Lucerne Rowing World Cup preview – The Lightweight events

15 scullers.
Pierre Houin has made a huge impact on this event so far this year with wins in in Poznan and Varese. But, crucially, the Frenchman isn’t racing in Lucerne. In his absence the favourite will probably be Slovakia’s Lukas Babac, silver medallist in Varese. He’ll be challenged by a brace of German’s, Max Roeger and Konstantin Steinhuebel. Also challenging for a medal the highly experienced Italian, Marcello Miani. Also look out for the highly experienced Nuno Mendes of Portugal, he was only 12th in Poznan but he’s been on the circuit for the last 10 years and has the potential to get among the medals.
My picks…Roeger ahead of Babac with Miani in bronze

8 crews
This was a great battle between the French and British at Varese with Augustin Mouterde and Theophile Onfroy of France taking the gold by less than a second. These two will be going head to head again at the front of the field. The Italians were third in Varese but have changed their line-up in Varese with Petru Zaharia replacing Piero Sfiligoi.
This will, most likely. Be the 1,2,3 with the Brits to get the better of the French.

26 crews
“Barnstormer” is an oft used phrase when it comes to LM2x races and judging by the Lucerne entry list the 3rd world Cup is going to be no different.
Jeremie Azou and Stany Delayre of France have established themselves as the benchmark in this event with wins at both the Europeans and Varese. But Lucerne sees their first opportunity of the year to race their vanquishers at Amsterdam, James Thompson and John Smith of South Africa. The South African’s started their European season by making the final of the Double Sculls at Henley. The French will be itching to have a go at the Saffers to get revenge for the defeat at the World Championships.
But, it’s not just between these two for the gold, the field is packed with fast doubles. The Italians, Andrea Michelettia and Pietro Ruta, were 2nd to the French in Varese and just missed out on a medal in Amsterdam. The British, Will Fletcher and Richard Chambers, have consistently been among the medals this season and are getting faster with every race. The Norwegians are the 2013 World Champions and can, on their day, beat just about anyone. Also watch out for the exciting young German double of Mortiz Moos and Jason Osborne, 4th in Varese they have the potential to be a dominant force in this event, Rio might be a year too early for them but Tokyo might be a different matter.
As I said above the strength in depth in this event is ridiculous, the Greeks will be fast and the Muda brothers from the Netherlands also have the speed to make the A-Final. The Kiwis, Peter Taylor and Hayden Cohen are a new combination and just missed out on the A-Final in Varese but they will undoubtedly be faster in Lucerne and will be a threat.
An interesting little sub-plot in this event concerns the two Danish boats. Rasmus Quist and Mads Rasmussen are the Olympic champions and made their competitive return in Varese. They pulled out after the repecharge but as the saying goes “class is permanent, form is temporary” or words to that effect. The intrigue is their dual with countrymen Henrik Stephansen and Jens Neilsen. Stephansen is the fastest lightweight on the erg and also the former holder of the World’s Best Time in the LM1X. He’s been out injured for the first part of the season but is now back with doubles partner Jens Nielsen. The Danish Federation have struggled to find a way of converting Stephansen’s huge power from the erg and single into an Olympic class boat. The contest between the two Danish boats will be very interesting (although I don’t expect it to be contested in the A-Final).
My picks….The French to get the gold but behind them…..umm….Italy to pip the South Africans who just edge out the British.

21 crews.
A big field and lots of strength in depth again. The Kiwis were winners in Varese on their first international outing of the season beating the Swiss by a second and a half (which in this event is a good distance). For their part the Swiss have had a great season so far with wins at the 1st World Cup and the Europeans. We were robbed of the most intriguing contest at Varese when the Danish World Champions withdrew due to illness. Fingers crossed everyone is healthy for Lucerne and we will be treated to the next instalment of the epic Denmark v New Zealand contests that have raged for the past couple of season.
Snapping at the heels of these head-to-head contests have been the British. They have had a slightly different line-up each time they have raced this season and it’s no different in Lucerne where Jamie Kirkwood (the two-time GB trials winner) finally gets in the boat having successfully recovered from injury. This makes the British a bit of an unknown quantity. Hopefully the “musical chairs” within this boat have now stopped and the crew can settle towards the Worlds. A medal might be a bit beyond them in Lucerne but we shall see.
The French have been having a good battle with the British so far this season getting their bows in front of them at both the Europeans and Varese. Watch out too for the Dutch (5th at the Europeans) and the new Greek crew which contains the Konsolas brothers, world Champions from the lightweight quad.
My picks….NZ to get the better of the Danes again with the Swiss just edging out the British and French.

15 scullers.
The 19 year old Kiwi, Zoe McBride set this event alight at Varese when she broke the long-standing World’s Best Time, setting a new mark of 7:24.4. She won the final by a huge margin of 7 seconds over the former World Champion Fabiana Beltrame of Brazil. McBride is a very exciting talent and the New Zealand federation expect great things from her in the years to come.
She won’t have it all her own way in Lucerne however. The main challenger will be Imogen Walsh from GB. The European Champion raced in the GB2 LW2X in Varese just missing out on a medal. In 2014 she was part if the no.1 GB LW2X boat that dominated the season before having a disaster at the World Championships. Behind these two Germany’s Judith Anlauf will be challenging for the medals, she took bronze in Varese. Also watch out for the Italian duo of Elisabetta Sancassani, World Champion in the LW2X in 2013, and Giulia Pollini, 5th in the LW4X last year. Two other scullers to highlight are Denise Walsh of Ireland who was an A-finalist in the LW2X at the European Championships and South Africa’s Kate Johnstone who finished in the B-Final in this event in Amsterdam.
My pick….it’s going to be a good battle between Imogen Walsh and McBride. I think experience will edge ahead of youth with Walsh taking the gold just ahead of the Kiwi with Sancassani in bronze.

23 crews
This is going to be another fascinating and highly competitive event. The final at Varese was one of the races of the regatta with GB’s new double of Kat Copeland and Charlie Taylor launching a huge sprint in the final 100m to snatch the win ahead of the Kiwis. At Varese there were a number of late withdrawals which reduced the depth of the challenge to the Kiwis and Brits. For Lucerne however the field looks very strong with the Canadian’s Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee being the leading challengers. They won silver in Amsterdam but withdrew following the heat in Varese. Another no-show in Varese were the Aussies, Ella Flecker and Alice McNamara. 5th in the world last year.
One double that did race all the way in Varese were the Germans; Marie-Louise Draeger and Fini Sturm. They took the bronze in Varese following silver in Poznan. Sturm won gold in the U23 LWW4X last year and she’s formed a very effective partnership this season with the highly experienced Draeger who was Germany’s Olympic single sculler in London.
Another crew that is in good form are the Dutch no.1 boat, Ilse Paulis and Maaike Head. They were part of the LW4X that set a new Worlds Best Time while winning gold last year. This season they have switched to the double and won bronze in Bled and took 5th in Poznan. At the recent Dutch Student Championships they set a new national record of 6:50, clearly they are on form.
I’m also interested to see the first race of the season from the South African double of Ursula Grobler and Kirsten McCann. They were fourth in Amsterdam and are a very experienced duo, especially Grobler who spent 4 years racing for the USA before returning to her native South Africa.
Other crews to watch out for are the Swedes, Emma Fredh and Cecilia Lilia, 5th in Varese and getting better with every race, and also the USA’s Devery Karz and Michelle Sechser.
All in all it’s going to be a really competitive event. I’m going to go for a repeat of the 1,2 in Varese with the British getting the better of the Kiwis but the bronze is going to be a massive battle which I think the Dutch will just take.

Roll on the racing!


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