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 Sunday's racing at Lucerne, July 16th 2000.

Four plunge to fourth, but Crackers wins a gold

It was another bad weather day. Just like the only shower at Henley descending during the Stewards' final, so the heaviest daily precipitation on the Rotsee is reserved for the coxless fours. There was a delay at the start while lane one's pontoon was adjusted, and everyone looked thoroughly miserable as well as being drenched - particularly Messrs Cracknell, Redgrave, Foster and Pinsent. Then they came fourth. Fourth! Losing the semi by a freak tenth of a second was one thing, but finishing fourth in Lucerne is quite another. "I don't think we had any gears today. The crew that raced today is not the four that races normally," said Redgrave.

All the extraneous circumstances applied to everyone, and James Cracknell didn't know until the end that he was to sub into the eight an hour and half later at the orders of Jurgen Grobler - not as punishment, but because he was the best man for the job.

Thus the early warning of the semi turned into an alarm call on Sunday when Italy, New Zealand and Australia trounced them. Here were the favourites for the Olympic title failing to respond to the Italians moving straight out in front, failing to answer when the Aussies and Kiwis went past before half way, and failing to find top gear when they were four seconds, more than a boat length, behind the leaders after 1500 metres.

Their last 500 metres was the slowest of the six boats on the course, all of whom met 10 months ago in the final of the World Championships. The stroke, Matthew Pinsent, could no more put his finger on a reason than Redgrave or coach Grobler. "Nothing sudden happened. It just wasn't a great race and these things happen. We obviously made a lot of mistakes today and we made a couple yesterday as well, but we will put those right in time for Sydney. We are going to go to Sydney and win."

"Frustration," was Steve Redgrave's summary of his feelings. This was the first time that Redgrave has missed the medal podium at an international regatta since the World Championships of 1989.

All this was totally uncharacteristic of the crew who have watched every opponent and analysed every move and nuance since their formation in the spring of 1997.

Grobler said that it has been a hard, tough period with Vienna, Henley and Lucerne regattas all offering the best opposition. "I have every confidence in the crew, no question. There are five of us in the boat and we will look at the programme, starting Monday week after the boys have had a week's holiday."

Britain's eight won the World Cup and put paid to the Australians who beat them at Henley two weeks ago. Louis Attrill, suffering from back strain, was the man displaced by Cracknell. There was some worrying fade right near the end, but they remain one of the best hopes of an Olympic medal. But before you get too excited about the US boat finishing only third, this is not the eight that has won the last three world titles. They are at home as they always are, waiting for the big one. The eight in Lucerne was made up of the four and pair who qualified for the Olympics last week plus a couple of others.

Greg Searle and Ed Coode had a good row in their B final of the pairs, leading all the way. It was some compensation for the disappointing semi-final in which they went out strongly to 750 before failing to settle keep control of the race. This was the story of their final in Vienna. They have now run out of regattas in which to put it right, although they know what they have to do.

"Basically there were seven boats capable of reaching the final, and we were the one which didn't," Searle said. "We let the selection battles going on around us influence us, when we should have just got on with our own race." Two Australian crews and two German crews took each other to line for Olympic selection, and the word from Downunder is that whoever finishes ahead at the end of today will be challenged in the courts by whoever is behind.

The final gave a clear answer for both. The race was won by James Tomkins, late of the Oarsome Foursome, and substitute Matt Long, putting Drew Ginn's place in doubt. The 1996 Olympic silver medallists Weightman and Scott were sixth. Detlef Kirchhoff and Robert Sens trounced their rivals Jan Herzog and Ike Landvoight in the German battle by finishing third behind Luigi Sorrentino and Pasquale Panzarino of Italy. Michel Andrieux and Jean-Christophe Rolland were fourth ahead of Herzog and Landvoight.

Dot Blackie and Cath Bishop earned a World Cup point by winning their B final, coming from third at 500 to second at 1000 and hotting up the pace in the last 500 to overhaul the South Africans Helen Fleming and Colleen Orsmond. When team manager David Tanner said today that a few early morning calls may be a good thing, he didn't really have this crew in mind. The 1998 world silver medallists have had too many for comfort.

Tim Male and Tom Kay put in a good performance for fourth place in the lightweight double sculls. Less dynamic were the double scullers Frances Houghton and Gillian Lindsay in sixth place. Nevertheless, their's is a move in the right direction.

Britain finished as Cup winners in the coxless fours and men's eights, and third overall with 93 points to Germany (143) and Australia (100).

In the women's singles Rumyana Neykova of Bulgaria led for the middle of the race until the Olympic and world champion Ekaterina Karsten made her move in the last 200 metres. This still left the Bulgarian well clear of bronze medallist Katrin Rutschow-Stomporowski.

The men's singles saw a classic stroke for stroke bow-ball-to bowball piece of brinkmanship between Canada's Derek Porter and New Zealand's Rob Waddell. Waddell eventually squeezed a lead of three quarters of a length, under-rating the Canadian, at 1500 metres. Vaclav Chalupa was third, but almost missed his spot when Marcel Hacker wound up to a suicidal final sprint which he stopped too soon.

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

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