The 2nd Rowing World Cup – a review of racing

A great regatta with some great, great racing. There were some disappointing withdrawals before and during racing but below are my thoughts on the Olympic class events.

M1X
Well, we were expecting an epic showdown between Damir Martin and Mahe Drysdale. What we got was something very different. Martin raced a very, very bizarre race plan, going off at an insane 63 strokes a minute he took an early lead but then fell behind and never featured. Instead it was Stansilau Shcharbachena of Belarus who took the race by the scruff of the neck and stormed out to a clear water lead. But Mahe raced a brilliant race. He wasn’t bothered about what the others were doing…there was a comment on Twitter that the “diesel engine is coming” and I think that describes Mahe really well….he may not have to absolute BHP of some of the others, but the torque of his engine is off the scale….he just relentlessly hunts down the opposition. And so it was in Varese. The only sculler to challenge Mahe was Angel Fournier Rodriguez. He put in a brilliant sprint to secure 2nd with Shcharbarchena just holding onto 3rd.
It wasn’t a good race for Synek, he missed out on a medal for the first time since Lucerne in 2009….that’s a long time to be on the podium! 5th was Alan Campbell….the very fact that he was in the “A” final was a great achievement for the Brit coming back from a big slump in form last year and then a double rib-fracture earlier in the year.
It was disappointing to see Tufte withdraw on medical grounds….hopefully it was nothing serious and he’ll be back for Lucerne.

M2X
Another race where the expected showdown failed to materialise. We were looking forward to seeing the Sinkovic brothers return to competition and take on the new German European champions. But Marcel Hacker withdrew on medical grounds and so Stephan Krueger raced with a substitute and didn’t make the “A” final.
So, we were left with a master class in doubles sculling from the Croatians. They lead at every marker and easily pulled away to win by a whopping 6 seconds. Behind them it was a different story. It was an epic battle for silver and bronze between the remaining 5 crews with less tha 0.5 second separating them all at the 1500m mark. In the final sprint it was the Aussies who got their bows in front of the Italians.
A quick word on the British, they missed out on the “A” final by 15/100ths of a second….a repeat of what happened to them at the Europeans. They responded by winning the “B” final in emphatic style, in a time that would’ve placed them 2nd in the “A” final. If Collins and Walton can achieve consistent performances (and get a close semi-final finish in their favour for a change) then they will be genuine medal contenders. There have been strong hints from GB management that Lucerne could see 2 doubles entered with Jack Beaumont (2nd in the “C” final in the M1X) and Angus Groom (part of the gold medal M4X) coming into the mix. Groom and Beaumont were the U23 double last year but I just wonder if the coaches decide to mix things up a bit….we shall see….it may happen behind closed doors at Caversham…..watch this space!

M2-
My picks for the gold medal, Foad and Langridge of GB, had to withdraw due to a minor injury to Foad. It was a great shame as they were the class boat in the field. In their absence it was the new combination of Mitchel Steenman and Roel Braas of the Netherlands who stole the show winning by just over a second from an exciting young Italian pairing of Abbagnale and Abagnale. Steenman seems to be making a habit of winning with scratch pairs…..he did it at Henley last year with Julien Bahain. Whilst the combination with Braas isn’t as “scratch” as the Henley boat was they have only been together for a couple of weeks so it was a good performance. It must have been a good feeling for Braas to be back on the podium having seen a slump in form in the single.
It was a good event for the Italians with their 2nd crew of Agamennoni and Montrone taking 4th.
The impression the M2- gives at the moment is one of a lot of countries jockeying for position behind the Kiwis….it looks as though the battle for silver and bronze will be between the British, French and now the Dutch as well. Lucerne is going to be very exciting…

M4-
In the past I’ve been quite critical of the Canadian M4- saying that their performance have not lived-up to their abilities. Well….it looks now like they are beginning to deliver. They delivered the fastest 2nd 1000m of the race but just lost out on the line to the fast finishing Italians (who had a great regatta on their home water).
But it was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the US who took the gold. This is the priority boat for the US men’s squad and they delivered (even if it was a bit close at the end). The US was rowing better than I’ve seen any US men’s crew row for many years. They had a beautiful smoothness around the catch and the boat was running very nicely…it was a pleasure to watch them (which isn’t something I’ve been able to say too often about US men’s sweep crews 😉 )
I was a little disappointed with the Australians and the British. The Aussies have a lot of talent in their boat but were never really in contention. The European champions from GB started reasonably well but couldn’t keep pace with the front of the field. They are a very talented crew and I’m convinced that they have the ability to medal in Aiguebelette.

M4X
What a great race! The new Canadian combination took it by the scruff of the neck and was leading by almost a second at halfway. But the British (with super-sub Angus Groom replacing Charlie Cousins) sculled a beautifully judged race. They didn’t appear phased by the Canadian’s quick start and turned on the afterburners at half way producing a second 1000m 3.5 seconds faster than the Canadians. It marked the first senior medal for Groom, which, after his 4th place in the M1X at the Europeans is the icing on the cake of what has already been a bit of a breakthrough season for him. It’ll be very interesting to see how British Rowing make use of him when Cousins returns to the quad.
The German’s had a good race as well, they capitalised on a tiring Canadian crew in the sprint to the line to overhaul them and snatch the silver.
The Australian’s were perhaps a little disappointing finishing 5th. They have a very experienced crew with Olympic medallist David Crawshay at bow. They let the rest of the field get away from them in the first half. They responded in the 2nd 1000 producing the fastest final quarter but by then it was too little too late and they finished 5th. If they can get their pacing right and be in touch with the leaders in the final quarter they will be dangerous….there is more to come from this crew in Lucerne I feel.

M8
What…..a……race. One of the best men’s 8 races I’ve ever seen. The German’s leaped into the lead with the US tracking them and the British slipping to a canvas behind in 3rd. By the 1000m mark the British had moved past the US and were hunting down the Germans, getting ready to pounce. The final 500m from the British was simply outstanding….a 1:19.9 almost a second faster than the Germans and they rowed through them to take gold. It was an awesome display of controlled aggression and pacing. What’s interesting now is that GB’s talismanic Stan Louloudis returns to the crew this week having finished his exams at Oxford. He will only strengthen the crew and that is an awesome prospect. The German’s are entered in The Grand at Henley although some commentators now doubt whether they will turn up….I sincerely hope they do (it’ll also provide the first opportunity to see the Australian 8 in action).
The US had a good race to take 3rd and actually finished faster than the Germans and the young New Zealand crew also produced a very encouraging performance to take 4th. The Polish will have been disappointed to finish 5th, well off the pace. The consistency that they had started to show in 2014 looks to have deserted them. But their disappointment will be nothing to that of the French. They missed out n the “A” final altogether getting beaten by the German U23 8 in the repecharge.

W1X
There was only ever going to be one result in this race. Kimmy Crow of Australia was by far and away the best sculler in the field and so it proved. She won by a huge 9 second margin. She led from the first stroke….had a 2 second lead at the 500, almost 6 seconds at the 1000 and 8.5 at 1500. Behind Crow it was a little more interesting with Gevvie Stone of the USA having a great race to take silver, her first senior medal in the 1X. Magdalena Lobnig of Austria continues her consistent run of performances and it was a great result as well for Canadian, Carling Zeeman to take 4th.
The New Zealand camp must be getting a little worried. Fiona Bourke, 2014 World Champion in the W2X , was a very disappointing 14th overall. It must be incredibly difficult for her, knowing that she is just keeping the seat warm for Emma Twigg. The Kiwis will be hoping for a much better performance in Lucerne otherwise the alarm bells will really start ringing as only the top 9 scullers will qualify for the Olympics at the World Championships this year….should Bourke not be in the top 9 in Lucerne one wonders if the NZ selectors will reverse their decision not to pick Twigg this year…..
W2X
Another great race. The new New Zealand combination picked up where the old one left off, with a gold medal. But they were pushed incredibly hard by the US. The Americans started slowly and were in last place at the first marker, but in the middle 1000 they really turned the afterburners on producing the fastest splits at the 1000 and 1500 markers. The Kiwis were able to respond in the sprint to the line and just held off the charging Americans by 14/100ths of a second.
The British had a really encouraging race, beating the Poles (who had beaten them at the Europeans) to the bronze. They showed good speed at the start but don’t yet have the finishing sprint that will take them to the front of the field. That will come as they get more time in the boat. By the World championships I reckon they will be in with a shout and by Rio……
A quick mention of Belarus….Bichyk and Karsten missed the “A” final…..I can’t help thinking that Karsten would be better in the single. She showed in the first World Cup that she is still an outstanding performer in the 1X, much better than she is in the 2X. I’ve said before but I’ll say it again….I would put Kukhta and Bichyk in the double and let Karsten do what she does best in the 1X

W2-
It was pretty much business as usual for the British….Glover and Stanning extend their unbeaten run to 33 races. They did the damage in the first half but definitely didn’t have it all their own way. The talk before the regatta was the likely challenge from the young Kiwi pair, but it was the 2nd American boat of Megan Kalmoe and Kerry Simmonds who posed the biggest threat. They moved past the Kiwis at half way and made sure the British couldn’t relax finishing just over 1.5 seconds behind with the Kiwis a further 3 seconds back.
I wonder whether the tactic of doubling up the young Kiwis in the W8 backfired a little and cost them the silver at the very least.
In post-race interviews the British said they were pleased with the performance and with being pushed. But, I have a feeling that 1.5 seconds is about as close as anyone is going to get to them this season.

W4X
Business as usual….Germany started as clear favourites and then had an untroubled run to the gold. It’s difficult to see where any significant challenge is going to come from. Behind them though it was a great battle between the Poles and the Americans. They traded blows all the way down the course with the Poles just keeping their boys in front and fending off everything the Americans could throw at them. In the end the Polish won silver by just 17/100ths of a second!
The Australians had a good battle with the Chinese being squeezed out of 4th by just 3/10ths of a second. The Kiwis will be pleased to have made the final but where somewhat off the pace.

W8
More business as usual with the Americans dominating from the start. The Canadians and British tried to go with them but the Americans have too much power and inexorably strode away.
The British have started to put together good consistent performances, their 5:56.6 in the heat was a national record and in the final they were able to give the Canadians a good run for their money.
The young Kiwi 8 produced a strong finish to take them clear of the Australians and just narrowly missed catching the Chinese for 4th. For their part the Australians will be a little disappointed to be off the pace, finishing over 6 seconds behind the Kiwis in 5th. They will be looking for an improvement in Lucerne.

LM2X
The French out sculled and out-powered the rest of the field. The British tried to push them in the first 500 but the French just had too much power and were able to stretch out in the 2nd 500 and never looked back. Behind them it was a great battle between the British and the Italians with the experienced Micheletti and Ruto coming out on top as the British paid for their fast start. The Americans had a good race finishing 4th just a second behind the British. Andrew Campbell has been threatening to break into the top end of the LM2X field and with his new partner, Josh Konieczy, it looks like he might just do it.
One disappointment was the withdrawal of the Danish in their first competitive regatta since the 2012 Olympics. Fingers crossed they will be back to full strength in time for Lucerne.

LM4-
The withdrawal of the Danes before the regatta started neutered this event a little. But even without them it was a cracking race. The Kiwis showed that the tweaks they made to their crew have paid dividends and steadily drew away from the chasing pack from about half way – not sure I’m a fan of the way the row, James Hunter looks very “hunched” at bow but you can’t argue that it isn’t effective. Behind the Kiwis the French and the Swiss rekindled the rivalry they showed at the European championships with the Swiss, again, coming out on top.
The British have been playing around with their line-up and it’s still not settled. They ran out of steam in the final quarter and finished out of the medals (as they did at the Europeans). I fully expect further tweaks to the line-up with Jamie Kirkwood, winner of the GB trials, finally recovered from a back injury and likely to take up a seat in the 4. This might just add the spark that the British need to muscle their way into the medals.

LW2X
Probably the best race of the regatta (after the M8). We knew it was going to be a cracker when the British Kat Copeland and Charlie Taylor set a new Worlds Best Time of 6:48.3 in the semi-final. In the final however, it looked like the World Champions from New Zealand had snuffed out the threat of the British. They lead by half a second with 500m to go and on the World Rowing Commentary Martin Cross had written-off their chances. But…the British had not read that part of the script and they unleashed a fearsome sprint. They only led for 2 strokes of the race….but it was the last two strokes of the race, and those are the only ones that matter. It was a superbly timed race. It was also a great race for the bronze with a tight tussle between the Germans, the Swedes and the 2nd GB boat of Imogen Walsh & Ellie Piggott. The German’s just held off the fast charging Brits to take the bronze by 7/10th second.

So onwards to the Holland Beker….Henley Royal and then Lucerne…can’t wait!

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2 thoughts on “The 2nd Rowing World Cup – a review of racing

  1. Phredde

    The kiwi W2- didn’t race in the W8+ at this regatta – the lineups indicate that Rowing NZ decided to instead use the two team spares in the 8, possibly acknowledging that the kiwi contingent will likely still be fairly jet-lagged at this stage having only left the opposite side of the world a week or so before. This could explain the kiwi girls falling off around the half-way mark too – I’m sure some of the younger team members haven’t learned how to master the jet-lag and sudden seasonal/temperature change quite yet.

    News reports indicate they will be racing both the W2- and W8+ at the next world cup though, so that’ll be something to keep an eye on.

    Reply

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