Welcome to Lucerne

This year the Rowing Service is delighted to feature international reporting at the FISA Rowing World Cup from eminent journalist Christopher Dodd, editor of the UK's Regatta Magazine.

Chris has been posting reports after each day's racing from Munich, Vienna and Lucerne.

This is his report from Saturday's racing at Lucerne, July 15th 2000.

Redgrave and co rumbled in the pouring rain

Picture: Torrential downpour seen from the press tent on the Rotsee. Copyright and thanks to Robert Treharne Jones.

Chris Dodd reports:
Semi-finals day of the World Cup began on a black note with the announcement of three positive dope tests by FISA, with the promise of further details to follow over the weekend.

It continued with the first ever defeat of Britain's coxless four.

It absolutely bucketed down on the Rotsee as the coxless fours semi-finals began, and the storm took the television out. Thus Grandstand viewers were deprived of witnessing it: the first defeat ever except for the final of the Munich round of the 1998 World Cup when a substitute was on board. The eye could not separate three crews as they crossed the line level in the pouring rain. The true result, however, was first, New Zealand in 5 minutes 59.01 seconds, second GB in 5:59.12, and third Australia in 5:59.39. And for the first time ever Messrs James Cracknell, Steven Redgrave, Tim Foster and Matthew Pinsent were not first to paddle away. The Aussies beat them by a second or two at their own game.

The race was a full 20 seconds faster than the other semi, held in even more Wagnerian conditions, in which the qualifiers were Italy, Norway and France. But this fractional defeat will do two things: annoy the boys because it is fractional, and set into stark perspective the difference between this year and the three previous ones. The British crew led for most the way, but at the grandstands the Aussies and Kiwis were closing up on each side of them, and the New Zealand bow was in front with 200 metres to go. Pinsent responded but the correction was made a fraction too late. Cracknell gave a thumbs down as the boat paddled past on its return leg to the dock.

When the same six crews last met it was in the final of the 1999 World Championships. The order then was GB, Australia, Italy, NZ, Norway, France. What chances a repeat?

Tim Male and Tom Kay secured a place in the final of the lightweight doubles via a bad start and a good finish. They were fourth at 500, fifth at 1000, fourth at 1500 and third on the finish line, with the Italians Elia Luini and Leonardo Pettinari first and the Germans Ingo Euler and Bernhard Ruehling second. The first Italian double finished second in the second semi, with France (first) and the US (third) also qualifying.

Greg Searle and Ed Coode had a rotten day, blasted out of the final by the might of Oz whose pairs finished first (James Tomkins and substitute for Ginn Matt Long) and the 1996 Olympic silver medallists David Weightman and Rob Scott. The British pair, with Searle wearing a bandage on his left leg, were second at 500 while the Italians Luigi Sorrentino and Pasquale Panzarino led past half way. Long and Tomkins moved from third to second at 1000 metres and Searle and Coode dropped to third, and the writing was on the wall. Their third quarter was 1:46 compared to 1:43 for the second, and at 1500 metres Long and Tomkins were the leaders, the Italians were second and Weightman and Scott were a second in front of the Brits. The Australian pairs in their private Olympic selection battle tested each other for the fastest last 500 before they both let it off. This was a race that Searle and Coode definitely did not control, and shows the magnitude of the task ahead of them. Searle's bandage was said to be for nothing more than protection against the slide runner.

The second semi-final was a German selection battle, with Jan Herzog and Ike Landvoight leading all the way to hold off a challenge from Detlef Kirchhoff and Robert Sens, the 1998 world champions. The 1999 silver medallists Michel Andrieux and Jean-Christoff Roland were the third qualifier.

Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop have, sadly, lost it. They were fifth all the way through their semi-final, eleven seconds off the winning time of the Romanians Georgeta Damian and Doina Ignat. German pairs were second and third and the South Africans Helen Fleming and Colleen Osmond fourth. In a week in which we saw the rise of the women's eight, it is sad to witness this inspirational pair in the slump which they hit in 1999 and tried to get out of this season by changing everything about their approach.

The world champions Emma Luke and Theresa Luke were second in the other semi to the 1999 bronze medallists Rachael Taylor and Kate Slatter.

Frances Houghton and Gillian Lindsay qualified for the final of the double sculls behind the world champions Jana Thieme and Kathrin Boron of Germany and the Americans Carol Skricki and Ruth Davidon. The race was well spaced out, the first three being the first three from 500 metres onwards. The Dutch crew of Pieta van Dishoeck and Eeke van Ness, silver in 1998 and bronze in 1999, also qualified, while among the victims of the second semi were the Kiwis Caroll and Georgina Evers-Swindell, Cup winners in Vienna.

In the Rotsee university races, Oxford and Cambridge each won their heats and progress to the final on Sunday.

A message for your sponsor

This is the first World Cup to be sponsored by Zurich, the financial services group. As a result a big effort is being made by regatta organisers and FISA, the International Rowing Federation, to upgrade facilities. Ironically in Lucerne, this has taken the form of erecting a bar and reception are for guests next to the press box, so that journalists - including the British contingent - who are seated in the rear three rows - cannot see the course until the crews get to 1750 metres. The second problem is that the television commentary positions have been moved to a new position close to the water and the finish line, so that it is impossible for commentators to see up the course. These are unfortunate decisions that can be rethought for next year's World Championships which take place here. But they contrast with the appeal to journalists from the FISA president Denis Oswald - in a statement promoting the support which Zurich are bringing in to rowing in other areas such as disabled rowing - to please refer to the World Cup by its full legal title of Zurich Rowing World Cup. That's all very well, but Zurich is the victim of its own name. I am sure you are aware, dear reader, of confusion caused in newspaper offices and elsewhere when the Zurich Cup is datelined Lucerne, or Munich where the final will be next year, or Seville or Vienna where other rounds will be, or, it is confirmed, on Mercer Lake at Princeton, New Jersey. I think that Zurich and Oswald are on a hiding to nothing here.

Click here for a full list of the British progressions through the regatta.

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