, GBR, HUN, SLO, SVK, BUL
Men’s Pair (M2-) - Heats
This boat class had three heats and it was all about finishing in a top three position for a direct path to the semifinals on Saturday. The bronze medallists from the 2015 World Rowing Championships, Milos Vasic and Nenad Bedik of Serbia led the way from start to finish in Heat One. Russia followed in second and Poland was in third. This order did not change through the entire race.
After finishing eighth in 2015, Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette of France must be wanting to show their speed. Today they came out in third position with Germany's Peter Kluge and Clemens Ernsting in the lead in Heat Two. Going through the middle of the race margins were close with Spain taking the lead at one point. Then France did a piece that pulled them out in front as France and Germany fought it out for the final 500m of the race. A 43 stroke rate was not enough to keep Chardin and Mortelette in the lead with Germany crossing first.
Roel Braas and Mitchel Steenman of the Netherlands finished fourth at 2015 World Rowing Championships and then at World Rowing Cup I last month, they won silver. Today they led Heat Three with Great Britain's Alan Sinclair and Stewart Innes in hot pursuit. These two boats moved away from the field with Sinclair and Innes managing to get into the lead. Neither boat sprinted the finish and the British crossed the line in first with the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: SRB, RUS, POL, GER, FRA, ESP, GBR, NED, CZE
Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) - Heats
These heats were about finishing in a top three position for a direct path to the semifinals and Heat One was loaded with talent. The World Champions, Martin and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia were there along with Norway's new combination that included two-time Olympic Champion, Olaf Tufte with Kjetil Borch. The Sinkovic's led the way. But Tufte and Borch kept the World Champions honest by staying within striking distance. These two boats easily qualified for the semifinals along with Great Britain from third.
Heat Two had 39 year old Marcel Hacker and his partner Stephan Krueger of Germany in the lead. This is their first international race together this year and the crowd support was behind them. By the middle of the race Germany was still in the lead with Switzerland and France right on the pace. These three countries kept it tight for the rest of the race and in the final sprint Hacker and Krueger only just held on to the lead. Switzerland's Nico Stahlberg and Roman Roeoesli finished second and Matthieu Androdias and Hugo Boucheron of France took third.
In Heat Three, Azerbaijan's Boris Yotov and Aleksandar Aleksandrov led the way. The duo finished seventh at last year's World Rowing Championships and they have qualified this boat for the Rio Olympics. Then Rolandas Mascinskas and Saulius Rotter of Lithuania pushed into the lead. The Lithuanian duo won silver last year and they remained in the lead until the end. Azerbaijan, however, did not give up and the margin at the finish was close.
Qualifiers: CRO, NOR, GBR, GER, SUI, FRA, LTU, AZE, BLR
Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) - Heats
Due to the withdrawal of Switzerland for medical reasons, the order in these three heats was changed. It was still the top three through to tomorrow's semifinals and in Heat One Sanita Puspure of Ireland overtook Great Britain's Mathilda Hodgkons-Byrne to snag the lead. Then Latvia's Elze Gulbe got into second and chased after Puspure. Puspure managed to hold her off and the order remained the same until the line.
Olympic Champion, Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic was the leader of Heat Three and at the half way point the newly married Knapkova was still in the lead by a clear water margin. Belarus's 43-year-old Ekaterina Karsten was in second but quite a way back. Then in the final sprint margins did close up a bit as Sweden's Anna Malvina Svennung pushed hard and got into third, nearly overtaking Karsten.
In Heat Three Magdalena Lobnig of Austria got away quickly and pushed out to an open boat length lead. Lobnig was a B-finallist at last year's World Rowing Championships and she had a great race today. In second Lina Saltyte of Lithuania was so far back she had no chance of catching Lobnig. Lobnig must have been enjoying these bumpy conditions as she brought her boat home easily in the lead.
Qualifiers: IRL, LAT, GBR, CZE, BLR, SWE, AUT, LTU, NED
Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) - Heats
The top two in each of these three heats would get to go to the semifinals tomorrow and the European Champion, Damir Martin of Croatia took the lead in Heat One. By the middle of the race Martin, who won last month at the World Rowing Cup I had an open water lead. The field began to spread out with Stefan Broenink of the Netherlands stopping around the 1500m mark. Perhaps a crab? Broenink continued to row but it looked like the two qualifiers had been decided and a procession rowed through to the finish.
Heat Two opened with Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania taking the lead. Griskonis medalled at last year's World Rowing Championships and he is known for his quick starts. By the middle of the race Griskonis still had the lead with Hannes Obreno of Belgium pushing him hard. These two boats remained in the qualifying positions to the end with neither needing to sprint the finish.
Slovenia's Gaspar Fistravec was the surprising leader in Heat Three ahead of the reigning World Champion, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic. Then Synek got into the lead with Finland's Robert Ven overtaking Fistravec to get into second. Synek then showed his talent and moved to an open water lead with Ven easily holding on to second.
Qualifiers: CRO, BLR, LTU, BEL, CZE, FIN
Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) - Heats
The top three boats in each of these three heats earned a spot in Saturday's semifinals. In Heat One Switzerland's Frederique Rol and Patricia Merz had a lead at the start. By the half way point Rol and Merz were still in front with the London Olympic crew from Denmark, Anne Lolk Thomsen and Juliane Rasmussen in second. Then Poland did a big push that got them ahead of Denmark. The Danes pushed back and in a 36 stroke rate sprint to the line, Thomsen and Rasmussen tried to get into second. Joanna Dorociak and Weronika Deresz of Poland held them off. Switzerland remained in first.
Racing for the first time internationally this season, Charlotte Taylor and Katherine Copeland of Great Britain led the way in Heat Two. Copeland is the reigning Olympic Champion in this boat class and this combination will be going to the Olympics later this year. Sweden's Annie Svensson and Emma Fredh challenged the British, but Copeland and Taylor countered all of their moves.
After an initial lead by Germany, it became very tight between Ireland and the Netherlands in Heat Three. At the half way point only 0.18 of a second separated Claire Lambe and Sinead Jennings of Ireland and the Dutch field of Maaike Head and Ilse Paulis. Germany also remained on the pace. Head and Paulis remained just in front of Lambe and Jennings as they came into the end of the race. The Dutch, looking a bit smoother than the Irish, crossed the line first with a 33 stroke rate. Ireland followed rating 35. The Netherlands recorded the fastest qualifying time by nearly ten seconds.
Qualifiers: SUI, POL, DEN, GBR, SWE, ROU, NED, IRL, GER
Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) - Heats
The top three crews in each of these three heats would get to go to the semifinals tomorrow. All other crews would need to race in a repechage. In Heat One Germany's Moritz Moos and Jason Osborne had the crowd behind them as they led from start to finish. The Muda twins of the Netherlands challenged hard, but Germany remained in control right through to the line. The Dutch held on to second with Spain in third. The new Danish combination started off slow and did not finish the race and withdrew for medical reasons.
The Czechs had a fast start in Heat Two before Ireland's Gary and Paul O'Donovan pushed into the lead. Once there the O'Donovan's kept their stroke rate high and remained in front through to the finish line. Belgium were second and Switzerland third. In Heat Three had the 2013 World Champions, Norway out in front. Kristofer Brun and Are Strandli of Norway had nearly a full boat length lead with just 500m rowed. Austria and Poland tried to close on Norway and the consequence was a close battle between the two of them. Brun and Strandli, rating 32, crossed the line in first with the fastest overall qualifying time. Poland got the better of Austria to finish second.
Qualifiers: GER, NED, ESP, IRL, BEL, SUI, NOR, POL, AUT
Lightweight Women's Single Sculls (LW1x) - Heats
The aim here was to be in a top two position. This would earn a direct path to Sunday's final and there were two heats coming down the Beetzsee regatta course. In Heat One Switzerland had the lead before Denmark's Runge Holmegaard took over in the lead. Then Martnya Mikolajczak of Poland did a big push and caught up with Holmegaard. Holmegaard, however, was feeling confident and remained in front.
Anja Noske of Germany got away very quickly in Heat Two. Noske was so quickly that she had an open water lead with just 500 metres rowed. By the middle of the race Elisabeth Woerner of the Netherlands had closed in a bit on Noske. But Noske was still in control and must have been taking advantage of being on home waters. Then in the final sprint Noske began to tire and Great Britain and the Netherlands closed on her. Walsh from Great Britain is the European Champion but she will have to go to the repechage.
Qualifiers: DEN, POL, GER, NED
Lightweight Men's Pair (LM2-) - Heats
Only the top boat in each of the two heats would get to go directly to the finals on Sunday. Right from the word go Sam Scrimgeour and Joel Cassells of Great Britain had the lead and they held it to the end. Behind them a full-on battle was happening between the remaining three crews. Then Portugal dropped off the pace. Ireland got the better of the battle but will still have to return to race in the repechage as second was not enough.
Germany's crew led the way in Heat Two. But their lead was slight and both Spain and Switzerland were very much on their tail. Then Spain's Sergio Perez and Jesus Gonzalez took their rating up and got into the lead. Once in the lead, Spain remained at a high rating and even got to a 44 stroke rate pace in these head wind conditions. They not only finished first, they also took the fastest qualifying time.
Qualifiers: GBR, ESP
Women’s Pair (W2-) - Heats
This boat class had two heats and in each heat it was up to the athletes to finish first for a direct path to the finals on Sunday. Denmark took hold of the race in Heat One with Hedvig Rasmussen and Anne Andersen leading from start to finish. Behind them Romania and France had a close battle before the Romanian's broke away in the second half of the race. But neither crew could get close to the Danes. Rasmussen and Andersen had recorded the fastest qualifying time overall.
Owners of the World Best Time, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning from Great Britain raced in Heat Two for the first time internationally this season. Glover are the reigning World and European Champions and they led from start to finish as they love to do. Germany followed in second, but they could not get close to the British.
Qualifiers: DEN, GBR
Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-) - Heats
It was the first boat only in each of these two heats who got to go directly to Sunday's final. In Heat One it was the Swiss World and European Champions that had the lead. But their margin was only slight at the first 500m mark with Germany and Spain right there. Then Switzerland managed to get a half boat length lead with Spain now in second. The Swiss then broke away to an open water lead and remained in that position until the end recording the fastest qualifying time overall.
Great Britain made Heat Two look relatively easy as they led from start to finish. The British had no real challenges come from the two other crews in the race and they took their boat home in relative ease.
Qualifiers: SUI, GBR
Men’s Four (M4-) - Heats
The two heats in this boat class required crews to be in a first position to go directly to the A-final. Heat One began after a delay due to a problem with one of the boats. So first up was Heat Two with Belarus getting away the quickest. Surprisingly the new uber-crew from Great Britain had a slow start. Then the British crew of Gregory, Sbihi, Nash and Louloudis found their rhythm and overtook the entire fleet to take the lead by the middle of the race. Once in the lead the British powered ahead to an outstanding lead. What a performance. The British are the Olympic Champions in this boat class and this is likely to be the crew that will go to Rio. This is the first time that they have rowed together internationally this season.
Heat One then started at its rescheduled time with Russia in the lead from start to finish. Behind them the margins were tight and at the halfway point only three seconds separated the five crews. This included the Danish lightweight crew. The head wind conditions, however, did not help the Danes and they will have to go to the repechage.
Qualifiers: GBR, RUS
Women’s Quadruple Sculls (W4x) - Heats
This boat class was all about coming first. The top boat only in these two heats would go directly to the A-final on Sunday and in Heat One the Netherlands had that position. Then Poland took over and now out in front they never looked back. There was nothing that the Netherlands could do. At World Rowing Cup I in Varese last month, Poland had taken gold and the Dutch silver. Poland looks again to be on form.
The reigning European Champions, Germany had the lead in Heat Two and by the first 500m mark they had a full boat length lead over Ukraine in second. The Ukrainians are the Olympic Champions but have not really been seen since London. They are now rebuilding ready for Rio. At the finish Germany had won with relative ease. With Poland recording a time of 6:39 and Germany 6:40, this will be an exciting final.
Qualifiers: POL, GER
Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x) - Heats
Just the winning boat in each of the two heats would get to take a direct path to the A-final on Sunday and in Heat One it was all about Russia from start to finish. Great Britain tried to keep up, but the Russians must have been loving these rather rough head wind conditions. The British will have to go through the repechage.
In Heat Two Germany was the dominant crew. Lithuania tried hard to keep up, but Germany was able to hold them off and take the boat through to the final. In the final sprint the Germans looked relaxed, rating what looked like a comfortable 32 stroke rate.
Qualifiers: RUS, GER
Women’s Eight (W8+) - Heats
The formula here was to finish first in each of the two heats. This earned a direct path to Sunday's A-final. In Heat One Romania was in the lead at the start. Romania is yet to qualify for the Rio Olympics and they must be preparing for the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta later this month. Then Great Britain, who has already qualified for Rio, got into the lead and held it to the end. Romania will have to go to the repechage.
The Netherlands got a narrow lead in Heat Two and settled into a 35 stroke rate pace. Often the Dutch come out slowly and then pick it up as the race progresses. But today it looked like they were going to lead for the entire race. Going up to 36, the Dutch held off Russia in second. Russia kept on coming. The Dutch went to 38. Russia followed suit. The Dutch crossed the line in first and recorded a time one second faster than Great Britain in heat one.
Qualifiers: GBR, NED
Men’s Eight (M8+) - Heats
These crews wanted to finish in a top two position to get a direct path to the A-final on Sunday. There were two heats and in Heat One Great Britain got away the quickest. The British are the World Champions, but the top four sweep rowers from their squad have now gone into the four. This meant all eyes were on how this new British line-up would do at their first international outing for the 2016 season. With the British in front it was Poland that pushed the British for the entire race. Great Britain remained in front and will go to the A-final along with Poland.
The Olympic Champions, Germany raced in Heat Two. Expectations are high for this crew and many of the spectators had come just to see them. The crew did not disappoint. From the start Germany had the lead over Russia. Despite Germany's pedigree, Russia held on to Germany for the entire race. Germany crossed first in a time just one second slower than Great Britain in heat one. The British and Germans will meet in the final.
Qualifiers: GBR, POL, GER, RUS