Martin Cross |

Ones to watch: World Rowing Cup II finals day

This year’s Lucerne regatta may have been a bit short on the quantity of entries but there’s no doubting the quality of racing that will be seen in Sunday’s A finals. The final of the men’s eights may only have three boats racing but the promised contest between Britain and Germany will undoubtedly be one to savour. The British men had a fabulous European Championships, taking the Gold medal ahead of Romania and the Netherlands. But Germany’s world champions, who had led the race early on by a significant margin, could find no pace in the second thousand and ended up limping in in 4th place.

The Germans retired to their Dortmund training base to lick their wounds and work on the second thousand, while the British eight, under their coach Steve Trapmore, prepared for Lucerne in the knowledge that it would be their last event before the Tokyo Olympics. In Friday’s race for lanes the two crews went head to head in a gladiatorial struggle – the Dutch eight couldn’t start due to a COVID scare. No quarter was asked for or given. The Germans blasted out, got a lead, which the British attacked all the way down the course, only just failing to catch their opposition by a tenth of a second.

Sunday’s final will be an opportunity for the British to gain revenge against a German crew who will have been significantly boosted by their admittedly narrow victory. “We’re back in the game’ said the German coach Uwe Bender. But if the British do manage to get their bows in front on Sunday it will send a powerful message to the rest of the world that Steve Trapmore’s men are in pole position to take gold in Tokyo.

The Chinese men’s double will be looking to send a similar message to the rest of the world when they launch into their A final. Both China and France went head to head in an epic semi-final on Saturday that blew the rest of a powerful field away. There was nothing between both boats for the first three markers. But in the last 500m, Liu Zhiyu and the charismatic Zhang Liang found something extra to squeeze past Hugo Boucheron and Matthieu Androdias. Expect another scintillating contest between these two doubles, who are at the top of their game. Add in crews from Ireland and Britain – let alone the Dutch and the Swiss boats and you have a race to savour.

Victoria Thornley has been looking forward to facing the world’s best scullers since the Lucerne entry was announced. Only New Zealand’s Emma Twigg is absent. But in her semi-final the Leander Club sculler had the real boost of finishing ahead of Ireland’s world champion Sinita Puspure and the 2019 world bronze medalist from the USA Kara Kohler. Should Thornley repeat that in Sunday’s final it will be a massive boost for her hopes of an Olympic singles medal in Tokyo. In Thornley’s path lies the winner of the other semi, Hanna Prakhatsen of Russia. The 28 year old has found the form of her life, not only to gain an Olympic qualification slot but also to win the European title ahead of Thornley. Austria’s Magdalena Lobnig and Switerland’s Jeanine Gmelin will also threaten Thornley’s ambition. But the 33 year-old Brit is coming into some of the best form of her single sculling career.

The Italian men’s quad had the race of their life against the 2019 world champions when they unexpectedly beat the crew from the Netherlands to take a gold medal in the European Championships. Previously the Dutch had seemed to be almost untouchable. But the rematch of these two crews in Sunday’s A final will be one of the highlights of Lucerne Regatta. Both quads are a joy to watch, combining both patience and dynamism at the front end of the stroke with a beautiful fluidity around the back turn. No doubt the Dutch quad will have done a little bit more work at pace since their defeat in Varase. But both crews won their heats in the fast time of 5:49. The British crew stroked by Jack Beaumont has clearly stepped on since the Europeans and will be looking to grab at least a bronze medal.

There may have only been six entries in the lightweight women’s double sculls but the racing in this category has been simply stunning. In Friday’s race for lanes, the first three crews finished within 0.57 seconds of each other. For once, the sprint finish of Emily Craig and Imogen Grant seemed to desert them. The British, who had led through the first three markers could not hold off the charge of France’s Laura Tarantola and Claire Bove who took the win. Romania’s double world champions from 2017 and 2018 were just a whisker behind these two crews. If the British find an extra half-second for the final, they will record a famous victory to send them off to Tokyo with a warm glow. That said, there will be nothing easy about their final. At least though, us spectators are in for an absolute treat.