Dorney World Cup – Finals review


So, the Dorney World Cup is over. It’s been 3 days of fantastic racing and here are my thoughts about the racing on finals day…

The main talking point is the weather….the wind was pretty brutal, but, fortunately it was predominantly a tail-wind so racing was OK. The FISA fairness committee decided to re-draw the lanes to put the faster crews in lanes 5-6…certainly the crews in lanes 1 & 2 had a pretty torrid time.

In my preview I had picked Synek for the win with Sullivan 2nd and Campbell 3rd. The big surprise in this event was how far off the pace the Kiwi Olympic M2X champion was. He only managed to finish 5th in the B final. If Eton Dorney was Sullivan’s opportunity to prove himself to the Kiwi selectors then, frankly, he blew it.
In the A final Synek had a nightmare first 1000 catching a boatstopper in the rough water, this enabled Campbell to get out to a decent lead. But, Synek is a class athlete and he just slowly reeled the Ulsterman in. Hacker had a very strange race, he seemed out of it in the first 1500 but suddenly in the final 500 he came alive, but it was too little too late. Synek took control in the final 250 and Campbell had a huge battle to fend off the Bulgarian, Bozhilov. so Synek took the gold, but it was an excellent performance by Campbell. The gamble of training on his own away from the GB Caversham base has paid off and Henley will be very, very interesting with Drysdale making an appearance.

This was never in doubt, despite the Kiwis being headed in the first 200m they simply stretched away and produced the sort of performance we were expecting. There was a bit of confusion in the stands when the commentator said it was a World Best Time (rather than a World Cup best time) we misheard the time and heard 6:06 rather than 6:16! Now that really would have been something.
Behind the Kiwis it was a great battle between the Romanians and the Polish European Silver medallists. But I was also impressed with the young GB pair, they didn’t pick up the bronze I’d predicted (although I’d actually thought the other GB pair would’ve been in the medal fight 😉 ) there’s plenty of talent there for the future. No-one will touch the Kiwis but the British have the potential to medal in the next few years.

This pretty much went to form. The Kiwis have put together a formidable double. They had a controlled first 500 and then just squeezed through and drew away from the Germans. Behind them it was a great battle for silver and bronze. The Germans had a 2 second advantage over 3rd coming into the final 500 but there was an epic fight between the British and Azerbaijian and this pulled them up to the Germans. They were neck and neck all the way to the line with Lucas and Langridge just getting bronze by 2/10th’s sec.

I’d picked AUS, GB & NZ to be the medallists and certainly the Aussies looked the class of the field. But the new British crew have clearly been inspired by the tradition that GB has in this event. They mounted a storming challenge in the 2nd 1000 to break clear of the rest of the field and really had a go at the Aussies. It was a big, big improvement on their performance in Sydney. Lucerne (and Henley) is going to be very interesting, don’t discount the British to be gold medal challengers when it comes to the worlds.

Croatia had a torrid time at the Europeans where they finished 6th. The form guide said that the Germans were the favourites, they dominated at the Europeans. But the Croatians clearly wanted to put things right from Seville. They went toe-to-toe with the Germans in the first 500 and turned on the turbos and just sculled away from the rest of the field. The Estonians put together a great race to take bronze. I was a little disappointed with the GB quad. They made history in Sydney and were just pipped by the Croatians at Essen, so to finish back in 5th was not what I was expecting.

The GB “Superstars” had an absolute nightmare in the race for lanes on Friday. They were taken by surprise by the speed of the French and started to panic and, in Pete Reed’s words “forgot how to row”. The final was a much, much better race, but still (for me) not a brilliant performance. The Poles really laid down the challenge and headed the British until the final 300m. But they got the result and that’s the critical thing. The French looked superb in the race for lanes but in the final they weren’t able to reproduce the sharpness they’d showed earlier in the week. I’d picked GB, POL & FRA in that order and that’s how they finished.

In the semis Eleanor Logan of the USA looked dominant, but in the final she struggled with pace laid down by Emma Twigg and Magdelena Lobnig. The Austrian did a bit of a “Fly-&-Die” and really paid for the fast start. Twigg took control at the 1000m mark and never looked troubled. Logan eventually seemed to get going in the second half but left it too late. The best 2nd half came from 2010 world champion Frida Svensson who moved from 5th to 2nd in the 3rd 500. Vicky Thornley also had a great regatta, she finished 4th having only got into the single a few weeks ago. Hopefully the GB management will allow her to continue in the single and she could become a real medal prospect in the next couple of years.

Little v large…China v GB. The Chinese are lightweights and measure about 5ft 8. The British are both 6ft 4 and towered over their opponents. But the Chinese really went for it and laid down a massive challenge to the British. Coming into the final 200m the British were just starting to pull ahead when the Chinese caught a huge boat stopper. This enabled the British to pull away and win relatively comfortably. The Chinese managed to get going again and just managed to hold off the Germans for the bronze.

This was a great battle between the favourites, Germany and the winners from Essen, Poland. Less than 0.5sec separated these two for 1800 metres until finally the Germans were able to squeeze out to a 2 second win. Behind these two the fast starting Australians faded in the second half but never looked threatened for the bronze. The performance of the GB quads are concerning. The GB2 boat (known as the “Bow Quad” as they were the bow 4 out of the W8) got the better of the GB1 quad, despite catching a crab in the final 100. For a “scratch” quad to beat the lead GB boat must be causing concern. GB1 finished 5th beating a Chinese boat of 15 and 16 year olds…they must perform better at Lucerne. I can see a scenario of the W4X being prioritised over the W1X and Vicky Thornley and W1X B final winner Mel Wilson being put into the quad. In a way I hope Thornely stays in the single as she has huge potential to medal in that event.

Another event where a Kiwi “superstar” struggled. Duncan Grant was, for me, the overwhelming favourite for this event. But he struggled all weekend. In the final he blasetd off in the first 500 but couldn’t sustain the pace and eventually faded to 4th…possibly a fitness issue? No doubt we shall see a stronger performance in Lucerne. Meanwhile Pedro Fraga had a great race, moving smoothly through in the second 500 and made the most of the sheltered lane 6 to ease to a comfortable victory. Behind him jensen of denmark was comfortable in 2nd but the 2nd Dane, Bendtsen, put in a storming final 250 to row through the tiring Grant to take the bronze…letting out a huge roar of delight crossing the finish line.
It’s also worth mentioning the performance of Ireland’s Paul O’Donovan. He impressed me throughout the regatta and to make the A final was a great achievement for someone who only turned 19 in April. This young man is definitely one to watch and will be a big threat in the U23’s later this year.
For GB it was a great performance by Jamie Kirkwood winning the B final and setting a new personal best. Kirkwood was unlucky not to reach the A final being in a much faster semi (and perhaps suffering by trying to go with a very fast starting Grant).

GB were always going to medal in this event having 2 of the 4 boats. The Japanese got off to a flier in the first 500 but quickly faded as the 2 GB boats pulled clear. It became a 2 part race with British battling for the gold and silver and the Austrians & Japanese the bronze. It turned into a great race between the two British boats. The U23’s of Kimberley & Bedford never allowing the more experienced Scrimgeour & Aldred to get away. At the line GB1 won by just 2 seconds. This bodes well for the U23 championships later this year and the future of GB lightweight rowing in the run-up to Rio and beyond.

Possibly the best race of the regatta. The Kiwis looked awesome in Sydney and also during their heat at Dorney. But the Danes looked just as good. In the final these two went at it hammer & tongs. The Danes went off at 42, raised it by 1 stroke at the 500m mark and another 1 stroke at the 1200 finishing the final 800m at 44 strokes per minute, Morten Joergensen was like a metronome at stroke. The Kiwis blasted off at 51 and only dipped below 40 briefly. These two boats were never separated by more than 1/3 length for the whole course. The Danes put in an epic sprint at the end but just came up short by 4/100ths of a second. Lucerne will be brilliant to watch. Behind the lead two boats, GB looked good although they looked to struggle with the conditions in the middle 1000 (at one point their rate dropped to a “pedestrian” 34!) But there is a huge amount of potential in this new crew and they will get better and better as the season progresses.

Austria’s Michaele Taupe-Traer never looked troubled. Germany’s Leonie Pless tried to go with the Austrian in the first 500 but Taupe-Traer soon pulled clear to win comfortably. Behind her the race settled quite quickly with Pless a comfortable 2nd and former world champion, Fabiana Beltrame 3rd (although she had to fend off a fast finishing Ruth Walzcak in the final 100m).

Another great race with the top 3 crews (Germany, GB1 & Sweden) breaking clear of the rest and overlapping eachother the whole way down the course. The German’s eventually got the better of the battle and crossed the line just over 1 sec ahead of the British who had just 4/10ths on the Swedes.

So, overall I think it was a great regatta. The largest ever crowd at a World Cup Regatta with a noisy and passionate crowd. It might not quite have matched the Dorney Roar of 2012 but we did our best.
The atmosphere on Friday was great, due in no small way, to the initiative of Nathaniel Reilly-O’Donnell (Noddy) to get 1500 school children along to cheer. It was brilliant to watch ther excitiment and genuine enthusiasm displayed by the kids. Any athlete walking along the bank found themselves mobbed by hoards of kids wanting autographs and pictures (especially if the athlete happened to be wearing a GB tracksuit) even though you could tell that the kids had no idea who the athlete was! But when you are a famous face like Helen Glover you stood no chance! It took her 30 minutes to walk 50 yards, such was the demand for pictures and autographs. I don’t know which would be more tired for Helen, her legs after the race, or her face from all the smiling she did for photos!

As for the racing…New Zealand came away with 4 golds but this, perhaps masks some disappointing results elsewhere. Both Joseph Sullivan and Duncan Grant struggled and the much vaunted men’s quad could only manage 9th. The heavyweight M4- faired slightly better, but never looked like threatening the medals…a step backwards from their bronze in Sydney. I give the Kiwis 6 out of 10.
For GB it was a mixed bag. The flagship M8 rowed badly all weekend, fortunately they were less bad in the final than they were in the race for lanes, but they should have been able to best a decent (but not exceptional) Polish crew. Before the regatta I was saying what a shame it was the German’s hadn’t eneterd, now, I’m releived they didnt. But, a win is a win and the British have an opportunity to put together a more composed display against the Poles at Henley (assuming of course, the Poles get past the University of Washington!)
The single scullers all performed well, especially Vicky Thornley, who seemed to cope with the conditionas better than most. Campbell looks to be back on form and the rest of the season will be great fun to watch. The M4- really stepped on from Sydney and gave the Aussies a bit of a shock in the final 100m. They may not catch them this year but this boat is a long-term project (assuming the M8 remains the priority) and by the worlds in 2014 it could be very close indeed.
The main disappointment for GB were the quads. Great things were expected of the M4X after their win in Sydney and their performance v the Croations at Essen. But, they were never in the hunt. We shall have to wait and see how they get on at Lucerne, they certainly have the talent to win major medals. But the W4X are more of a concern. They maybe a developing crew but their performance at Dorney was simply not good enough. Hopefully they can do better at Henley and in Lucerne. For GB I also give them 6 out of 10.

So, onwards to Henley and then Lucerne. It’s shaping up to be a fascinating season.


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