Lucerne Rowing World Cup preview part one – the heavyweight men

2015 World Rowing Cup III In Lucerne - Day One

 (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images)

It’s been a busy few weeks since the last world Cup in Poznan, first there was the Holland Beker and then last week the wonderful Henley Royal Regatta. But now focus switches back to the Rowing World Cup circuit and the traditional series finale on the Lake of the Gods in Lucerne.

For many rowers the Rotsee is their favourite race venue, crystal clear waters, mountain scenery and (usually) good weather make for fabulous racing conditions. Also as the last major regatta before the world Championships it tends to attract the best entry of all the World Cups.


The beautiful lake Rotsee in Lucerne

So, without further udo on to the preview….



36 scullers

A huge field with all the big names scheduled to take part. Lucerne sees the first meeting between the new World Best Time holder, Robbie Manson of New Zealand and the reigning European champion, Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic. Synek raced at the Holland Beker two weeks ago and beat Damir Martin by over 3 seconds. Manson was entered in the Diamonds at Henley but had to withdraw on the eve of the regatta due to a rib injury. He’s said he should be fit for Lucerne but we’ll have to wait and see if he’s fully race fit again.  If they are both at their best we could see some fireworks. Synek must be sick of the sight of Kiwi scullers – he probably thought that with Mahe out of the picture he’d have a clear run to the World title!


Ondrej Synek

But, the M1X isn’t just about Synek and Manson. Cuba’s Angel Fournier Rodriguez was 2nd to Manson in Poznan and on hid day could be challenging for more medals in Lucerne. Damir Martin’s season has quite been as spectacular as 2016 – so far…runner-up in Belgrade and the European’s he was a somewhat disappointing 6th in Poznan. As mentioned above he was 2nd best to Synek at the Holland Beker. With the increase in the standard of competition in Lucerne he may struggle to make the podium (or even the A-Final).

Switzerland’s Nico Stahlberg has made a great start to his first full season in the single – gold at the first World Cup was followed by a bit of a dip at the Europeans where he was 8th, but then bounced back at the 2nd World Cup taking the bronze medal behind Manson & Fournier Rodriguez. The whole Swiss sculling team are on a high at the moment under their new head coach Robin Dowell.

Another sculler having a great season is GB’s Tom Barras. In his first season as a senior international he’s won a bronze subbing into the M4X at Poznan and also taken 4th at the Europeans (also as a sub in the M4X). In his first senior race in the M1X in Poznan he took an excellent 5th. The 23 year old is on a steep learning curve in the single, and if he could make the A-Final in Lucerne it would be a massive achievement.

Another young sculler making a big impact is Germany’s Tim Ole Naske, the 21 year old U23 World Champion has made the A-Final at both the Europeans and Poznan. He had an outstanding junior and U23 career winning every race he entered, he’s not been able to carry that level of success into the senior ranks yet but I get the feeling it’ll only be a matter of time before he’s on the podium (which may come sooner if he’s moved into the GER M4X).

The Lithuanians have been mixing and matching their scullers during the season, for Lucerne Mindaugus Griskonis moves out of the M2x, the boat he won Olympic silver and gold in Belgrade this season, and into the M1X. He raced in this boat class in 2015 and the first half of 2016 winning bronze in 2015 and silver at the 2016 European Championships. We’ll have to wait and see what his form is in the single.

Poland’s Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk makes his debut appearance for 2017 now that his studies at the University of California, Berkeley have finished. He’s spent most of the season in the Cal Varsity 8 but now switches his attention back to the single in preparation for the World Championships in Florida. He did the same in 2016 and finished an excellent 7th in Rio and then took silver at the U23’s behind Ole Naske.

Other scullers to watch out for are Belorussia’s European bronze medallist, Stanislau Shacharabachnia, Azerbaijian’s Aleksandar Aleksandrov (6th at the Europeans) and Russia’s Vladislav Rybacev (6th in Belgrade).

My picks…this should be an absolute cracker between Synek and Manson (if fit). If Manson is anywhere near the form he showed inn Poznan he will be difficult to beat. New Zealand for gold with Synek in silver. The bronze, however, is really up for grabs….Fournier Rodriguez will be the favourite but Griskonis may well snatch it.



18 crews

This will be one of the most eagerly anticipated events for one reason alone – the first appearance of the Sinkovic brothers from Croatia. Their debut in the M2- has been long –awaited ever since they announced their intention to change boat class after winning gold in the M2X in Rio. So far they’ve raced once, winning comfortably ahead of two Turkish pairs at the Croatian open, but Lucerne will be their first test on a full international stage. Videos of them in training certainly promise much, they look to have a wonderfully smooth and powerful style, but will that translate into the sort of dominance they commanded in the double?


The Sinkovic brothers – can they be as dominant in the M2- as the M2X?

The other pair making their season’s debut are the New Zealand no.1 pair of James Hunter and Tom Murray. They have the unenviable task of taking over from the “Greatest pair in the world” TM Their debut has been somewhat delayed due to injury, but the word coming out of New Zealand is that this pair are very, very fast. Hunter has switched from the lightweight team (where he finished 5th in the LM4- in Rio) and Murray has moved across from the M8 that finished 6th in Rio.

The French Onfroy brothers are going into Lucerne on a high having won the Silver Goblets at Henley dispatching the Italians in the semi and a very experienced Australian pair in the final. That victory followed a win at the Poznan World Cup and a silver medal at the Europeans. They will not be fazed by the appearance of the Croatians and New Zealanders and will be looking for the win.

Canada’s men’s team make their first appearance of the season in Lucerne. Their pair is Kai Langerfeld and Will Crothers. These two spent the Rio Olympiad as part of the Canadian M4-, a boat which never really reached its potential. It remains to be seen if they have more success in the smaller boat.

As mentioned above, the Italians – Guiseppe Vicino and Matteo Lodo – were beaten by the French at Henley, reversing the result from the European Championships.  They will be looking to gain revenge on the six-lane course of the Rotsee.

The Czech Republic’s Jakub Podrazil and Lukas Helesic are another pair who’ve made a good start to their 2017 season, with a bronze at both world Cups and a 4th place at the Europeans. An A-Final finish will be the minimum they expect in Lucerne.

Other pairs to watch are the young Australians, Ben Coombs and Nathan Bowden (4th in the M8 in Poznan) and the British, Tim Clarke and Tom Ford (who were both in the M8 that won silver in Belgrade). Also watch for the Dutch pairing of Bo Wullings and Dick Uittenbogaard.


My picks….New Zealand or Croatia? Both massively talented, both untried this season…..I’m going for a Croatian win with the Kiwis in silver and the French in bronze.



23 doubles

Another huge field with some intriguing entries. The Kiwis, John Storey and Chris Harris were winners at Henley and also in Poznan. They will head to Lucerne as the favourites for the event and are firmly installed as favourites to take gold in Florida at the World Championships.

Chasing them will be the Norwegians, Olaf Tufte and Kjetl Borch. The Olympic bronze medallists have raced once so far this season, taking a silver medal behind the Kiwis in Poznan.

One of the most intriguing entries are the Canadians, Conlin McCabe and Matt Buie. McCabe raced in the M4- during the last Olympiad and has never raced internationally as a sculler. Buie has raced almost exclusively in the M4X. To put these guys together in the M2X is an interesting move, but it remains to be seen how effective it is. The Canadian men’s team had a torrid time throughout the Rio Olympiad and it remains to be seen if they continue with the development of small boats or return to their traditional stronghold of the M8. This pairing will either be inspired or a disaster.

The Poles finished 3rd at Poznan, but for Lucerne they have reverted to the line-up that won silver at the European Championships; Miroslaw Zietarski and Mateusz Biskup. Both of these two were in the M4X that finished 4th in Rio.

4th in Poznan were the Australians, Luke Letcher and David Watts. Watts raced in this boat class at the Olympics finishing 7th and was in the quad that won silver in 2015. Letcher made his senior debut in Poznan having won U23 gold in the BM4x last year. This is an exciting mix of youth and experience and could well make the podium in Lucerne.

The Bulgarians, Georgi Bozhilov and Kristian Vasilev, are one of the few crews that have raced at both World Cups and the Europeans. The Olympic B-Finalists have made the A-Final each time they’ve raced so far this season but have yet to make the podium.

The Italians, Filippo Mondelli and Luca Rambaldi are the European Champions, but they suffered a shock defeat at Henley being comprehensively beaten by their lightweight team mates. It remains to be seen what impact that loss will have on them (not much I suspect).

Switzerland will be looking for a strong performance on home waters and their double of Barnabe Delarze and Romain Roeoesli will be strong contenders for a medal. They were both in the M4X that finished 7th in Rio and so far this season have picked up a silver medal in Belgrade and a bronze at  the Europeans.

Other doubles to watch out for are the Dutch, Amos Keijser and Stefan Broenink and the young British crew of Nick Middleton and Frazier Christie.

My picks….Another Kiwi win ahead of the Italians with the Norwegians in bronze.



19 crews.

This looks all set for another GB v Australia showdown. The Australians got the better of the British at Poznan but it was a much improved performance from GB after a woeful display at the Europeans. A commanding victory by the Brits over the Italian European Champions at Henley will have boosted their confidence heading into Lucerne. Speaking to the crew before the final they were concerned about their relative slow start (and the traditionally fast start that the Italians have), but on the day the British produced a superb race and the Italians were never in it. If they can carry that confidence into Lucerne then they will definitely be contenders for the gold.

Leander Club and Molesey Boat Club, winners of the Stewards' Challenge Cup #HRR17.jpg

The British M4- winners of the Stewards Challenge Cup at Henley

The South Africans made their season’s debut at Henley and gave the British a tough race in the semi-final before the power of the British enabled them to pull away over the 2nd half of the course to record a win by over 2 lengths. But, as an opener it was a strong performance by South Africa and they will undoubtedly be faster in Lucerne.

The French were 4th at the Europeans but suffered a shock defeat at Henley when they were comprehensively beaten by the British U23 crew. They will, undoubtedly, be better in Lucerne but that sort of defeat is never good to take (it does go to show what an outstanding U23 crew the British have as well).

The Netherlands didn’t race at the 2nd World Cup but at the 1st World Cup in Belgrade they finished 2nd to the British and at the Europeans they were 6th. 3 of the crew raced in this boat class at the Olympics finishing 5th.  They will be targeting a podium placing in Lucerne.

Russia have tweaked their line-up from the crew that finished 3rd at the Europeans, with only Gregorii Shchulepov remaining. He’s joined by three members of the M8 that finished 4th at the Europeans, Ivan Podshivalov, Alexander Kulesh and Ivan Balandin.

There will also be an interesting little side battle of the 2nd boats with the Australians, Belarussians, British and Dutch all fielding a 2nd crew – there will be a certain amount of bragging rights to the country that has the highest placed number two crew.

Also watch out for the Spanish who had a superb race in Belgrade to take the bronze medal.

My picks….I think it will be really close between the Aussies and Brits (again). The British never do particularly well at Lucerne and I think the Aussie’s will just get the better of the British (by a few feet at most) with the Italians salvaging some pride from Henley by taking the bronze.



12 crews

The British will be heading into Lucerne on a high having won at Henley breaking the course record that had stood since 1989. This followed a win at the 2nd World Cup. They will be starting in Lucerne as one of the favourites to make the podium.

But, the main threat to the British will be the Lithuanians. They have raced twice so far this season and have won twice taking gold at the first World Cup and the European Championships.  The British beat the Lithuanians in Rio but so far in 2017 its 2-0 to the Lithuanians – albeit with a slightly different GB line-up. The likely showdown between the British and Lithuanians should be fascinating.

The Dutch have raced both World Cups and the European Championships making the A-Final at each regatta. 5th at the first World Cup and 6th at the Europeans. At the 2nd World Cup they had a much stronger performance taking the silver medal 2.5 seconds behind the British.

Italy have a mix of youth and experience, with Olympian Romano Battisti joined by three athletes making their senior debuts this season. They’ve raced once this season taking a strong 3rd place at the European Championships.

The Norwegians took 5th at the European Championships but followed that with a bronze medal at Poznan. The crew of Martin Helseth, Erik Solbakken, Jan Helvig and Nils Jakob Hoff missed out on qualifying for Rio last year but have made a much stronger start to 2017. An A-Final finish would be a good result for them.

Other crews to watch out for are the French, 4th at the 2nd World Cup and Poland who were 5th in Poznan.

My picks….Lithuania just to pip the British with Italy in 3rd.



10 crews.

Germany will start as the overwhelming favourites in Lucerne. The Deutschlandachter set the rowing world alight in Poznan when they set a new World Best Time for the M8 of 5:18.68. They made the trip to Henley with the express purpose of gaining revenge for the defeat by the British in 2015. This they did in some style first of all dispatching the Kiwis in the semi-final and then the British by 1 length in the final.

GER M8 2017

The German M8 

For their part the British won’t be too disappointed with the result in Henley, given what a young crew they are and the fact that there isn’t a single member of the Olympic gold medal crew remaining. It shows what strength in depth Jurgen Grobler and Christian Felkel have at their disposal. They are definitely playing the long game and with a number of injured or previously unavailable athletes beginning to come back into the team the boat will go from strength to strength.

The Dutch have two crews entered, The no.1 boat is the crew that finished 3rd at the European Championships and includes 7 who raced at the Rio Olympics (5 of whom win bronze in the M8). The no.2 boat are the Dutch U23 crew including 3 of the boat that won the 1st World Cup and has 7 of the crew that won the U23 World Championships last year.

I said in my preview for the 2nd World Cup that I thought this Kiwi boat was the best New Zealand M8 since the early 1980’s. In their first appearance of the season they delivered a strong performance taking silver behind the Germans, their best performance since the 1983 World Championships. They came to Henley to challenge the British and Germans. The draw pitted them against the Germans who beat them by ¾ of a length. Like the British, the Kiwis are a young crew and are beginning to deliver on the promise they showed in winning the U23 World Championships in 2015. They may not best the Germans in Lucerne but by the time Tokyo comes around they will be a formidable force.

Australia have rebuilt their M8 following a disappointing Rio Olympiad which saw them fail to Qualify. The 2017 M8 made a solid start to their campaign with a 4th place at the Poznan World Cup. Like the British and New Zealanders this crew will only get faster as they develop and build towards Tokyo.

Unlike the Aussies and British, Poland is a long established crew, 5th at the Olympics they’ve made a mixed start to 2017, 4th of 4 at the 1st World Cup they won silver at the European Championships  then they were 5th in Poznan. The main problem with the Poles is always one of consistency, on their day they are capable of taking medals but too often they are at the back end of the A-Final. It remains to be seen which crew turns up in Lucerne.

Russia are another crew that blow hot and cold. 3rd at the 1st World Cup they took bronze in a 4 boat race and followed that with 4th at the European Championships. They skipped Poznan and will be looking for a strong result in Lucerne. However given the strength of the competition they will have their work cut out to make the A-Final.

The other crews racing are the Romanians (6th at the Europeans) and the Italians (8th in Racice).

My picks, Germany are the overwhelming favourites but the battle for silver and bronze will be very tight between the Dutch, Kiwis and British. I’m going to plump for a Dutch silver and a British bronze.

There is also a M2+ event in Lucerne with 3 crews, Australia, Germany and Spain. The Aussies have Ben Coombs and Nathan Bowden who both raced in the M8 in Poznan. Germany have Malte Grossmann and Rene Stueven – 10th in the M2- in Poznan. For Spain the crew is Jaime Lara Pacheo and Marco Sardelli Gil who were both in the M8 at the Final Olympic Qualifying Regatta.



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