Warm summer temperatures and a slight breeze made for near-perfect conditions. A large crowd of supporters that had come from around the world were vocal in encouraging their nation’s athletes and there was a level of intensity both on and off the water around the regatta course.

Women’s Double Sculls (BW2x) – Heats

The day of racing opened with four heats in the women’s double with the aim of being in a top two position for a direct path to the semifinals. In Heat One Great Britain’s Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne and Anna Thornton opened with a 43 stroke rate to take the lead over France. By the middle of the race the Brits looked to be dominating the race. These two athletes were in their nation’s quad last year and they looked long and powerful as they crossed the finish line to take the win and record the fastest qualifying time overall.

Fastest at the start of Heat Two was Italy’s Valentina Iseppi and Alessandra Montesano. Iseppi was part of the silver medal 2017 crew. Their start was fast enough to get half boat length over Australia in second. But the Australian’s fought back and moved up on Italy. Iseppi and Montesano reacted with a solid piece that took them to a full boat length lead. Australia was in a solid second with Russia back in third. Italy rated 33 to remain in front at the end with Australia happy to be in second at a 31 stroke rate.

Greece had an absolutely burner of a start in Heat Three. In stroke was Sofia Asoumanaki who finished fourth at the Rio Olympics in the double. Asoumanaki also has the age-group World Record on the indoor rowing machine and she has teamed up with Anneta Kyridou for 2018. Hungary did their best to close on Greece, but the Greeks had done all of the hard work early in this race and were content to do just enough to stay in front. Hungary was under no threat for their second place and did not push it in the final sprint.

Heat Four had just four boats with Germany flying out at the start to nearly a full boat length lead at the first 500m marker. In one lane over Romania tried to close the gap, but the German’s of Leonie Menzel and Pia Greiten looked solid out in front with long, fluid strokes. Their 31 stroke rate at the finish indicated how comfortable they felt. Romania did a closing sprint but did not catch Germany.

Qualifiers: GBR, FRA, ITA, AUS, GRE, HUN, GER, ROU

Men’s Double Sculls (BM2x) - Heats

This boat class had four heats with the goal of being in a top two position to get to go directly to the semifinals. Heat One had Germany’s Henry Schwinde and David Junge lead from start to finish. They did this by getting out quickly at the start and through the middle of the race they tried to push away from Poland who were keeping them honest. Poland’s Fabian Baranski and Mateusz Swietek managed to close on the Germans in the second half of the race and both boats did a sprint to the finish with Germany holding off Poland.

Heat Two had Italy coming out very quickly and taking a huge lead by the middle of the race. This left a great battle between Serbia and South Africa. South Africa was in second coming into the middle of the race and then Serbia did a push that got their nose ahead of the South Africans. This battle saw South Africa and Serbia close on Italy in the final sprint. Italy’s Emanuele Fiume and Andrea Cattaneo held off the challenge. Serbia gained the second qualifying spot with South Africa missing out by just one second.

Heat Three was a lot closer at the start than the other heats with Greece having just a small edge over the Netherlands and France. Going through the middle of the race France had dropped back a bit with the Netherlands moving up on Greece and challenging for the lead. The Greek crew of Ioannis Kalandaridis and Christos Stergiakas held off the Dutch crew of Melvin Twellaar and Luuk Adema until the final sprint when Twellaar and Adema upped the pressure and won the race and also recorded the fastest qualifying time overall.

China was the fastest at the start of Heat Four. The crew of Yule Ma and Zhenyu Yang raced earlier this month at World Rowing Cup III where they finished 12th overall. Slovenia sat behind the Chinese in a solid second but keeping a wary eye on Japan who had their boat overlapping with the Slovenians. In the final sprint China held a 33 stroke rate to stay in the lead with Slovenia at 37 as they say Japan coming with every stroke.

Qualifiers: GER, POL, ITA, SRB, NED, GRE, CHN, SLO

Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls (BLW1x) – Heats

A full field of 18 countries began in this boat class which dropped to 17 as France did not weigh in at the correct weight. These scullers were divided into three boat classes and the aim was to be in a top two position for a direct path to the semifinals. In Heat One Switzerland’s Sofia Meakin took off at a pace of 1:57 per 500m. This got her to the 500m mark in the lead over Great Britain and Norway. Meakin was able to keep an edge as Norway slipped back with Anna Afanasieva of Moldovia moving up to challenge Imogen Grant of Great Britain. A push by Grant put her ahead of Meakin and into the lead. Grant raced at World Rowing Cup I in June and finished fourth in this boat class and she powered her boat through to cross the line in first and record the fastest qualifying time overall.

New Zealand’s Courtney Rennie came out quickly in Heat Two, but her initial lead was soon swallowed up by Germany’s Vera Spanke. Spanke raced last year in the under-23 lightweight quad and finished with a bronze medal. She had now moved to a full boat length lead over Rennie who meanwhile was keeping a wary eye on the Czech Republic. In the close of the race Spanke held a solid 29 with Rennie upping her rating as Kristyna Neuhortova of the Czech Republic was pushing hard to get into second. Rennie only just held off Neuhortova.

Wallis Russell of Australia was flying at the start of Heat Three. She took the lead and moved to a nearly boat length lead going into the middle of the race. This left a tussle going on behind Russell between Romania and Italy. Italy’s Clara Guerra looked to be getting the better of the battle. Coming through to the close of the race Russell, who finished 5th at World Rowing Cup III earlier this month, was easily in the lead with Guerra having moved clean away from the rest of the field. The top two were decided.

Qualifiers: GBR, SUI, GER, NZL, AUS, ITA

Women’s Single Sculls (BW1x) – Heats

The women’s single had four heats with the aim to be in a top two position from each of the heat. In Heat One Great Britain had the initial lead before Bulgaria’s Desislava Georgieva pushed ahead to a small margin over Ruth Siddorn of Great Britain. Georgieva was 9th in this boat class last year and she looks like she’s picked up boat speed in 2018. Siddorn kept pushing Georgieva with these two scullers now forming a huge gap between them and the rest of the field.

A solid start by Germany’s Lisa Gutfleisch gave her the lead at the start of Heat Two. Going through the second 500, Gutfleisch guarded her lead with Egypt the closest threat. Then Brazil’s Milena Viana did a big push which propelled her into second and closed the gap on Gutfleisch. The German was ready and did enough to stay ahead with Egypt not having enough push to challenge for a qualifying spot.

Heat Three saw the fastest opening 500m of the single scullers going to Samantha Voss of New Zealand. But Thea Helseth of Norway and Emily Kallfelz of the United States was also fast at the start. This was looking to be turning into a three-way fight for two spots. Kallfelz then overtook Helseth and moved up on Voss. It looked like Kallfelz had really found her rhythm in the second half of the race and coming into the final sprint Kallfelz had the lead. Kallfelz was on 32 and Voss was on 31 and the two boats had broken free of the rest of the field. They were the qualifiers and had recorded the top two fastest times of this boat class.

It was a close contest between Ukraine and China at the start of Heat Four. Ukraine’s Kateryna Dudchenko held the edge at the start before Peixin Zhang of China took over in the lead. Zhang raced as a junior in 2017 and 10th overall in the single. Zhang and Dudchenko remained neck-and-neck coming into the final sprint with this battle meaning they had moved clear of the rest of the field. Dudchenko looked to want the win more that Zhang with Zhang dropping her stroke rate to 27. Dudchenko held 31 and won the race.

Qualifiers: BUL, GBR, GER, BRA, USA, NZL, UKR, CHN

Women’s Four (BW4-) – Heats

Two heats made up this boat class with the goal to be first. Coming first would give a direct path to the final on Sunday. In Heat One Romania and New Zealand went out quickly with Great Britain chasing hard. These three crews moved away from the rest of the pack with Romania holding on to a slight lead. Ratings remained high through the body of the race as Romania tried to hold on to the lead. Three boats sprinted to the line. New Zealand was at 35 with Romania just a pip higher. The Romanians had done it.

Belarus and Russia went out very quickly in Heat Two. They sat beside each other in lane four and five and they moved away from the rest of the field together. Then Belarus did a piece and got a half boat length lead over Russia. But Russia fought back and coming into the final 500m, Russia had the lead. Russia went to 39 in the final sprint and moved away from Belarus to take the win.

Qualifiers: ROU, RUS

Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Heats

This was a full field of 19 countries and they were divided into four heats. The goal here was to be in a top two position for a direct path to the semifinals. In Heat One Italy’s Stefania Buttignon and Silvia Crosio had the lead at the start. By the middle of the race Buttignon and Crosio had nearly taken a boat length of a lead with Spain sitting in second. The race started to spread out with Spain at 37 aiming to keep ahead of Australia. The order did not change and Italy and Spain are on their way to the semifinals – Italy with the fastest qualifying time overall.

It was Iris Hochstenback and Femke van de Vliet of the Netherlands that led the way in Heat Two. But their margin was slight with Sweden moving right on the pace. The Dutch then managed to get a half boat length over the Swedes coming into the middle of the race. Sweden was rating higher than the Dutch with both boats keeping good speed. Chile followed in third although they did not seem to be in striking distance of getting into a qualifying spot. The Dutch held a 32 stroke rate at the end with Sweden going to 38 to hold off any chances Chile had of taking their spot.

Heat Three opened to look like this may be the fastest heat. Germany shot out quickly with Greece and Switzerland very much on the pace. This order remained the same coming into the middle of the race, but with margins even closer together. Then Greece’s Anastasia Vontzou and Thomais Emmanouilidou did a push that got their nose ahead of Germany with Switzerland closing. The race was far from over as three boats fought for two spots. Switzerland still had more to give and they upped their rating and got ahead of both Germany and Greece. Germany had run out of steam and missed out on qualifying.

At the start of Heat Four it was incredibly close between three boats – Ireland, Great Britain and Poland. Only Hungary was off the pace. Ireland took an early lead before Great Britain’s Susannah Duncan and Danielle Semple managed to squeeze into the lead. Poland looked to be slipping back but they were still within striking distance of catching Ireland. Now Duncan and Semple had managed to break away with Ireland also looking like they were secure in second. The British dropped to a 31 stroke rate as a sprint was not needed. Ireland took second.

Qualifiers: ITA, ESP, NED, SWE, SUI, GRE, GBR, IRL

Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (BLM2x) – Heats

This boat class had four heats with the goal here to be in the top spot. This would give them a direct path to the semifinals. Heat One had Portugal in the lead. Dinis and Alfonso Costa raced recently at the European University Championships where they won. By the middle of the race Portugal had a small edge over Canada with the Netherlands a bit back in third. The Costa brothers then really established their lead and took the win with ease.

A false start in Heat Two got away smoothly the second time. In the opening strokes Germany had the best speed and they got to the first 500m mark ahead of Spain. Germany and Spain then moved away from the rest of the field as they battled each other for the lead. Julian and Jonathan Schreiber of Germany kept a slight edge. They kept an aggressive stroke and came into the final sprint rating 37 with Spain flying down the side at 39-40. Spain stopped just short of the line and Germany took the win and recorded the fastest qualifying time overall.

Italy did the high rating, aggressive style of rowing to be in the lead of Heat Three. Ireland, in one lane over, was doing the same. At the half way point Italy (Scalzone and Soares) and Ireland (the McCarthy brothers), were neck-and-neck. This was one crazy fight. Then Ireland upped their rating and broke away from the Italians. Scalzone and Soares had no answer and they dropped their rating to let Ireland take the win.

Chile’s Cesar Abaroa and Eber Sanhueza Rojas were the fastest at the start of Heat Four. This left Greece and Switzerland to go head-to-head for second. Despite the battle going on behind them Abaroa and Sanhueza kept moving away from the field. Chile finished seventh in this boat class last year and they looked to have improved for 2018. Then Switzerland’s Fernandez and Ryser pulled out a big sprint and closed on Chile. Chile held them off so much so that Switzerland eased off at the end.

Qualifiers: POR, GER, IRL, CHI

Men’s Quadruple Sculls (BM4x) – Heats

This boat class had three heats and the aim was to be in a top two position for a direct path to the semifinals. In Heat One Great Britain looked great as they took the lead at the start. Belarus was chasing hard with Spain moving up following a slow start to challenge for a qualifying spot. Great Britain continued to lead the way as Spain was able to move through Belarus and grab the second qualifying spot. Great Britain had recorded the fastest qualifying time.

Italy’s crew was in the lead of Heat Two. They got to the first 500m mark with nearly a boat length over Ukraine in second. Italy continued to move away from the field leaving Ukraine to keep a wary eye on Belgium who was challenging Ukraine through the middle of the race. Then Belgium went to 37 over Ukraine’s 33. Had Ukraine seen it coming? Ukraine did notice and they held on to second and managed to even break away just a little. Italy, meanwhile, continued to dominate the race. But it was not all over. Belgium went to 40 and had caught up to Ukraine. It looked to be a photo finish. Belgium had qualified ahead of Ukraine.

The long tradition of top quads look to be continuing with Germany out in front of Heat Three. Right beside Germany was Moldova. New Zealand, the reigning under-23 champions were in third. The Kiwis have Jack O’Leary returning from the 2017 winning boat. Then New Zealand pushed ahead of Moldovia with Germany continuing in the lead. Three boats were now pushing for two spots. Germany looked great. New Zealand and Moldova were tight together. Moldova missed out.

Qualifiers: GBR, ESP, ITA, BEL, GER, NZL

Women’s Eight (BW8+) – Heats

Two heats lined up with the goal of being in a top two position for a direct path to Sunday’s final. At the start of Heat One it was very tight between Germany, Canada and the United States. Canada is the under-23 champions in this boat class, but it was Germany with the slight advantage at the start. Then Canada, coxed by Laura Court, went to 38 and took the lead. They have five members remaining of the champion 2017 team. Germany held on to Canada and the United States started to move up. Wow this was close. Canada now managed to earn a small margin with the United States pushing ahead of Germany. The finishing order had been decided. Germany, with their lower rating, was not able to come back and catch the Americans. Canada had earned the fastest time overall.

Heat Two was tight. The Netherlands had the edge with Australia moving with the Dutch. But then Great Britain did an amazing push and moved ahead of both Australia and the Netherlands. Only Romania was slightly back. But Romania still was in striking distance as the race moved into the second half. Great Britain was now motoring and had broken away from the Dutch. In the final sprint the Netherlands tried to come back with Australia hot on their heels. Great Britain took the win. The Dutch remained in second.

Qualifiers: CAN, USA, GBR, NED

Men’s Eight (BM8+) – Heats

Heat One of two heats opened with Great Britain in the lead. The goal here was to finish first to be taking a direct path to the final on Sunday. Margins were tight with less than two seconds separating the top five boats at the 500m mark. Then the United States pushed into the lead with Great Britain trying to hold on. The field was now splitting open as the United States showed their speed. But Great Britain was coming back with Romania right there. The US went to 40, Great Britain to 41 and Romania was at 42. The US had crossed the line in first and with the fastest qualifying time.

Heat Two had the Netherlands in front at the start. The only remaining member of the 2017 crew was the coxswain, Bjorn Kwee and he was keeping his boat in the lead going through the middle of the race. France followed in second and looked rather comfortable over France who sat in third. This was a much more spread out field than the previous heat and it looked like the Dutch may have a comparatively easy time of it. The Netherlands looked cool and rather relaxed as they moved into the final sprint ahead of France. Both the Netherlands and France were at 38, with the Dutch remaining easily in the lead.

Qualifiers: USA, NED