Some were unexpected like 2018 World Championship medallists, Lithuania’s women’s double sculls and New Zealand men’s double sculls. But there is still more racing to come this season before the all-important World Rowing Championships and Olympic Qualification Regatta.

Today the Lake Malta water conditions saw a head wind that moved in-between a small cross wind. This created some bumps on the water. Temperatures remained mild and the overall feel was one of quiet expectation.

Para PR1 Men’s Single Sculls (PR1 M1x) – Semifinals

In Semifinal One it was a surprise to see the two-time World Champion, Erik Horrie of Australia in second. But that didn’t last long as Horrie pushed into the lead. Rating 32 strokes per minute, Horrie was in the lead over Benjamin Pritchard of Great Britain 2 who was on a 33 stroke rate. Pritchard was doing great as he led Great Britain 1 and the more experienced Andrew Houghton.

In the second half of the race Horrie started to pull away from Pritchard and the gap got wider and wider as scullers moved towards the finish line. By this stage Horrie felt so comfortable that he was able to drop his stroke rate down to a 23 to cross the line in first.

The Paralympic Champion, Roman Polianskyi of Ukraine was the one to watch in Semifinal Two. And sure enough Polianskyi got out in front early in the piece moving further away from second-placed sculler Augustas Navickas of Lithuania. With Polianskyi creating more and more of a lead and sitting on a powerful 29 stroke rate pace, Navickas found himself under threat from France’s Julien Hardi. These two matched each other through the body of the race. Coming into the final sprint there was still nothing between Navickas and Hardi. Then Navickas managed to break away and secure a comfortable second.

Qualifiers: AUS, GBR2, GBR1, UKR, LTU, FRA

Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls (LW1x) – Semifinals

Germany asserted herself right from the start of Semifinal One. Leonie Pless of Germany won her heat yesterday and spent the body of today’s race holding off crews from China 1 and China 2. Fang Chen of China 2 got the closest to Pless. But Pless was prepared and was able to counter any challenges. Ples, Chan and Mengyin Cheng of China 1 all move on to the finals later today.

In Semifinal Two Italy 2 of Paola Piazzolla opened as the fastest sculler. Piazzolla has had to race an extra, repechage, race to make it through to today’s semi. Was she tired? By the middle of the race Australia’s Georgia Nesbitt had taken over in the lead. Once there Nesbitt was able to move away from Piazzolla. Nesbitt finished second in her heat yesterday which gave her a direct path to today’s semi. Coming into the final sprint Nesbitt remained in the lead with Canada’s Jill Moffatt challenging Piazzolla for second. Moffatt had the better sprint to finish second. Piazzolla held on to third. Out in front Nesbitt had recorded the fastest qualifying time.

Qualifiers: GER, CHN2, CHN1, AUS, CAN, ITA2

Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls (LM1x) – Semifinals

Right from the start Hungary’s Peter Galambos made his intentions clear and grabbed the lead in Semifinal One. But margins were tight and going through the middle of the race Poland’s Artur Mikolajczewski and Italy’s Martino Goretti were challenging hard. This caused a three-way tussle through the body of the race and saw these three scullers move clean away from the rest of the pack. It also meant non of them chose to sprint the finish. They were in qualifying positions and with their final this afternoon, it was better to back off and leave some reserves.

Semifinal Two had Germany 1 of Lucas Schaefer out in front with Australia’s Sean Murphy in hot pursuit. Going into the middle of the race Murphy took the lead and moved away from the rest of the field. Schaefer had threats from all sides now with Croatia’s Luka Radonic  and New Zealand’s Benjamin van Dalen moving through him. Radonic then got himself into second with van Dalen fighting it out for third with Schaefer. Schaefer had the better sprint pushing van Dalen into the b-final. Murphy had recorded the fastest qualifying time overall.

Qualifiers: POL, HUN, ITA, AUS, GER1, CRO

Women’s Pair (W2-) – Semifinals

Semifinal One featured the 2018 silver medallists, Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler of New Zealand. They had recorded the fastest qualifying time in the heats yesterday and today they led over China 1 of Xinyu Lin and Rui Ju. Two years ago Prendergast and Gowler set a World Best Time on this very course and they spent the body of the race moving further away from their competition.

Meanwhile a real fight was going on between China 1, USA2 and Italy 1. With New Zealand forming an open water lead, three boats fought it out for two spots. The ratings rose and Kiri Tontodonati and Aisha Rocek of Italy 1 were proving to have the best speed. At the line USA2 had been knocked out by 0.09 of a second. Italy and China will join New Zealand in the final.

At the start of Semifinal Two it was Australia 1 in the lead. The crew of Jessica Morrision and Annabelle McIntyre had won their heat yesterday and they were looking in control today. This left a close fight between Canada 2, USA1 and just on the edge, Chile. As the Australians moved more into the lead, the United States 1 and Canada fought it out for the line. Chile tried to hold on but they did not have the same sprint as the US and Canada. Australia had recorded the fastest qualifying time.

Qualifiers: NZL, ITA1, CHN1, AUS1, USA1, CAN2

Men’s Pair (M2-) – Semifinals

From yesterday’s heats, New Zealand had recorded the fastest qualifying time and they line up in Semifinal One today. The crew of Thomas Murray and Michael Brake of New Zealand are in their second year of rowing together and they led from the start rating 39 strokes per minute down the body of the course. This kept them ahead of winners of World Rowing Cup I, Serbia’s Martin Mackovic and Milso Vasic. China was right on the pace as well, just a little ahead of Turkey.

Coming into the close of the race Vasic and Mackovic pushed hard to close on New Zealand as Turkey came up to overtake China. At 42 strokes per minute Murray and Brake crossed the line in first. Then out of nowhere, from the back of the field Italy came flying. They overtook both China and Turkey to grab third with Serbia taking second.

Australia’s Booth and Hill recorded the second fastest time in yesterday’s heats and they were leading the way today in Semifinal Two. Booth and Hill were the World Champions in the men’s four last year and they led the way over Canada 1 of Kai Langerfeld and Conlin McCabe. These two boats started to move away from the rest of the field with Belarus 1 holding on to the third position.

Coming into the close of the race Australia looked safe and did not up their rating. But Great Britain had moved to 41 strokes per minute and were challenging Belarus. The British sprint paid off. Australia had recorded the fastest time overall with Canada qualifying from second and Great Britain 1 snatching third.

Qualifiers: NZL1, SRB, ITA, AUS, CAN1, GBR1

Women’s Double Sculls (W2x) – Semifinals

Side-by-side in the middle lanes sat USA 1 and USA2. They raced each other in Semifinal One. At the US selection trials USA 1 of Cicely Madden and Genevra Stone had beaten USA 2 of Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek. O’Leary and Tomek have owned the double for a number of years and this race today must have felt like a final to them. At the start Madden and Stone had the leading edge. By the middle of the race Madden and Stone had a handy lead over O’Leary and Tomek with Germany 2 back in third.

Coming through into the final sprint O’Leary and Tomek had closed on Madden and Stone but they still had to make up a bit if they wanted to be in first. At 35 strokes per minute Madden and Stone looked solid. Neither crew looked to be sprinting the finish with USA going one-two. Madden and Stone had recorded the fastest qualifying time overall, but only by 0.05 of a second over the New Zealanders in semifinal two.

Fastest out at the start of Semifinal Two was Australia’s Amanda Bateman and Genevieve Horton. The Australians had been beaten by New Zealand in the heats yesterday forcing them to race through a repechage. But they were looking full of energy today and they led over China1 and Germany1 with New Zealand a bit back. Then New Zealand’s Brooke Donoghue and Olivia Loe got ahead of Germany and went after the leading crews. Going through the third 500 New Zealand got into the lead.

But the lead was tiny with New Zealand and Australia swapping for the lead. New Zealand was at 35 and Australia at 37. Australia then took a bad stroke and China’s Shiyu Lu and Yuwei Wang got into second. Australia held on for third.

Qualifiers: USA1, USA2, GER2, NZL1, CHN1, AUS

Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Semifinals

These scullers had already gone through heats and quarterfinals to race in today’s semifinals and in Semifinal One it was Switzerland with the fastest pace. The crew of Barnabe Delarze and Roman Roeoesli of Switzerland had a small margin over Germany 1 going through the middle of the race. The German combination of Tim Ole Naske and Stephan Krueger are in their first season together. But this was not going to be easy. At the half way point only two seconds separated the top four boats.

The third 500 didn’t help and four boats charged for the line for the three qualifying spots. It was hard to pick. The finish line judges declared China was out – by half a second. This left Switzerland, Great Britain and Germany to go to the finals.

Leaping out at the start of Semifinal Two was Hamish Playfair and Campbell Watts. But their margin was small with Norway 2 of Olaf Tufte and Jan Oscar Helvig right on their coat tails. Then Poland 1 began to move. Mateusz Biskup and Miroslaw Zietarski had won their heat yesterday and have been looking great throughout this regatta. Poland then got the overlap with Australia far from giving up. Lithuania was now motoring. Dovydas Nemeravicius and Saulius Ritter of Lithuania are known for their sprint. Norway 2 was still in it and it looked like a photo finish was on the cards. At the line less than a second separated the top four boats. Norway had missed out. Poland had won. The crowd was happy.

Qualifiers: SUI, GBR, GER1, POL, AUS1, LTU

Women’s Four (W4-) – Semifinals

At the start of Semifinal One it was USA 1 in the lead. The United States had finished second in their heat behind Denmark, but with Denmark in the other semifinal, the United States was showing their worth. Australia slotted into second with China challenging Australia through the middle of the race. New Zealand was just a fraction back and very much within striking distance of a qualifying spot.

Coming through the 1600m Australia took the lead from USA 1 with China and New Zealand neck-and-neck. One crew would miss out on qualifying. Australia went to 39. New Zealand was at 40. China went to 43 and USA1 was on 39. New Zealand had missed out. Australia crossed the line in first.

Denmark is having a great season. They won their heat yesterday and today they led Semifinal Two. The United States 2 followed in second with Great Britain 1 right on top of them in third. This was one of the only semifinals that wasn’t a four-way fight. These top three crews remained the top three crews through to the line. Denmark went into the final sprint at 35, USA1 was at 36 and GBR1 held 41. The order did not change.

Qualifiers: AUS, USA1, CHN, DEN, USA2, GBR1

Men’s Four (M4-) – Semifinals

Leading the way in Semifinal One was Poland and Italy. They sat in the middle lanes after winning their heats yesterday. Italy are recent World Champions in this boat class and they are here with a new 2019 crew. The crowd was paying close attention as Italy and Poland continued to lead this race. Despite Italy being just a bit in front, Poland had the luxury of a very loud crowd egging them on. Poland’s Burda, Wilangowski, Brzezinski and Szpakowski had won.

Australia had the lead in Semifinal Two. The Australian’s are the reigning World Champions but they have had a reshuffle this year with only two members remaining from the 2018 World Champion crew. The Australians held the lead over Great Britain 1 with United States 2 going neck and neck with Austria. Masters, Purnell, Hargreaves and O’Brien of Australia held a 40 stroke rate to retain the lead.

Both Australia and Great Britain held 41 strokes per minute in the final sprint, but Australia had enough of a margin to remain in front. The US got the better of Austria to take third.

Qualifiers: POL, ITA, SUI, AUS, GBR1, USA2

Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Semifinals

Getting away the quickest in Semifinal One was Kara Kohler of the United States. Kohler had recorded the fastest qualifying time from yesterday’s heats and she must have been feeling confident today. The very talented Magdalena Lobnig of Austria followed in second with New Zealand’s Emma Twigg in third. Twigg has recently returned to rowing after taking time off following the 2016 Rio Olympics. Yesterday was Twigg’s first international race since the Olympics. Kohler continued to lead but not by much as Lobnig and Twigg were right with her.

At 30 strokes per minute Kohler was still in the lead with Twigg clocking 31 and moving ahead of Lobnig. These three crews were all in qualifying spots. Would they sprint the finish? Kohler decided that she wanted to stay in front and she went to 33. Lobnig then decided to sprint to cross the line in first as Twigg chose to back off. Lobnig had recorded the fastest qualifying time.

In Semifinal Two Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark led the way. Great Britain’s Victoria Thornley was in hot pursuit and Germany’s Annekartin Thiele was right there. Going through the middle of the race barely anything separated Erichsen and Thornley. Thornley won silver at the Rio Olympics in the double while Erichsen medalled in the single at the London Olympics.

Behind them Canada’s Carling Zeeman was neck-and-neck with Thiele. This meant that there were four boats going for three spots. One would miss out. Zeeman then pulled out a phenomenal sprint finish. Zeeman was at 36 and was now in the lead. Thiele couldn’t keep up. Erichsen was hanging in there. Zeeman had won. Thiele had missed out.

Qualifiers: AUT, USA, NZL1, CAN, GBR, DEN

Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) - Semifinals

These scullers had already been through heats and quarterfinals with today’s semi being their opportunity to make the final. In Semifinal One Lithuania’s Mindaugas Griskonis took off like a rocket. Griskonis had a very fast race yesterday to win his heat. Did he have the energy today? By the middle of the race Aleksandar Aleksandrov of Azerbaijan had taken the lead. But margins were close with only two seconds separating the entire field.

Then European Champion Oliver Zeidler really moved. He went from fourth to second with Thomas Barras of Great Britain 1 the only one in front. Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba also decided to move. These three crews left the rest of the fleet behind. The race had all but been decided in the third 500 and there was no sprinting going on in the last 200m.

At the start of Semifinal Two it was Sverri Nielsen of Denmark in the lead with Belarus (Pilip Pavukou) and World Champion Kjetil Borch of Norway in third. Then Pavukou did a push and propelled himself into the lead. Nielsen tried to push back with Borch remaining on the pace. In fourth was World Best Time holder, Robert Manson. Manson went to 39 stroke per minute to get himself into a qualifying spot as Nielsen pushed back into the lead.

There was now nothing between Pavukou, Borch and Nielsen with just half a second separating the three. The sprint was on. At 34 strokes per minute Nielsen had won the race and in the fastest qualifying time. Borch took second and Pavukou was third.

Qualifiers: GER, GBR1, CUB, DEN, NOR, BLR

Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Semifinals

The early lead went to China 1 in Semifinal Two. Then New Zealand, who had recorded the fastest qualifying time in yesterday’s heats, took over in the lead. The New Zealand crew of Zoe McBride and Jackie Kiddle now started to move away from the competition. But then Italy took chase. Valentina Rodini and Federica Cesarini finished second in their heat yesterday and they were having a great race. There was still 500m to go. China’s Wenyi Huang and Dandan Pan took the pace up and got back ahead of Italy. The top three places had been decided and New Zealand crossed the line with the fastest qualifying time.

At the start of Semifinal Two it was France’s Laura Tarantola and Claire Bove out in front. They were challenged the hardest by the new US combination of Michelle Sechser and Christine Cavallo. These two crews went through the middle of the race together. Behind them Belarus and China 2 were in hot pursuit. Like other semifinals it looked to be four boats going for three spots. Alena Furman and Anastasiia Ianina of Belarus then pushed up on the United States as China 2 dropped off the pace. There was now three leading crews taking up the three qualifying spots. Would they choose to sprint the finish? France looked comfortable out in front with Belarus and United States doing just enough to hold their spot.

Qualifiers: NZL, CHN1, ITA, FRA, BLR, USA

Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Semifinals

Out in front of Semifinal One was Stefano Oppo and Pietro Ruta of Italy. Canada  and Australia followed the closest. Oppo and Ruta took silver at this year’s European Championships and they were second also at last year’s World Rowing Championships. Oppo and Ruta continued to lead through the middle of the race with Canada and Australia remaining neck-and-neck just a fraction behind them. Then Canada’s Patrick Keane and Maxwell Lattimer got just ahead of Australia. The Australian’s fought back. Canada answered and in the process closed on Italy. The top three boats had been decided. The finishing order was about to be decided. Italy had held on to first.

Germany’s Rommelmann and Osborne were the fastest off the line in Semifinal Two. They are the current European Champions and winners of their heat yesterday. Following closely was Denmark along with New Zealand and Poland. Osborne and Rommelmann then managed to move away from their competition going through the middle of the race with New Zealand’s Harrison Somerville and Matthew Dunham getting just ahead of Denmark’s Emil Espensen and Alexander Modest. Poland was still right there.

In the third 500 the Germans staked their dominance leaving Denmark and New Zealand to fight it out for second. But if you listened to the crowd it was all about Poland in fourth. Germany then began to sprint as they saw Great Britain 2 joining in the race for the line. Denmark was holding on. Despite giving it their all, Great Britain had just missed out.

Qualifiers: ITA, AUS, CAN, GER, NZL, DEN