Calm waters for Varese World Rowing Cup heats
Perfect rowing conditions greeted rowers at Lago di Varese for today's racing at the World Rowing Cup II in Varese, Italy. No wind, warm sunny temperatures and barely a ripple on water must have been heart-warming for the competitors racing in the heats.
Women's Pair - Heats
These crews were divided into three heats with the top three boats in each heat earning a spot in Saturday's semifinals. The reigning World, European and Olympic Champions Heather Stanning and Helen Glover had the race wrapped up before they had even taken a stroke. Such is the domination of this pair from Great Britain. Keeping a steady 33 stroke rate during the race, Stanning and Glover had no reason to sprint at the finish as they continued in their controlling ways. They were followed home by Italy and Croatia.
Heat Two had the United States number one crew of Eleanor Logan and Felice Mueller come through from second, behind New Zealand, to win the race and earn the fastest qualifying time of a very quick 7:01. This put the current World Champions from the women's four and Under-23 Champions from the women's pair Kerri Gowler and Grace Prendergast of New Zealand into second with Poland qualifying from third.
Leading for the majority of the race, a crab put Australia's Molly Goodman and Genevieve Horton to the back of the field. The crab occurred with about 200m to go but the duo managed to get back in the boat and row across the finish line which gives them the opportunity to continue racing through the repechages. This gave USA 2 the first spot with Denmark and China 1 also qualifying.
Qualifiers: GBR, ITA1, CRO, USA1, NZL, POL1, USA2, DEN, CHN1
Men's Pair - Heats
Divided into three heats, the first heat had Italy 1 of Giovanni Abagnale and Vincenzo Abbagnale out in front at the start. Then Australia's Jack Hargreaves and Nicholas Wheatley moved up to take the lead with Italy having no answer to the Australian push. In the final sprint Australia kept their stroke rate high to finish in first while United States of Dariush Aghai and Ross James pushed past Italy to grab second.
Heat Two opened with Belarus in the lead before Italy 2 of Matteo Stefanini and Domenico Montrone took over in front and kept the pressure on right to the line. Stefanini and Montrone finished at a 41 stroke rate pace and held off Argentina who came through in second. Belarus held on to third.
It was a surprise to see Germany 2 leading Germany 1 in Heat Three. Germany 2 are a relatively unknown combination made up of Peter Kluge and Alexander Egler and they held the lead right through the middle of the race. Then a push by the Netherlands got the Dutch into the lead. The Dutch crew includes single sculler Roel Braas who is filling in for Mitchel Steenman's team mate. Braas and Steenman remained ahead to the line with Kluge and Egler keeping second spot and the Czech Republic taking third.
Qualifiers: AUS, USA, ITA1, ITA, ARG, BLR, NED, GER2, CZE
Men's Quadruple Sculls (M4x) - Heats
The two heats in this boat class meant that the top boat only would get to go directly to Sunday's final and Olympic Champions, Germany made the best of it leading from start to finish in Heat One. But it was not all plain sailing for Germany who were challenged for the full 2000m race by Poland and Australia. At the finish Australia nearly got past with a 43 stroke rate sprint. But Germany had enough space to remain in control.
Italy had a very fast start in Heat Two to be the leading crew. But it didn't last long as bronze medallists from the European Rowing Championships, Great Britain pushed into the lead. Once in the lead the British did just enough to hold off the challenges including a big one from Canada. The Canadians nearly got there at the end, but Great Britain had enough speed to cross the line in first.
Qualifiers: GER1, GBR
Men's Double Sculls (M2x) -Heats
A big field lined up in the men's double sculls with four heats being formed. This meant that the goal was to be in the top two for a direct path to tomorrow's semifinals. The reigning World Champions, Valent and Martin Sinkovic of Croatia made easy work of Heat One. This is the first race of the season for the Sinkovic brothers. They entered both the European Rowing Championships and the World Rowing Cup I but had to pull out of both of them due to a back problem for Valent. But they looked to be back on form today with Rodrigo Murillo and Cristian Rosso of Argentina coming through in second.
Heat Two was all about World Cup leaders, Marcel Hacker and Stephan Krueger of Germany. They were out in front with Great Britain's John Collins and Jonathan Walton following in second. Hacker and Krueger have won all of their races since they came together at the start of the season and this race means that they move closer to meeting the Sinkovic brothers for the first time.
Heat Three saw a very tight race play out between Italy and the United States. Francesco Fossi and Romano Battisti of Italy are the world silver medallists, but John Graves and Benjamin Dann of the United States were in the lead. Then coming through the 1200m mark, Fossi and Battisti did a big push and got their nose in front. The Italians then managed to stay just ahead until the finish despite the continued challenges from the Dann and Graves.
Heat Four had Australia's new 2015 combination of Alexander Belonogoff and James McRae in front for the majority of the race. The duo are competing in their first international race since finishing third last year at the World Rowing Championships and they tussled with 2013 World Champions, Nils Jakob Hoff and Kjetil Borch of Norway. Both these boats took off the pressure in the final sprints and both boats will advance to the semifinals.
Qualifiers: CRO, ARG, GER, GBR, ITA1, USA, AUS, NOR
Women's Double Sculls (W2x) - Heats
Divided into three heats with the goal to be in a top two positions was the recipe in the women's double sculls. A top two spot would earn a direct path to tomorrow's semifinals. Heat One had the European Champions Magdalena Fularczyk and Matalia Madaj finish in first place. Fularczyk and Madaj also won at the first World Rowing Cup of the season making them the current World Cup leaders. The duo led from start to finish with Germany's Julia Lier and Mareike Adams qualifying from second.
Heat Two featured the arrival to the 2015 international scene of Sally Kehoe and Olympia Aldersey from Australia. Kehoe and Aldersey hold the World Best Time in this boat class which they gained at last year's World Rowing Championships. After an initial lead by Great Britain's Katherine Grainger and Victoria Thornley, Australia took over in front and they managed to move away from the British as the race progressed. Both boats qualified for the semifinals.
The fastest qualifying time came in Heat Three when Meghan O'Leary and Ellen Tomek of the United States set the pace. O'Leary and Tomek finished sixth at last year's World Rowing Championships and they have remained together as the fastest US combination for this year. They led from start to finish easily ahead of Eve MacFarlane and Zoe Stevenson of New Zealand. New Zealand are the World Champions but they have a different combination this year with MacFarlaine taking the spot of Fiona Bourke. Both the United States and New Zealand had qualified for the semifinals.
Qualifiers: POL, GER, AUS, GBR, USA, NZL
Men's Single Sculls (M1x) - Heats
A large number of entries meant that six heats would be raced with the top four boats in each heat advancing to the quarterfinals this afternoon. The entries included all of the best single scullers in the world and, due to the seeding system, these top rowers were spread between the heats.
In Heat One Belgium's Hannes Obreno and Ariel Suarez of Argentina 2 fought a very close battle through to the middle of the race. Then Obreno was able to push away with Stanislau Shcharbachenia of Belarus who pushed through with a strong second 1000m to finish in second.
The European leader is currently Damir Martin of Croatia and he featured in Heat Two. Martin caused an upset at the European Rowing Championships when he beat World Champion, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic and today Martin raced a very confident race by doing just enough to be in the lead only in the last 20 strokes. Instead it was Dani Fridman of Israel 1 who led for the majority of the race. Back on the international scene after dropping out in 2014 was Alan Campbell of Great Britain 1. Campbell was the bronze medallist at the London Olympics, but could not keep that standard the following year. Today was day one towards his Rio bid and he finish in third.
In his first international race for 2015, Olympic Champion Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand led from start to finish in Heat Three. Drysdale looked strong and comfortable to stay ahead of Jack Beaumont of Great Britain 2 who followed in second.
It was easy work for the World Champion, Synek in his Heat Four race. Synek got out in front at the start and did just enough to stay there for the entire race. Robert Ven of Finland slotted into second and tried hard to give Synek a run for his money. But Synek was really in a class of his own and crossed the finish line rating in the low 20s.
Norway's Olaf Tufte grabbed the lead in Heat Five and tried to hold on. But coming into the second 500, Francesco Cardaioli of Italy 1 took over in front as Tufte dropped back into third behind Yohann Rigogne of USA2. Then a big closing sprint by Tufte brought him back ahead of Rigogne, but Cardaioli already had the race wrapped up and Tufte had left it too late to overtake.
Winner of the World Rowing Cup in Bled and hence World Cup leader, Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba looks to be in good form for 2015. Fournier was behind Lars Hartig of Germany 1 at the start but then got out in front and once in front, Fournier formed an open water lead. Hartig, who has moved to the openweight class from the lightweight class in 2015 remained in second. There was no sprint necessary and the order did not change to the line.
Qualifiers: BEL, BLR, ARG2, AUS, CRO, ISR1, GBR1, ARG1, NZL1, GBR2, DEN, BRA, CZE, FIN, GER2, NZL2, ITA1, NOR, USA2, KOR, CUB, GER1, USA1, ISR2, CUB
Women's Single Sculls (W1x) - Heats
With four heats the goal here was to finish first to earn a direct path to Saturday's semifinals. In Heat One, Kim Crow of Australia 1 absolutely dominated. Crow is the 2013 World Champion and the 2014 silver medallist and Varese is her first international race for this season. With every stroke Crow moved further and further away from the rest of the field. Crow, a lawyer, is known for her strong work ethic and in the absence this year of World Champion Emma Twigg of New Zealand, Crow could well be the sculler to dominate. At the line Crow had a yawning margin over the rest of the field and the fastest qualifying time.
In Heat Two the top two boats held a close battle for 1500m. This battle was between Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland 1 and Tatsiana Kukhta of Belarus. Gmelin was second at last month's European Rowing Championships and ended up wearing out Kukhta who did not have enough left in the last 500m to challenge the Swiss. Gmelin hence is the sculler to move directly to the semifinals.
Heat Three saw the Genevra Stone of the United States debut her 2015 season. Olympian Stone finished in the B-final at last year's World Rowing Championships and she is back for 2015 to work towards the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. At the start Jingli Duan of China 1 had the lead and she held it through to the middle of the race. At this point Stone took over with Duan not having the stamina to fight back. Stone will now get to go directly to the semifinals tomorrow.
Austria's Magdalena Lobnig led the way from start to finish in Heat Four. New Zealand's new single sculler and 2014 World Champion from the women's double sculls followed in second, but did not have nearly the pace that Lobnig was creating. Lobnig had earned a spot in the semifinals.
Qualifiers: AUS1, SUI1, USA, AUT
Lightweight Men's Single Sculls (LM1x) - Heats
This boat class had four heats and the aim for these scullers was to finish either first or second to earn a direct path to the semifinals. From start to finish it was Lukas Babac of Slovakia that had the lead of Heat One. Babac is the World Cup leader after winning last month at World Rowing Cup I in Bled and he looked comfortable out in front. Behind Babac, Luca Radonic of Croatia came through from fourth position to get into a qualifying spot.
A fast start by Germany's Max Roeger gave him the lead at the start before Marcello Miani of Italy 1 got his nose in front. Miani is the reigning World Champion in this boat class, but Roeger, who took silver last year in the lightweight quadruple sculls, was not letting Miani get away. Did Roeger have the stamina to keep it up in the second half of the race? Miani tried hard to shake Roeger, but the German did not budge. Miani crossed the line just a fraction ahead of Roeger and both scullers will advance to the semifinals, with the top two qualifying times.
A very tight race played out between Bulgaria and Hungary in Heat Three. Hungary's Gabor Csepregi had the early lead, but then in the second half of the race Nedelocho Vasilev of Bulgaria squeezed into front and Csepregi had no reply. Both boats will go directly to the semifinals.
Two French boats led the way in Heat Four. Pierre Houin of France 1 had the lead. Houin is the European Champion and he was showing his class here today on Lago di Varese. Damien Piqueras of France 2 did his best to keep up with Houin, but Houin had a comfortable lead. Houin and Piqueras had qualified for the semifinals.
Qualifiers: SVK, CRO, ITA1, GER2, BUL, HUN, FRA1, FRA2
Lightweight Women's Single Sculls (LW1x) - Heats
This boat class had three heats and it was necessary to be in a top three position for a direct path to the semifinals on Saturday. In Heat One Zoe McBride of New Zealand 1 led the way. McBride is the reigning Under-23 Champion in the lightweight women's double sculls and has moved into the senior team this year. By the middle of the race McBride had a very handy lead over Runge Holmegaard of Denmark who followed in second. Nothing changed in the order with McBride remaining easily in first, Holmegaard in second and Shuai Guo of China 1 earning third.
Poland's first boat of Joanna Dorociak had the lead at the start of Heat Two, before Germany's Judith Anlauf pushed ahead. Once in the lead Anlauf moved away and in her short, distinctive black boat Anlauf led the way home. Anlauf was third in last month's European Rowing Championships and she must be looking to medal at the World Cup.
Heat Three had Brazil's Fabiane Beltrame in the lead and what a lead it was. Beltrame became a World Champion is this boat class in 2011 and she has been looking to get into a lightweight double for the Rio Olympics, but so far this had not eventuated. New Zealand 2 of Jackie Kiddle came through into second pushing Jing Liu of China 2 into third. These are the scullers that will move on to the semifinals.
Qualifiers: NZL, DEN, CHN, GER, POL1, ITA2, BRA, NZL2, CHN2
Lightweight Men's Double Sculls (LM2x) - Heats
Four heats lined up and the goal here was to be in the top spot for a direct path to the semifinals. In Heat One Italy's Andrea Micheletti and Pieto Ruta led from start to finish. This is Italy's first international race for the 2015 season and there was a lot of interest in how they would fare at this regatta. Also receiving a lot of interest was the return to international competition of 2012 Olympic Champions, Denmark. Unfortunately the Danes remained at the back of the field in the face of Italian domination. Ruta and Micheletti had earned a spot in the semifinals.
The European Champions, Jeremie Azou and Stany Delayre of France led the way in Heat Two. The 2014 silver medallists proved to be the dominating crew as they already had a comfortable lead with just 500m rowed. Azou and Delayre then slipped into a strong but comfortable 30 stroke rate pace to stay comfortably at the head of the field.
Germany's Moritz Moos and Jason Osborne jumped out to the lead in Heat Three. They were chased hard by 2013 World Champions, Ari Strandli and Kristoffer Brun of Norway. At the half way mark these two crews were neck and neck with Moos and Osborne deciding the time was right to shake off the Norwegians. The Germans took their stroke rate to 41 with Norway on 36. Moos and Osborne, however, could not shake off Strandli and Brun. In the final sprint Moos and Osborne had no more to give and Norway cruised away to an easy win and recording the fastest qualifying time.
Heat Four was led by Richard Chambers and William Fletcher of Great Britain from start to finish. Chambers and Fletcher finished second at the European Rowing Championships and continued to look on form. Behind them a tight battle went on between New Zealand and the United States, but this battle was not enough to get them up to the British.
Qualifiers: ITA, FRA, NOR, GBR
Lightweight Women's Double Sculls - Heats
The four heats that lined up required a first place finish if these crews wanted a direct path to the semifinals tomorrow. This must have been what Germany 1 wanted. Fini Sturm and Marie-Louise Draeger of Germany 1 had the lead at the start and they held it to the end. This is an example of youth and experience working together as they crossed the line in first.
The reigning World Champions, Julia Edward and Sophie MacKenzie raced at the head of the field in Heat Two. The duo from New Zealand are also the World Best Time holders and in their second season together. At the line Edward and MacKenzie had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
It was near domination by Great Britain in Heat Three. This is the first season together for Katherine Copeland and Charlotte Taylor of Great Britain and they have already become European Champions. By the second half of the race the British duo had a huge open water lead over the rest of the field.
The closest race of this boat class turned out to be Heat Four with the top three crews going though the middle of the race separated only by a couple of seconds. Feihong Pan and Cuiming Chen of China had a slight margin in the lead and they continued to hold that small margin. In the final sprint, Pan and Chen managed to pull away from Sweden and the rest of the field to take first.
Qualifiers: GER1, NZL, GBR, CHN1
Lightweight Men's four (LM4-) - Heats
The goal here was to be in a top two position for a direct path to the semifinals and in Heat One of three heats, France made sure that they would be in the semi. France led from start to finish with enough of a margin to keep an eye on the rest of the field. Italy, then Great Britain challenged the French, but could not bring them down. At the line, France and Great Britain made it to the semifinals. France had the fastest qualifying time.
China 1 took the lead at the start of Heat Two. But they were soon overtaken by European Champions and World Cup leaders, Switzerland. Once in the lead Switzerland looked like they were doing just enough to keep ahead of China as these two crews moved away from the rest of the field. With no challengers, Switzerland and China became the qualifiers.
Heat Three opened with New Zealand in the lead. The New Zealanders finished with silver at last year's World Rowing Championships and this is their first international race since then. They have had one crew change with Peter Taylor's spot being taken by the younger brother of Hamish Bond - Alistair Bond. New Zealand remained in the lead with China2 outsprinting Australia to take the second qualifying spot.
Qualifiers: FRA, GBR, SUI, CHN1, NZL, CHN2
Men's Four (M4-) - Heats
Two heats lined up in this boat class with the top boat only earning a direct path to Sunday's final. In Heat One the Italian commentator, Marco Callai was voicing his excitement as Italy 1 had the lead. By the middle of the race the Italians had built up two seconds over Germany in second. The Germans then found themselves under threat from the Canadians. But as it was all about coming first, could anyone catch the Italians? Rating 39, Italy 1 crossed the line first with the fastest qualifying time.
Heat Two featured the gold and silver medallist from the 2014 World Rowing Championships - Great Britain and the United States. The British boat is a new line up and they showed their worth this season by winning at the European Rowing Championships. By the middle of the race, the United States had the lead and managed then to move away from their competition. A battle went on for second with Belarus, rating 44, getting into that spot. But it was semantics as only one boat, the US, could qualify directly to the final.
Qualifiers: ITA1, USA
Women's Quadruple Sculls (W4x) - Heats
Heat One featured the World Champions, Germany. Their recent results indicated that they would be hard to beat. The top two crews in this race would get to go directly to the finals on Friday. Poland gave it a good shot to get ahead of the Germans, but they could not do it and had to settle to qualifying from second. Germany had recorded the fastest qualifying time.
Heat Two had Australia at the head of the field along with the United States. As these two crews raced from opposite sides of the regatta course, it must have been hard for these boats to tell who was leading. By the middle of the race the United States had gone into the lead over Australia. Margins remained tight with China now pushing the Australians to try and get into a qualifying spot. In the final sprint both Australia and China rated 38 and their battle saw both boats close on the United States. It was tight at the line. The United States took first and China second.
Qualifiers: GER, POL, USA, CHN1
Women's Eight (W8+) - Heats
The women's eight had two heats and Heat One featured the World and Olympic Champions, the United States. Despite the American pedigree it was Great Britain who had a blistering start and was in the lead. This lead must have given the British a boost as they stayed ahead of the United States through the middle of the race. Would the unbeaten United States get beaten? In the final sprints the United States was able to underrate the British and use absolute power to cross the line in first. Great Britain will go to the repechage, but they must go there with a certain level of confidence.
The 2014 silver medallists, Canada led the way in Heat Two and made easy work of it. The order did not change with Germany in second and China in third. At the line Canada rated 35 and looked rather comfortable. Canada will go directly to the final.
Qualifiers: USA, CAN
Men's Eight (M8+) - Heats
Two heats lined up with the top two boats in each heat getting to go directly to the final on Sunday. Heat One featured the European and Olympic Champions, Germany 1. Under-23 Champions New Zealand had the lead at the start before Germany took over. Once in the lead the Germans remained there until the line. The United States overtook New Zealand to take the second qualifying spot. Germany's time of 5:23 was the fastest qualifying time.
World Champions, Great Britain led from start to finish in Heat Two. Poland settled into second and the order did not change through to the line. Great Britain will be in a centre lane in the final.
Qualifiers: GER1, USA, GBR, POL