Race Report: Water swells for seniors at World Rowing Champs
The combined World Rowing Senior, Under 23 & Junior World Rowing Championships for 2016 went into day two in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. This was an afternoon of heats in the World Rowing Championship senior boat classes.
The Willem-Alexander Baan Rowing Regatta course had white caps with a strong cross-tail wind that caused the rowers to feather as high as they could off the water to prevent their blades from catching on the waves.
Women’s Four (W4-) – Heats
The two heats in this boat class had the first boat only go through directly to the final and the current World Champions, the United States won the first Heat. The American boat still had Kristine O’Brien who was in last year’s winning boat. But the race started off with Belarus in the lead, before the United States took over in the second half of the race. The 2015 silver medallists, Great Britain led from start to finish. The British took their stroke rate to 34 in these tough conditions to get to the finish line first. Germany went to 38 to close on the British lead, but they had left it too late and Germany will return for the repechage. The British time of 6:40 was the fastest qualifying time of the two heats.
Qualifiers: USA, GBR
Men’s Coxed Pair (M2+) – Heats
This boat class had attracted a large field who were divided into three heats with the top three boats from each heat going to the semifinals. In Heat One Belarus got out to a fast start and held it through to the middle of the race before Italy’s Mario Paonessa and Vincenzo Capelli took over in the lead. Once out in front Italy held off any challenges with the biggest challenge coming from Spain. At the line there was barely anything separating Italy and Spain. Belarus held on to the remaining qualifying spot.
Straight from racing in the men’s pair at the Rio Olympics, Roel Braas and Mitchel Steenman of the Netherlands raced in Heat Two. The duo was coxed by Olympic men’s eight coxswain, Peter Wiersum and together they led from start to finish. The United States followed in second with France overtaking Turkey in the final sprint to take the third qualifying spot.
Heat Three saw Canada storm out at the start which helped push the reigning World Champions, Great Britain back in third. The British have a new crew for 2016 with Oliver Cook, Callum McBrierty and coxswain Henry Fieldman making up the boat. By the middle of the race, Great Britain had gotten into second as Canada continued to lead. Then in the final sprint Cook and McBrierty, with 250m to go, lifted their stroke rate to 34 and took the lead. Canada held on to second. The British time of 6:59 was the fastest qualifying time overall.
Qualifiers: ITA, ESP, BLR, NED, USA, FRA, GBR, CAN, UKR
Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls (LW1x) – Heats
This boat class had a full field of 22 countries and they were divided into four heats with the top boat only in each heat getting to go directly to the semifinals. In Heat One Denmark’s Aja Runge Holmegaard got away the quickest and settled into a solid rhythm on this rough water. Georgia Dimakou of Greece followed in second. Coming through the second half of the race Dimakou put a lot of pressure on Holmegaard’s lead. Holmegaard held her cool and held her position to qualify for the semifinals.
Switzerland got away quickly in Heat Two. Patricia Merz of Switzerland still had the lead going through the middle of the race with Germany’s Anja Noske chasing hard. But Merz was able to take her stroke rate up and move away from the entire field. Emma Fredh of Sweden made the best of Heat Three. Fredh got away quickly before Katherine Sauks of Canada started to close and go stroke for stroke with Fredh. Then Sauks caught a boat-stopper of a crab and Fredh was able to move away. In the final 250m Sauks went to a 37 stroke rate and closed on Fredh. But the Swede was able to hold off the challenge. Fredh also recorded the fastest qualifying time.
The reigning World Champion, Zoe McBride of New Zealand made the best of the conditions in Heat Four and led the way from start to finish. McBride also holds the World Best Time in this boat class and she held a solid 29 stroke rate through the body of the race.
Qualifiers: DEN, SUI, SWE, NZL
Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls (LM1x) – Heats
With 25 nations entered, this boat class had the top four boats in each heat getting to go directly to the quarterfinals. In Heat One the Swiss sculler, Silvan Zehnder led from start to finish. With Armenia off the pace, the qualifiers were decided very early in the piece. Heat Two saw a tussle at the head of the field between Rajko Hrvat of Slovenia and Konstantin Steinhuebel of Germany. Both of these scullers pushed it to the end and Steinhuebel went to 38 at the end to stay just ahead and also recorded the fastest qualifying time overall.
Straight from taking silver at the Rio Olympics, Ireland’s Paul O’Donovan swapped the double for the single to race at these World Rowing Championships. O’Donovan got out quickly at the start and built up a huge margin through the middle of the race. Japan’s Yuki Ikeda tried his best to hold on, but it was all about O’Donovan. In Heat Four Italy’s Matteo Mulas got a very slight lead at the start. Croatia’s Luka Radonic was chasing hard and these two boats moved away from the rest of the field as they went together through the middle of the race. Behind them Peru and Thailand were neck-and-neck. Then Sweden took up the pace as five boats went for four qualifying spots. In the final sprint all five scullers charged for the line. Taking it to a photo finish the official results had Sweden’s Mattias Johansson just missing out by 0.01 of a second.
The United States, Colin Etheridge led at the start before Austria took over in the lead. This left the current European Champion, Lukas Babac of Slovakia back in third. At the European Rowing Championships in Brandenburg, Babac won in very rough conditions and rating 29, Babac pushed into the lead. Tapping his boat over the line at 26, Babac had won.
Qualifiers: SUI, ESP, POL, FIN, GER, SLO, HUN, RUS, IRL, JPN, SRB, CHN, ITA, CRO, PER, THA, SVK, AUT, USA, CZE
Lightweight Men’s Pair (LM2-) – Heats
Three heats lined up in this boat class and for these rowers it was all about being in a top two position as this would give a direct path to the semifinals. In Heat One Japan got out the quickest before Denmark’s Emil Espensen and Jens Vilhelmsen took over in the lead. The Danish duo stayed there until the end to qualify along with Brazil.
Leading the way in Heat Two were the reigning World Champions and 2016 unbeaten crew of Joel Cassells and Sam Scrimgeour of Great Britain. But the British were not having it all their own way. Following very closely were Ireland and Spain. These three boats remained close together through the middle of the race with Ireland’s Shane O’Driscoll in stroke seat keeping the stroke rate high. The British, however, kept their cool and managed to hold off the Irish who started their sprint at the 1500m mark. Great Britain and Ireland had qualified for the semifinals.
Heat Three opened with Italy’s Lorenzo Tedesco and Giorgio Tuccinardi in the lead. France chased hard and these two boats crossed the 1000m mark practically neck-and-neck. Then the Italians looked to run out of steam and Augustin Mouterde and Alexis Guerinot of France broke clean away and led the field home with an open water lead. Germany managed to push through Italy, but the Italians fought back in the final sprint. Tedesco and Tuccinardi nearly caught Germany, but a wobble in the boat just metres from the line meant that Germany was able to hold them off.
Qualifiers: DEN, BRA, GBR, IRL, FRA, GER
Lightweight Men’s Quadruple Sculls (LM4x) – Heats
Two heats lined up in this boat class and the goal here was to finish first for a direct path to the final. In Heat One the Greeks got away very quickly with Canada following in second. The Greek crew included members that raced at the Rio Olympics in the lightweight men’s four. Greece still had the lead at the half way point with Canada remaining the closest challengers. Coming through the third 500 Great Britain caught a boat-stopper of a crab which saw them being overtaken. Greece stayed ahead and earned the sole qualifying spot.
Heat Two included the reigning World Champions, France as well as home favourites the Netherlands. Out in front at the start was Ukraine. This is the first time in quite a while that we’ve seen a boat in this boat class from Ukraine and it included the double that tried to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Germany followed in second with France moving through into third. Ukraine continued to lead into the final sprint with Germany and France now neck-and-neck. Then France went to 38 and closed on Ukraine. Ukraine reacted and also went to 38. A canvas ahead of France gave Ukraine the qualifying spot and the fastest qualifying time overall.
Qualifiers: GRE, UKR
Para LTA Mixed Double Sculls (LTAMix2x) – Preliminary race
This is the sole para boat class that does not race in the Paralympic Games and so they have come to the 2016 World Rowing Championships and, for the first time, they raced over the full 2000m distance. Right from the word ‘go’ Guylaine Marchand and Fabien Saint-Lannes of France moved away from the rest of the field. As there are just four crews entered, this race was a preliminary race to decide lanes for the final and it looks like it will be hard for any crew to beat Marchand and Saint-Lannes.