Stany Delayre (b), Jeremie Azou (s), Fran_
Stany Delayre (b), Jeremie Azou (s), France, Lightweight Men's Double Sculls, Heat 4, 2015 World Rowing Championships, Aiguebelette, France

Lightweight Men’s Single Sculls (LM1x) – Heats

With six heats lined up made of a huge 32-nation pack, these scullers had to finish in a top three position to make it to the quarterfinals. Heat One got off to a bang featuring the current World Champion, Marcello Miani of Italy. The 31-year-old Italian set the World Best Time in this boat class last year and he showed his skill today against a field made up mainly of development countries. Algeria and Poland kept up early on, but Miani only really had to push for half the race to secure his spot.

Japan shot out fast in Heat Two with the United States in hot pursuit. By the middle of the race Nicholas Trojan of the United States had edged into the lead with New Zealand’s Adam Ling moving into second. Ling then pulled away leaving an incredible fight for the line between Peru, USA and Japan. Japan was the unlucky one, missing out by just 0.30 of a second.

Heat Three had Tim Brys of Belgium leading the way with Germany’s Konstantin Steinhuebel right on the pace. Brys and Steinheubel then spent the middle of the race going neck-and-neck and, despite both being in qualifying positions, the pair battled it out right to the line. A 40 stroke rate burst by Steinheubel gave him first. 

Heat Four had Jamie Kirkwood of Great Britain and Rajko Hrvat of Slovenia get away the quickest and followed a similar style of racing to Heat Three. Birthday boy Kirkwood, 26, and Hrvat went together through the middle of the race before Hrvat broke away leaving Kirkwood in a relatively content second place. Hrvat had recorded the fastest qualifying time.

Serbia’s Milos Stanojevic led the way in Heat Five. Stanojevic took silver at World Rowing Cup III in July and he was able to move entirely away from the field, crossing the line with a huge open water lead.

The sixth and final heat, Heat Six had Yajun Li of China showing the best start. But Li was soon reeled in by Gabor Csepregi of Hungary. Then Luka Radonic of Croatia did a push, found the lead and remained there. Radonic was third at this year’s World Rowing Under 23 Championships and he must be a favourite to do well at this regatta.


Lightweight Women’s Single Sculls (LW1x) – Heats

Four heats of lightweight women lined up with the first place only getting to go directly to the semifinals. This must have been quite an incentive for Brazil’s Fabiana Beltrame who overtook the Netherlands to take the lead in Heat One. Once out in front the 2011 World Champion, Beltrame was able to push away. Despite a big push by Australia’s Georgia Nesbitt in the close of the race, Beltrame still finished first using a steady 36 stroke rate. Beltrame is likely to go into a lightweight double later this season with the aim of qualifying for the Rio Olympics at the South American Continental Qualification Regatta.

It was a dominating performance by Kathleen Bertko of the United States in Heat Two. Bertko has not raced internationally this season, but she was the world bronze medallist in 2014 and is known for her gutsy personality. Bertko led over Mexico with enough of a margin that she was able to drop her stroke rate to 26 in the closing metres of the race. Bertko had qualified for the semifinals.

Zoe McBride of New Zealand has become quite a sensation. She set a new World Best Time in this boat class earlier in the season and then went on to win the lightweight double at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships.  The 19-year-old raced in Heat Three and is a favourite to take gold at this regatta. McBride got away quickly and by the middle of the race had earned a huge lead over Canada. Retaining the lead McBride strode home at a 33 stroke rate pace and recorded the fastest qualifying time of a quick 7:40.

Heat Four had Great Britain’s Imogen Walsh out in front. Walsh was formerly in her country’s lightweight double. Now back in the single Walsh won the European Championships earlier this year and took silver at World Rowing Cup II. Today was an easy win for Walsh who now moves on to the semifinals. 

Qualifiers: BRA, USA, NZL, GBR

Women’s Pair (W2-) – Heats

With 21 countries lining up, these pair rowers were divided into four heats with the top boat in each heat getting to go directly to the semifinals. Heat One turned into a full 2000m battle between Elisabeth Hogerwerf and Olivia van Rooijen of the Netherlands and Cristina Grigoras and Laura Oprea of Romania. Poland joined in the battle for the first half of the race but couldn’t handle the pace. Taking it to the final stroke, Hogerwerf and van Rooijen crossed just a bow ball ahead of Romania. Hogerwerf and Rooijen will also race in their country’s eight.

With the reigning World and Olympic Champions in Heat Two, the race was practically over before it started. Heather Stanning and Helen Glover of Great Britain are unbeaten since 2012 in this boat class and they got out fast and into a dominating position by the middle of the race. South Africa tried hard to keep up, but did not have the power to keep up. Rating an easy 29, Stanning and Glover crossed the line in first.

It was a battle between Denmark and the United States in Heat Three. At the start Denmark’s Hedvig Rasmussen and Anne Andersen had the edge, but Felice Mueller and Eleanor Logan of the United States stuck with them. Then a third 500 push by Mueller and Logan put their boat ahead. Denmark gave it their all to regain the lead. Both boats rated 38 in the final sprint with the United States winning by a boat length and recording the fastest qualifying time.

At the start of Heat Four it was Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler of New Zealand in the lead. The New Zealand duo raced in the women’s four at last year’s World Rowing Championships and won. Now in the pair they took second at World Rowing Cup III in July. Canada followed in second, but did not look like they would be able to get ahead of a very comfortable looking Prendergast and Gowler. 

Qualifiers: NED, GBR, USA, NZL

Men’s Pair (M2-) – Heats

Five heats had been formed out of the 27 countries entered in this boat class. This meant that the top four boats in each heat would earn a direct path to the quarterfinals. The racing opened with the unbeaten New Zealand crew of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray doing what they do best – leading. The New Zealanders have been training as a team in Europe to prepare for these World Rowing Championships and today Bond and Murray looked well-seasoned and in good form. They led the way over Spain, Russia and Belarus.

It was Milos Vasic and Nenad Bedik of Serbia who were doing like New Zealand in Heat Two – leading. Vasic and Bedik had the lead at the start and, despite being chased hard by the United States, they managed to keep their nose in front through to the finish line. Vasic and Bedik have had a great season so far and at the World Rowing Cup III in July they were the bronze medallists.

After an initial lead by Romania in Heat Three, Great Britain’s James Foad and Matt Langridge got in front. Foad and Langridge are likely to be the strongest challengers to New Zealand’s domination of this race after becoming European Champions earlier this season and then taking second at World Rowing Cup III last month. Today Foad and Langridge broke away from the field with Germany and Romania fighting for second. A show of pure style, Foad and Langridge crossed the line easily in front and under no pressure.

It was David Hunt and Shaun Keeling of South Africa who had the leading edge in Heat Four with Australia’s Jack Hargreaves and Nicholas Wheatley right with them in second. These two crews remained locked together for the entire race with Hunt and Keeling holding the edge. The last time these two crews met, it was the final of the pair at World Rowing Cup III in Lucerne, Australia finished fifth and South Africa was sixth. A slight turnaround today had Hunt and Keeling ahead of Hargreaves and Wheatley.

Heat Five had full crowd support, not only because France was racing, but also because the race went to a near tie between three boats at the end. Throughout the race Italy, the Netherlands and France were all closely tied to each other, with Turkey also on the pace early on. Italy had the very accomplished Niccolo Mornati teamed up with Vincenzo Capelli. France Olympic medallists Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette and the Netherlands was former single sculler Roel Braas teamed up with sweep rower Mitchel Steenman. At the line Italy rated 40, France 47 and the Netherlands 40. Italy was first and recorded the fastest qualifying time of 6:28.


Lightweight Men’s Double Sculls (LM2x) – Heats

This boat class saw 32 countries entered and they were divided into six heats with the top three boats in each heat getting to go to the quarterfinal. Last year’s World Champions, James Thompson and John Smith of South Africa led the way in Heat One. Thompson and Smith come from Olympic Champion lightweight men’s four and today they headed off Mexico to remain in the lead right through to the line.

It looked to be a relatively easy ride for William Fletcher and Richard Chambers of Great Britain in Heat Two. The duo had the lead at the start and broke away to a clear water margin by the half way point. This meant at the other end of the race Fletcher and Chambers only had to rate 27 to cross the line first. Behind them Switzerland’s Daniel Wiederkehr and Michael Schmid managed to get the better in a battle with Huseyin Kandermir and Enes Kusku of Turkey. All of these crews qualified for the quarterfinal.

The 2013 World Champions, Kristoffer Brun and Are Strandli of Norway had the fastest start in Heat Three. By the middle of the race, New Zealand had moved into second ahead of Germany. New Zealand has a new crew for 2015 made up of Olympic medallist Peter Taylor with former heavyweight rower, Hayden Cohen. Germany had the young duo of Moritz Moos and Jason Osborne. In the close of the race Brun and Strandli rated a comfortable 35 to cross the line first. Germany took their stroke to 42 to take second and New Zealand, on 36 looked rather relaxed.

Heat Four opened with World Cup winners, France in the lead and closed with them still in the lead. Stany Delayre and Jeremie Azou of France were unlucky to finish with silver in 2014 and they are not planning to let that happen this year on their home course. Behind France, Ireland and Hungary battled it out right through to the line as France looked like comfortable leaders.

Italy’s Andrea Micheletti and Pietro Ruta were the quickest starters in Heat Four and as the race progressed they were able to pull away to a boat length lead over the United States. These two boats moved away from Poland in third with the qualifiers thus all but decided. In the final sprint Italy and the new American combination of Andrew Campbell and Joshua Kinieczny kept their stroke rate high with Poland following suit. Micheletti and Ruta had recorded the fastest qualifying time of 6:15.

Panagiotis Magdanis and Eleftherios Konsolas of Greece were just a bow ball ahead of the Netherlands in Heat Six. This gave them the lead which they held through the middle of the race. But the Dutch twins, Tycho and Vincent Muda held on as these two boats remained the leading crews through to the finish. Meanwhile coming up through the outside lane, Denmark’s Henrik Stephansen and Jens Nielsen, did a big sprint to grab the third and final qualifying spot.


Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls (LW2x) – Heats

One of the biggest fields among the women, the lightweight double had 26 countries entered. They were divided into five heats and the rule here was to be in a top four spot to earn a direct path to the quarterfinals. Heat One featured the World Champion New Zealand crew of Sophie MacKenzie and Julia Edward. But it was Vietnam that had the fastest start. This did not last long as Denmark then got their nose into the lead. Edward and MacKenzie took over in front in the third 500. But Denmark’s Juliane Rasmussen and Anne Lolk Thomsen did not let the World Champions away lightly. Taking their stroke rate to 40, Rasmussen and Thomsen fought back and crossed the line in first and with the fastest qualifying time.

Germany has put together a new combination for 2015 with young Fini Sturm teamed up with veteran Marie-Louise Draeger. They raced at the head of the field in Heat Two. But then Australia’s Alice McNamara and Ella Flecker did a push and got into the lead. Canada followed suit and after overtaking Germany, Lindsay Jennerich and Particia Obee went after Australia. Rating 40, Canada crossed the line in first. In a flurry to the line Australia only just held on to second over Germany with Greece taking fourth.

Heat Three had Poland out in front at the start but with very close margins over the entire field, except for Italy who were left standing. Going through the middle of the race margins remained tight with four boats within two seconds of each other. Rating 36, Joanna Dorociak and Weronika Deresz of Poland remained just in front with Devery Karz and Michelle Sechser of the United States pushing through into second.

The pace was set by Kirsten McCann and Ursula Grobler of South Africa in Heat Four. They had a blistering start and they broke away with a virtual line forming for second. By the middle of the race McCann and Grobler remained in front with a relaxed looking Romania following in second. When the lightweight double became an Olympic boat class in 1996, Romania dominated and did for the next couple of Olympics. That has all changed in recent years, but this Romanian crew was looking good. Going to the line, South Africa was still in the lead with the Netherlands overtaking Romania to take second.

Heat Five featured the incredible comeback of Ireland’s Sinead Jennings. The 39-year-old was a World Champion back in 2001 and after taking a break from the sport which included having three kids and trying for the Irish Olympic cycling team, Jennings came back to rowing for 2015. Teamed up with Claire Lambe, the duo was heading the field. Great Britain, which included Olympic Champion Katherine Copelend, followed in second. This order remained the same as the Irish and the British led the way.

The spread of winning times over these five heats was just two seconds. This boat class is going to be very tight.


Men’s Four (M4-) – Heats

Four heats made up the men’s four with the top boat only getting to go directly to the semifinals. Italy had the lead for the entire race in Heat One. The Italians managed to build up a bit of a lead over Great Britain to keep out of trouble to cross the line in first. Some very competent crews will now have to contest the repechage. Italy recorded the fastest qualifying time of all of the heats.

Winners of World Rowing Cup I, Belarus had the fastest start in Heat Two. But the margin was small and going through the middle of the race there was just three seconds separating the field. Canada had now got in front and once in that position, they managed to pull away. Then Russia put on a spurt down the outside, but Canada was ready and looked confident and together to cross the line in first.

All boats got away rather evenly in Heat Three with the Netherlands earning just a slight lead. This did not last long as winners of World Rowing Cup III, Australia pushed in front. But between World Cup III and this regatta, the Australian crew was involved in a cycling accident during training that saw one crew member injured badly. Joshua Dunkley-Smith was brought into the boat. It must have been the right move as Australia won their heat today on the waters of Lake Aiguebelette.

Serbia had the lead at the start of Heat Four, but they could not retain it as the United States charged through. Glenn Ochal, Charles Cole, Henrik Rummel and Seth Weil of the United States have not been seen much this season, but as 2014 silver medallists, they must have had a hunch that they were pretty good. Coming into the final sprint the United States kept the pressure on as South Africa kept them honest. South Africa included Lawrence Brittain who has overcome a fight with cancer to get to this regatta. The United States won, but South Africa looked very happy with their second place.

Qualifiers: ITA, CAN, AUS, USA

Men’s Quadruple Sculls (M4x) – Heats

This boat class had three heats and the top two boats in each heat would get to go to the semifinals. Heat One was almost a repeat of the final at World Rowing Cup III in Lucerne last month. Today Ukraine, who are the current World Champions, had the lead. But the lead was slight between the entire field and by the middle of the race only two seconds separated the field. Then Australia managed to push into the lead with Poland following suit. Ukraine could not get themselves back into a qualifying spot.

Heat Two was almost as tight as Heat One. Switzerland had a slight lead and held it through the middle of the race with the rest of the field spread over just two seconds. The field then began to spread in the all important third 500 with Switzerland and the United States managing to get an ever so slight edge. Then in the final sprint New Zealand took their stroke rate into the mid-40s and closed on Switzerland. The Swiss fought back and a 46-48 stroke rate was seen. These became the two qualifying boats.

Heat Three was nothing like the former two heats. Germany took the lead and pulled away to nearly a boat length lead going through the middle of the race. Canada did their best to hold on to the German Olympic Champions, but it was Lithuania that came storming through into second using an fabulous closing sprint.

All three heat winners finished with a time of 5:43. This boat class is going to be close.

Qualifiers: AUS, POL, SUI, NZL, GER, LTU

Men’s Single Sculls (M1x) – Heats

The biggest boat class of the regatta – the men’s single had attracted 41 countries – the largest ever entry at a World Rowing event. This required a whopping eight heats with the top two boats in each heat getting to go directly to the quarterfinals. In Heat One Mindaugas Griskonis of Lithuania set the pace. Griskonis has been in the single for nearly his entire rowing career and now 29 years old, he’s continually improving. Griskonis crossed the line fist with Sverri Nielsen of Denmark taking second. Heat Two had last year’s silver medallist, Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba dominating for the entire 2000m. Argentina’s Brian Rosso followed in second before being overtaken by Brazil’s Steve Hiestand.

Heat Three had Canada’s Pascal Lussier get away quickly and hold the lead through the middle of the race. Then Belgium’s Hannes Obreno got his boat ahead of Lussier with Olaf Tufte of Norway in hot pursuit. Tufte is the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Champion, but has not been so successful in recent years. Today Tufte qualified along with Obreno.

In the lead of Heat Four was the Olympic Champion, Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand. Drysdale showed his superiority in this heat by not really having to push it and instead saving himself for a busy week of racing. Using a 32 stroke rate pace, Drysdale did just enough to stay ahead of Juan Carlos Cabrera of Mexico. There were no other crews putting pressure on the two leading crews and the race order remained the same through to the line.

The 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, Alan Campbell of Great Britain is back after an injury-plagued 2014 season. Campbell made easy work of Heat Five, leading with open water over Kenneth Jurkowski of the United States. These became the two qualifying boats. Heat Six did not present any surprises as World Champion, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic led the way and did just enough work to stay ahead of Dani Fridman of Israel. This order stayed the same right through to the end of the 2000m course.

Damir Martin of Croatia came back from injury in 2014 and came into the single this year. He became the European Champion in May and proved that he was on form. Today, Martin raced at the head of the field in Heat Seven. Finland’s Robert Ven followed in second and the order remained the same through to the line.

Heat Eight had Lars Hartig of Germany in the lead. Hartig has come from being a lightweight rower and into this boat class for the season. By the middle of the race Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk of Poland had overtaken Hartig as these two scullers moved away from the rest of the field. The tall under-23 medallist, Wegrzycki-Szymczyk remained in front as Stanislau Shcharbachenia of Belarus pushed past Hartig and into second. The two qualifiers had been decided with Hartig taking the pressure off.


Women’s Single Sculls (W1x) – Heats

This boat class attracted 33 countries to compete making it the biggest field among the women’s boat classes. The goal here was to be in a top three position for a direct path to the quarterfinals. In Heat One, Germany’s Julia Richter went out into the lead at the start and by the middle of the race Richter had a handy lead over Magdalena Lobnig of Austria. Richter is part of Germany’s powerful women’s sculling squad and not making the leading boat, the quad, Richter was put into the single. In the final sprint Lobnig pushed ahead of Richter to finish first. Richter took second and Fiona Bourke of New Zealand qualified from third.

Micheen Thornycroft of Zimbabwe led the way in Heat Two. Thornycroft has already been to one Olympic Games and is aiming for her second. Then Carling Zeeman of Canada closed on Thornycroft and pushed into the lead. Zeeman is known for her impressive erg score and power in the boat. Once in the lead Zeeman could not sit on her laurels as Lina Saltyte of Lithuania came storming through and took first right on the line.

Heat Three had Olympic Champion Mirka Knapkova of the Czech Republic in the lead with the Netherlands and Ireland following very, very closely. Knapkova then inch by inch worked her way away from the rest of the field to an open water lead. Sanita Puspure of Ireland then slotted into second with Lisa Scheenaard of the Netherlands qualifying from third.

Nigeria faced their first ever World Championship competition in Heat Four. Chierika Ukogo of Nigeria moved away in third place and she was still there at the 1000m mark. Leading the way was Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark. Erichsen took silver at the 2012 Olympics and then took time out to have a baby before coming back to the sport. She led the way over Genevra Stone of the United States. The race then became very spread out with Ukogo being the third qualifier and thus the first Nigerian to make a rowing quarterfinal.

It was a race for second in Heat Five with Olympic medallist, Kim Crow of Australia lining up. Crow comes to Aiguebelette following an unbeaten season and she does not look to be slowing down. Crow had an open water lead well within the first half of the race with Jeannine Gmelin of Switzerland back in second. Last year’s World Champion in the lightweight single, Eveline Peleman of Belgium followed in third. The order remained the same.

After an initial lead by Belarus’s Tatsiana Kukhta, Heat Six saw Jingli Duan of China take over in front. Duan took bronze at last year’s World Championships but has been relatively quiet this season. Duan remained in the lead until the line with Kukhta qualifying from second and Olympic Champion from the women’s quad, Nataliya Dovgodko of Ukraine qualifying from third.