Injuries hit, but top racers through to trials finals

The Rowing Service

Sunday afternoon

A report from the GBR 2008 final trials on Bloso Lake, Hazewinkel.
Published online Monday 10th March 2008

Finals went off as planned, David Tanner most chirpy at how the decision to start 20 minutes later had handed them the best conditions of the day, with plenty of wind shadow on the racing lanes. No serious steering trouble, and no false starts, even though for once the team were using a proper traffic-light starting system, and independent starter and aligner. More withdrawals before the finals - Annie Vernon, Matt Langridge, and Bill Lucas all falling foul of the lurgy - leading to some rather dilute A-finals. Nobody was moved up from B to A finals, though they would have been if they'd really wanted to and there was a good candidate (close 4th in the semis). Anyway, on to the racing (see halfway down the page for the earlier semi-finals). * means U23 eligible.

Race 1: LW1x B final
Elaine Johnstone into an early lead, beating Townsend and Steel in that order. No surprises. 5th overall Elaine Johnstone (Tideway Scullers) 8-29.39; 6th Anna Townsend (Mortlake Anglian & Alpha) 8-36.18; 7th Emma Steel* (Durham Univ) 8-45.04.

Race 2: LW1x A final
Hall bulletted off on her fly-and-die tactic, and this time I was ready with the rate watch, clocking her at 50-50.5 during her wind. Nobody beats that later, not even Campbell (49.5 - bettered by a girl, come on Alan.) Hall's burst of energy is overcome more quickly this time, and Greenhalgh challenges her early, taking the lead with 250m gone. Then it's Casey's turn, settling into a strong rhythm with her power bringing her past Hall at 400m and into first place not long afterwards. Casey gets clear and then the race starts to develop behind her. Hosking starts to motor just before halfway, levelling Greenhalgh by 1050m and beginning a series of traded pushes between the two which lasts for another 700m. At one stage Hosking has a 2-foot advantage, then Greenhalgh visibly steps it up a gear and goes, ripping a length out of Hosking in 15 strokes and closing fast on Casey. That gives overlap at the end, and a closer result than Casey's dominance would suggest. Shame Goodsell and others were absent. 1st Helen Casey (Wallingford) 8-06.51; 2nd Laura Greenhalgh (Reading Univ) 8-08.37; 3rd Sophie Hosking (London) 8-11.50; 4th Jane Hall (Leander) 8-28.28.

Race 3: W2- straight A final
Only five pairs - too many illnesses in the senior sweep squad, so a couple without pairs partners had to scull instead. The diminished field was taken apart by powerhouses Freeman and Ashford, who burst out to an early lead. Moffat and Reeve weren't going to let them have it easy, and crept back to half a length overlap, but a Freeman/Ashford push at 750 comprehensively knocked pretension on the head, and gave them back a clear lead which they held to the finish. Maguire/Cavell and Windham/Myers were briefly involved in a struggle to avoid coming last, but the Wallingford pair was stronger and had a better rhythm, and claimed fourth behind Cook/Loveridge. 1st Alice Freeman/Carla Ashford (Wallingford/Oxford Brookes) 7-34.41; 2nd Baz Moffat/Louisa Reeve (Thames/Leander) 7-38.35; 3rd Jo Cook/Rachel Loveridge (Leander) 7-47.77; 4th Lindsay Maguire/Briony Cavell (Wallingford) 7-52.08; 5th Emma Windham/Vicky Myers (Leander) 7-55.93.

Race 4: W1x B final
A pretty good race, quick starter Walczak hitting the first marker ahead, then Etiebet taking over the lead but soon challenged again. Whitlam's a class act, and steadily marched her way up the field from the back, taking the lead not long after halfway. Walczak and impressive 2007 junior international Cowburn had a barney on the far side of the lake, with Cowburn winning, and while Whitlam was establishing a strong lead, Cowburn carved her way through to second place, eventually closing a little on the leader. Etiebet stuck in a late burst to try and catch third, but was beaten by Walczak by a few feet on the line, well ahead of Rowbotham. 7th overall Olivia Whitlam (Agecroft) 8-04.27; 8th Sarah Cowburn* (Worcester) 8-06.67; 9th Ruth Walczak* (Univ of London) 8-11.34; 10th Vicky Etiebet (Univ of London) 8-11.95; 11th Louisa Rowbotham (Leander) 8-17.99.

Race 5: W1x A final
No surprises as to the winner, the only question being whether Flood could mount a strong challenge, after Vernon dropped out with illness. Grainger going for her ninth trials win (and at least fourth in succession), set off racily, but was matched by Flood very neatly for the first couple of minutes, and it wasn't until gone 250m that Grainger's bow got more than a few feet advantage, taking a long time to reach clear water. Rodford, sculling beautifully, was just a length behind both, and soon moving well clear of the other two. Laverick looked much more laboured than usual and rapidly dropped back behind Stiller. 1st Katherine Grainger (St Andrew) 7-44.27; 2nd Debbie Flood (Leander) 7-52.29; 3rd Beth Rodford (Thames) 7-53.82; 4th Tina Stiller* (Nottingham) 8-00.15; 5th Elise Laverick (Thames) 8-09.40; 6th Annie Vernon (Marlow) did not race.

Race 6: M1x A final
Drop-outs etc. had left the men's singles a thin enough field for just one final, now down to five boats with Bill Lucas out. No prizes for guessing who had the fastest start, Campbell flooring it to 500m (just 97.8% of GMT this time) and only Rowbotham strong enough to try and mount a challenge. Didn't work, the gap stretching to clear water before the first mark, but yet again it was Townsend vs Gregory who gave the most interesting race. Soon Crean joined in to make it a three-way battle, but he managed to get ahead of the two Reading lads and stay out of trouble. Unlike the semi, where they were closely matched for most of the course, Townsend this time decided a move was needed, and stuck one in at about 1400m which edged him a canvas ahead of Gregory. The effort took Townsend past Crean, and soon Gregory was also having a go at the Agecroft sculler. In the final scramble we think Gregory stopped slap-bang on the line, but must have timed it perfectly, since he did manage to edge Crean by a bow-ball, the smallest margin of the day. Meanwhile Campbell was busy trying to work out where Peter Spurrier was taking photographs from, and doing a Hacker-like salute with both arms to celebrate completing an Olympiad's worth of trials wins (four in a row). 1st Alan Campbell (Tideway Scullers) 7-01.68; 2nd Steve Rowbotham (Leander) 7-08.56; 3rd Sam Townsend (Reading Univ) 7-14.22; 4th Alex Gregory (Reading Univ) 7-15.25; 5th Brendan Crean (Agecroft) 7-15.27; 6th Bill Lucas (Reading Univ) did not race.

Race 7: M2- B final
Bit of a shame Bateman and Lucy didn't move up - they would apparently have been allowed to if their coaches had pushed for it, with such a good claim after their semifinal. First half made them look clearly a level above the rest, with an early lead easily held. The rest were bows to bows, virtually nothing between them. Solesbury and Parker, with a much better rhythm than in their semi, launched into the first attack, and eased out to about a third of a length on the rest, with Broadway and Burton racing to follow them. Nice fight develops, Solesbury and Parker lifting, Broadway and Burton matching the push, and Lawson and Orme heading the rest not far behind. For a while it's between these two for the second place, and then the Solesbury/Parker rhythm goes again and Broadway and Burton get an edge as they belt towards the line. This dash brings both back towards Bateman and Lucy, whose easy ride is over as they scramble to confirm the win. Photofinish for first, and another for 4/5/6, amazingly close. 7th overall Marcus Bateman/Tom Lucy* (Leander/Oxford Brookes Univ) 6-45.17; 8th Tom Broadway/Tom Burton (Leander) 6-45.31; 9th Tom Solesbury/Tom Parker (Molesey/Oxford Brookes Univ) 6-46.26; 10th Ian Lawson/James Orme (Leander) 6-50.22; 11th Dan Ritchie/Mohamed Sbihi (Reading Univ/Molesey) 6-50.46; 12th Will Laughton/Cameron Nichol (Univ of London) 6-50.72.

Race 8: M2- A final
The big one we're supposedly all on edge for, and as we whizz up to the start, it's virtually empty - not a coach in sight! Naturally enough, they were all cycling back as fast as their little legs could carry them after that amazing B final. Also, it's a little less enticing now that Langridge is ill so he and Stevie W have dropped out. Anyway, on to the race, and Hodge and Reed get the best start by far, with a high rate and powerful strokes which rapidly take them away from the rest. Within 25 strokes they have 3/4 length lead, good tactics when racing this batch. However, this is as far as they get and Smith & James lock onto them, maintaining contact and guarding that last 1/4 length. Dangerous for Hodge and Reed, we think, don't let the 2006 pair think they have a sniff at this. Meanwhile Bourne-Taylor and Stallard are on the hunt to drop some of the chasing pairs, and Partridge/Egington are getting their mid-race power going and coming back too. Now things get interesting at the top end, Hodge and Reed steady at 35, but at about 600-700m gone James takes the rate up and starts an attack. 800m, and Hodge matches it, which covers the move and gets his stern narrowly into clear water. 1250 gone, and while the back race is still developing, I realise James and Smith have sneaked back to overlap again. But it's in vain, another Hodge/Reed push is deployed and bam, within a few strokes as I look up again it's a 2-length lead. How in the heck did that happen? Blimey that's good racing. Grenade tactics. Quite far out, the scramble to the line begins, both pairs starting to rate higher and higher, great effort and tank-draining from both. Behind them, Partridge and Egington have cut past BT and Stallard, but scratch pair Heathcote and Garbett aren't able to challenge either. 1st Peter Reed/Andy Triggs Hodge (Leander/Molesey) 6-32.33; 2nd Colin Smith/Tom James (Leander/Molesey) 6-37.60; 3rd Alex Partridge/Ric Egington (Leander) 6-40.93; 4th Robin Bourne-Taylor/Tom Stallard (Army/Leander) 6-42.43; 5th Al Heathcote/Toby Garbett (Army/Leander) 6-48.13; 6th Steve Williams/Matt Langridge (Leander) did not race.

Race 9: LM1x B final
Weirdly, this is the race that most goes against lane seeding, largely due to a certain London sculler who suddenly gets it all back together. Off the start, Beechey leads but they're all close. Hewitt does his best, but soon drops back. Freeman-Pask gets onto a roll, and starts steaming forward, quickly passing Beechey with Harte also closing up quickly on the far side. Harte pushes before the first timing point and gets his bows in front, but it's incredibly close between the top five, and Hewitt only another 1/3 length back. Boddy's looking good too, has moved past Beechey as well, with Jones starting to get into the groove. Freeman-Pask and Harte start swapping pushes, glued together. This carries on for almost a thousand metres, while Hewitt passes the faltering Boddy. Finally Harte gets the upper hand and can sweep across the line for the win, Freeman-Pask the only sculler overlapping him. Photofinish between clubmates Jones and Beechey for third, which Jones wins by a snip. 7th overall Danny Harte (London) 7-16.68; 8th Adam Freeman-Pask (Imperial Coll) 7-17.81; 9th Simon Jones (Leander) 7-21.76; 10th Matt Beechey (Leander) 7-21.95; 11th Bob Hewitt* (Tees) 7-24.72; 12th Chris Boddy* (Tees) 7-30.39.

Race 10: LM1x A final
Last race of the trials, and though it's hard to see anyone vying seriously with Hunter, there are going to be some interesting scraps for the minor places. There's a long way to go with lightweight selection for the four - like the women's quad places aren't guaranteed if the coaches think they can get a faster crew, so everyone has to prove as much as possible even though sweep trials are yet to come. It's about living up to the personal potential, not just getting a high place. Plus there's probably an Olympic spare going to be needed, and it has to be someone who can fit into both sweep and sculling boats. Beep and we're off, and as has been the form with these lightweights it takes a while for anyone to get an edge. Hunter's bow shows by a fraction, not much. Then he starts pouring the power on, and has half a length at the first timing marker, but can't get any more. Mattick is the nearest challenger, but has Chambers and Clarke hot on his tail, with Leighton-Crawford and Rob Williams only a couple of metres back. Gripping stuff. Now we start to see how much Chambers saved from the semi, as he begins a steady climb back towards Hunter, screwing up the pressure continuously. This brings him level with Mattick at 750m gone, then past him into second, while Clarke is unable to live with the pace and is passed by all the other scullers in turn. Chambers looking very fluid and has maintained overlap on Hunter, who doesn't seem too ruffled: he knows he can cover the whole race. Mattick creeps back a bit on Chambers, Chambers pushes again. Now here comes Leighton-Crawford, sculling a blinder which bags him third place as they reach 1400m, but Hunter's edged out to clear water apparently effortlessly. Chambers looks over three times inside a handful of strokes, judging who's where. Then he launches another attack which hauls him back into contact with Hunter, and away from Leighton-Crawford. Mattick's faltering and Williams gets past him, Leighton-Crawford threatens Chambers, who manages a final sprint which deals with that and sneaks him closer to Hunter. 1st Mark Hunter (Leander) 7-11.78; 2nd Richard Chambers (Oxford Brookes Univ) 7-12.68; 3rd Alistair Leighton-Crawford (Tideway Scullers) 7-15.56; 4th Rob Williams (London) 7-17.52; 5th Paul Mattick (Wallingford) 7-18.94; 6th James Clarke (London) 7-25.05.

Sunday morning

A report from the semifinals of the GBR 2008 final trials.
Published online Sunday 9th March 2008

It's been a fascinating morning, not many big surprises but a lot of great racing. All the racing was brought forward because they're expecting storms to hit on Monday, so the time-trial was run on Saturday afternoon, setting up lanes for the semi-finals on Sunday morning and then finals late on Sunday afternoon. I grabbed a ride in the cars following the racing, so here's a ring-side view of what went on. Racing alternated boat types, and due to a slight cross-wind were set up with the fastest time-triallers in the side nearest the lake path.

Full semifinal time results from the BIRO press release (see also the time-trials results and the main news index for withdrawals details.)

Race 1: M1x first semifinal
Didn't manage to catch this bar the finish, by which time Campbell was well ahead of the nearest sculler, Brendan Crean. Campbell's first split, I notice, is logged at 99.1% of the predicted GMT, which is pretty good going even in decent conditions. The promised wind hasn't really materialised - large patches of completely calm water on the lake.

Race 2: W1x first semifinal
Grainger into a clear lead, Tina Stiller beating Beth Rodford away from the blocks and continuing to impress down the lake. Rodford went through her well before halfway, but Stiller stayed close, and the two closed a strolling Grainger down as they neared the line. Walczak also looked very good at the start, but wasn't able to keep up the pressure beyond halfway. Finish order exactly according to seedings.

Race 3: M1x second semifinal
Rowbotham clear of the pack by 400m gone, and then moved right away. West was unable to keep up as a dramatic race developed between Townsend and Gregory, trading push after push and keeping everyone watching guessing as to who would grab second. Again and again Gregory's longer levers threatened to move him ahead, but Townsend matched him, until a final effort in the last 250 did the job and gave Gregory runner-up by about a second. Brilliant racing from both.

Race 5 (out of order): M2- first semifinal
A delay for the women's race left the men's pairs on next. Most of these pairs had been yelled at for not stopping during their warm-up (they're obliged to stop paddling as each race goes by) but they lined up unruffled, and were away cleanly first time. Hodge and Reed belted off the start and were quickly in front, with youngsters Laughton and Nichol briefly showing their bow before being caught by the more experienced racers. Williams and Langridge into second, though unable to keep contact with Hodge and Reed, and then things got quite interesting. Heathcote was originally intended to pair with Josh West, but a reshuffle was required with West injured, so it's Heathcote/Garbett as this year's surprise-the-coaches scratch pair. It took nearly 1000m for their rhythm to click properly but when it did they began moving steadily up the field, going from just behind third-placed Broadway/Burton to well past them in short order. Soon Heathcote/Garbett were closing hard on and then overlapping Williams & Langridge, and the scramble brought both back on the dawdling leaders. Williams & Langridge rose to the challenge, moving back out to a length advantage, and in contact with Hodge & Reed.

Race 4 (out of order): W1x second semifinal
The hiccup was Lou Rowbotham's seat wheel, which had come off in the warm-up and had to be fixed. After waiting for the men to go off, the women got underway, with Flood taking no time to move into a strong lead which she held to the line. Annie Vernon was closest to her off the start, with Laverick in the mix throughout and all three unchallenged for the A-final places.

Race 6: LM1x first semifinal
Well Mark Hunter won it, no surprises - due to Zac's absence he is the favourite overall. But holy moly what a race for second and third. Beechey stuck in one of his best performances, whizzing into second and holding it for nearly 1km while Chambers and Rob Williams sorted themselves out. As they pushed Beechey, he held doggedly on, but was eventually passed, though not by much. Chambers had the edge for a long way, some canny world-champion action from the sculler who has only just returned from injury. But he had Williams on his tail, and the two had quite a ding-dong in the third quarter. With about 200m to go Williams took more of the upper hand, and Chambers settled for third.

Race 7: M2- second semifinal
This one was even more interesting. I wish I'd been videoing TJ & Colin's start - it was textbook. Two long smooth strokes getting the boat moving, then the speediest and most effective build, within about three more strokes launching them right into the lead, though pretty well everyone else had gone off ostensibly faster. The technique masterclass continued, the pair sitting just in front of everyone else and in full control - they're going to have to find some energy for this afternoon's final against Hodgey and Reed. Behind them there were three pairs in it - Bateman/Lucy doing nicely early on, Bourne-Taylor and Stallard catching up quickly, and Partridge and Egington looking a trifle uncomfortable but well in the hunt. This tussle was incredible, all three virtually stroke for stroke until 1500m gone, when BT & Stallard crept into second, and left Partridge and Egington having to hold off Lucy & Bateman. A couple of times you could virtually see Lucy physically lifting his boat to move it on, but a few inches difference stretched into feet and then a boat length as Edge and Partridge turned on the pace. Shame the final can't be a seven-boat race, last place would have gone to anybody. Parker & Solesbury provided finish line judge Di Ellis with some entertainment and work, beating Ritchie & Sbihi in a 0.15 second photofinish.

Race 8: LM1x second semifinal
A very even start across all six, but it didn't take long for Mattick's bow to move ahead, then into a clear water lead, with Leighton-Crawford sculling strongly behind him. James Clarke slipped back quite a way in third, and at one stage was in danger of being caught by the other trio of scullers, before he pulled it back in the last quarter. Not an eventful race at the front, but Hewitt and Jones kept Di Ellis busy with another photofinish for fourth, which Hewitt won by 0.03 seconds.

Race 9: LW1x first semifinal
Due to the low numbers (7 starters) the lightweight women are running a four-boat final, so only two through from each semi. The margins were quite large here and the end result (Casey winning) never in doubt, though Jane Hall had her customary go off the start, flying into a quick lead which it took Casey several hundred metres to overturn. As the order reorganised, Elaine Johnstone earned some brownie points with a very creditable assault on the much more experienced Hall, creeping up behind her and just about gaining contact. Hall finally had enough with about 400m to go and pushed back out to confirm qualification before letting Johnstone close again in the final strokes.

Race 10: LW1x second semifinal
Less eventful, Greenhalgh and Hosking clearly qualifying, but relatively close together for most of the course, although Greenhalgh catches a buoy and nearly does a Winckless at one stage, almost crabbing but recovering quickly.

Race 11: W1x C final
Didn't get to see this, but it was all over quite early on, Atlanta St John leading Flo Temple home.

Race 12: M2- C final
Without doubt the best race of the day, the two Leander pairs nose to nose almost all the way, inches it at times. Laughton & Palmer were ahead for most of it, by a shade, but both crews kept steering into each other, and race umpire Mr Tanner was busy megaphoning them from his car. Eventually they managed to get far enough apart not to risk tangling in the final sprint, and Wilkinson & Williamson poured on just enough more juice to nick a win. Classic racing, hope the A-final lives up to it.

Race 13: LM1x C final
Woods winning easily after an early lead, but then something of a mix which Ross Hunter eventually came through to take second.