On the water some of last year’s World Champion crews struggled in the face of early-season competition. Both New Zealand’s men’s double sculls and Australia’s lightweight men’s four found themselves out of the final. While Great Britain’s World Champion lightweight men’s double just squeaked through to the final.

Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls (LM1x) – Semifinal
After recording the second fastest qualifying time from yesterday’s heats, Adam Freeman-Pask of Great Britain was the boat to watch in Semifinal One. Freeman-Pask is a versatile rower. At the Belgrade World Rowing Cup earlier this season Freeman-Pask was part of the winning lightweight pair. Now back in the single, Freeman-Pask led his semifinal from start to finish.

Germany’s Jonathan Koch slipped into second place with Kristofer Brun of Norway following a reasonable distance back in third. These three leading crews were under no threat from the rest of the field and coming into the finish Koch had dropped his stroke rate right down to 27 strokes per minute. Freeman-Pask, Koch and Brun will race again this afternoon in the final.

Florian Berg of Austria is the sculler to watch. He recorded the fastest qualifying time in the heats and today Berg raced in Semifinal Two. Berg, 24, tried to qualify for the London Olympic Games last year in the lightweight double but missed out. He has moved back into the single for this regatta. Berg did not have a fast start, however by the middle of the race he had moved through to second behind Frederic Dufour of France. Dufour then seemed to be content to sit back letting Berg push on through.

Berg crossed the line first with China’s Chongkui Wu in second and Dufour having to put in a late sprint of a 38 stroke rate pace to hold off Mexico.  Berg, Wu and Dufour will meet again this afternoon in the final.

Finalists: GBR, GER, NOR, AUT, CHN, FRA1

Women’s Pair (W2-) – Semifinal
These two semifinals were not for the faint-hearted. Semifinal One displayed an ever-so-tight clash between Helen Glover and Heather Stanning of Great Britain and the United States (Erin Cafaro and Eleanor Logan). Both these crews have strong credentials. Cafaro and Logan are 2008 Olympic Champions from the eight while Stanning and Glover have two silver medals in this event from the last two World Rowing Championships. The two crews met at the Belgrade World Rowing Cup earlier this month where Stanning and Glover took gold over Logan and Cafaro’s silver.

Through the middle of the race Great Britain and the United States remained tightly locked together and this had caused them to move completely away from the rest of the field. Both boats sprinted to the line, Great Britain hitting a 39 stroke rate to the United States’ 40. The British got there first. They both earn spots in the final along with South Africa’s Naydene Smith and Lee-Ann Persse who finished a credible third.

World Champions from 2011 and 2010, Rebecca Scown and Juliette Haigh of New Zealand made good work of Semifinal Two, getting out quickly and earning the favoured spot that gave them a good view over the rest of the field. Behind them Argentina’s Maria Laura Abalo and Gabriela Best worked their way into second and tried to hold off Australia. Abalo and Best have had a busy week of racing after successfully going through the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta earlier this week.

Coming into the line Haigh and Scown rated 37 but looked remarkably comfortable while Australia’s Sarah Tait and Kate Hornsey pulled out a huge 40 stroke rate sprint. This is Tait and Hornsey’s first international regatta for the season and the sprint was good enough to get their nose into second ahead of Argentina right on the line.

Finalists: GBR, USA1, RSA, NZL, AUS1, ARG

Men’s Pair (M2-) – Semifinal
Yesterday in the heats, World Champions New Zealand came out of the start with crews ahead of them. Today, in Semifinal One Eric Murray and Hamish Bond of New Zealand took off very quickly to get into the lead with about 40 strokes gone. Behind Bond and Murray, Nikolaos and Apostolos Gkountoulas of Greece had established a good rhythm and were solidly in second.

Meanwhile winners of the Belgrade World Rowing Cup earlier this month, Anton Braun and Felix Drahotta of Germany were trying to work back from a sub-par second 500. Braun and Drahotta come to Lucerne after a very convincing win in Belgrade and expectations of them has stepped up a notch. As Bond and Murray continued to lead with Greece in second, Braun and Drahotta were sprinting for their lives to get into a qualifying spot.

Rating 38, Braun and Drahotta got their noses in front of Canada and will go to the final along with New Zealand and Greece.
The Olympic comeback of Beijing silver medallists, Dave Calder and Scott Frandsen of Canada continued today with the duo getting into the lead of Semifinal Two and then confidently holding it. This season Calder heads to his fourth Olympic Games while Frandsen prepares for his third.

Meanwhile a very close battle raged between Great Britain’s George Nash and William Satch and last year’s bronze medallists, Niccolo Mornati and Lorenzo Carboncini of Italy. This is Mornati and Carboncini’s first international appearance and they were putting considerable pressure on Satch and Nash who finished second in Belgrade. As the line came into view Canada and Italy cruised with Great Britain still at top speed. These three boats earn spots in the final.

Finalists: NZL, GRE1, GER, CAN1, GBR1, ITA

Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Semifinal
France has a new combination and they look to be creating waves in this event. Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou of France are in their first international regatta together and they had already showed their boat speed by winning their heat yesterday. France raced in Semifinal One taking off in second with Linus Lichtschlag and Lars Hartig of Germany in the lead. By the half-way point Germany still had the lead but it looked as if they were starting to tire. Delayre and Azou took advantage of this and using a negative split racing approach got their nose into the lead. Denmark’s Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist were also improving as the race continued and they also got ahead of the Germans.

The final sprint came down to a fight between France and Denmark – France on 36 and Denmark rating 39. France remained in front with Denmark and Germany also qualifying for the final from second and third respectively.

Semfinal Two featured the top two boats from the 2011 World Rowing Championships – Great Britain and New Zealand – meeting for the first time since that regatta. Great Britain World Champions Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter shot out into the lead at the start followed closely by Canada’s Douglas Vandor and Morgan Jarvis with Greek medallists from the Belgrade World Rowing Cup, Eleftherios Konsolas and Panagiotis Magdanis.

Going through the middle of the race Purchase and Hunter still had the lead, but only by a bow-ball over Vandor and Jarvis. Vandor and Jarvis had to pull out the 2008 Beijing Olympics because of illness and they have been planning for the London Olympics ever since.
Vandor and Jarvis had the lead but they had to deal with New Zealand’s Storm Uru and Peter Taylor huge finishing sprint. Uru and Taylor had worked their way into second using a 42 stroke rate and with 20m left to row they got into the lead. Vandor and Jarvis held on to second while a fading Purchase and Hunter had to give it their all over a last minute effort by Greece. Great Britain had held on to third, and a spot in the final, by just 14/100th of a second.  

Finalists: FRA, DEN, GER, NZL, CAN, GBR

Men’s Double Sculls (M2x) – Semifinal
Are the Olympic Champions, David Crawshay and Scott Brennan of Australia back on form? Racing in Semifinal One, Crawshay and Brennan had the lead by the half-way point in this very competitive event. Crawshay and Brennan came back together last year after Brennan took time off to work on his medical degree. They finished fourth at the 2011 World Rowing Championships and this regatta is their first international event since that regatta.

With 1500m of the race down less than one and a half seconds separated the top four boats and the Australians had been pushed into second by Bill Lucas and Sam Townsend of Great Britain. The sprint was on for the line. Lucas and Townsend hit 43, Australia were on 39, Argentina pushed it to 41 and Germany’s Eric Knittel and Stephan Krueger were flying. Australia and Germany crossed the line in first and second respectively with Great Britain just scraping home ahead of Argentina.

Despite the quick pace in semifinal one, it was Semifinal Two that had the faster pace. It started off with Saulius Ritter and Rolandas Mascinskas of Lithuania in the lead. Ritter and Mascinskas finished tenth at last year’s World Rowing Championships which gave them an Olympic qualifying spot. This is their first international race this year. By the half-way point, however, Luka Spik and Iztok Cop of Slovenia had taken over in the lead with France’s Cedric Berrest and Julien Bahain now in second.

But we had not seen the last of Ritter and Mascinskas. The Lithuanian duo pushed hard and managed to move back in the lead. There was still 500m left to row and Norway’s Nils Jakob Hoff and Kjetil Borch had joined in the race to the line.

Racing it like a final, France took their stroke rate to 40 with Slovenia on 40 and Norway on 43. Only Lithuania, on 34, looked content just to make it to the line. France, Lithuania and Slovenia had made the final. World Champions, New Zealand were out of the final after finish seven seconds off the pace in fifth.

This is shaping up to be an awesome final with less than three seconds separating the six finalists.

Finalists: AUS1, GER, GBR, FRA, LTU, SLO

Lightweight Men’s Four (LM4-) – Semifinal
After yesterday’s heats this event had been thrown wide open. All of these crews had a chance of being in the top three but in Semifinal One it was China that showed through with a commanding performance. The Chinese have been working their way up in this event after a fourth-place finish at last year’s World Rowing Championships. Then at the Belgrade World Rowing Cup earlier this month they finished a credible third.

China’s Yu, Huang, Zhang and Wang took the lead at the start and by the middle of the race they had worked up to a full three second advantage. Had the Chinese gone out too hard? Could they maintain it?

Meanwhile South Africa were holding onto a solid second over Germany in third. The sprint to the line had South Africa’s Thompson, Brittain, Smith and Ndlovu giving their best. But it was the Swiss that the crowd was yelling for. In fourth place, Switzerland were challenging the very accomplished German crew. At the line China were. first, South Africa held a close second and Switzerland got past the Germans to take the third and final qualifying spot.

A solid race by Great Britain had them hold the lead from start to finish of Semifinal Two. The British have had to replace one of their crew due to injury bringing Paul Mattick into the boat. Mattick was in the crew last year but lost his spot earlier this year to Peter Chambers. Chambers, currently injured, may have to re-earn his spot in the boat.

Behind the British, Germany took a shot at challenging the leaders before fading. World Champions Australia then got into second. It didn’t last long with France now steaming through. In the sprint to the line France had the best sprint to take second with Belgrade winners, Denmark getting the better of Australia to take the third and final qualifying spot.

Finalists: CHN, RSA, SUI, GBR, FRA1, DEN

Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Semifinal
All of these scullers had already raced this morning in the quarterfinals so this afternoon’s semifinal was partly down to who had the stamina of doing two races in a day.  Semifinal One featured the three medallists from the 2011 World Rowing Championships, meeting for the first time all together this season – Mahe Drysdale (NZL), Ondrej Synek (CZE) and Alan Campbell (GBR1).

It was not surprising to see these three scullers in the lead going through the first 500m mark. The fast-starting Campbell had the lead at the start with Drysdale and Synek pacing each other. Campbell remained in the lead, keeping a wary eye on his competition, ready to counter any moves. The moves came, and they came predominantly from Drysdale.

As Synek let Campbell and Drysdale battle it out the Brit and the Kiwi went head-to-head. Campbell rated a 38 stroke rate to charge for the line with Drysdale catching up using a longer stroke and sitting on 36. About 20m before the line Drysdale got his nose ahead of Campbell. Drysdale goes into the final with bragging rights. Drysdale, Campbell and Synek will meet again in tomorrow’s final.

Semifinal Two was remarkably pedestrian compared to semifinal one. Cuba’s latest sculling sensation, Angel Fournier Rodriguez got out fast at the start, but only just over China’s Liang Zhang and Marcel Hacker of Germany. These three crews moved away from the field leaving Olympic Champion Olaf Tufte of Norway off the pace and also leaving behind Olympian Lassi Karonen of Sweden.

Through the middle of the race Hacker, at his first international race this season, went head-to-head with Rodriguez. The tussle continued through into the final 500m sprint when Hacker, Rodriguez and Zhang must have decided on an unspoken pact. All three of them took the pressure right down. Hacker, Rodriguez and Zhang will be reasonably fresh for tomorrow’s final.

Finalists: NZL, GBR, CZE, GER, CUB1, CHN

Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Semifinal
As the tail-wind breeze picked up slightly, the women’s single scullers took to the water. In Semifinal One first, third and fourth from the 2011 World Rowing Championships, raced – Mirka Knapkova (CZE), Emma Twigg (NZL) and Xiuyun Zhang (CHN). Right from the start fourth placed from last year and winner of the Belgrade World Rowing Cup, Zhang had the lead. World Champion Knapkova slotted into second with 2011 bronze medallist, Twigg back in third.

Zhang and Knapkova held a bit of a battle through the race as Twigg looked like she was doing just enough to hold on to third. By the time these three boats came into the final sprint there was not much racing going on. The order remained, Zhang crossing first, Knapkova in second and Twigg in third.

Semifinal Two featured Australia’s top single sculler, Kim Crow. Crow qualified for the Olympic Games earlier this week at the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta but she only raced in it as a contingency plan while her Olympic doubles partner is injured. Crow led the field from start to finish indicating to Australian selectors that her skills in the single may be able to match her skills in the double.
Behind Crow, Nataliya Mustafayeva of Azerbaijan held on to second with Russia’s Julia Levina following in third. Mustafayeva and Levina both qualified for the Olympic Games at last year’s World Rowing Championships. At this time Mustafayeva was seventh and Levina was eighth.

Nothing changed in the order as these three crews rowed comfortably into tomorrow’s final.

Finalists: CHN, CZE, NZL1, AUS, AZE, RUS