Racing for places when it counts
93 of the nation’s top rowers will go head to head this weekend (10 and 11 March) at the GB Rowing Team Senior Trials at Eton-Dorney.
They will hope to make their mark in the on-going battle to win places in the Siemens-backed GB Rowing Team for the 2012 world cup season.
With crew formation testing to follow the trials, each rower knows they need to lay down a strong individual performance on the Olympic course this weekend to stake their claim.
Rowers, who all benefit from lottery-funding, who are named in the squad on April 4th will compete at the first world cup of the season in Belgrade from May 4-6th. The second world cup is from May 25-27th with the world cup finale taking place this year in Munich from June 15-17th.
Each of the men vying for places in the men’s pair, four or eight will race in pairs at the weekend as will women contending for seats in the women’s pair or eight.
These look set to include serial previous men’s pair trials winners Andrew Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed as well as pairings of Alex Gregory and Alex Partridge, Ric Egington and Tom James, Matt Langridge and Will Satch as well as Moe Sbihi and James Foad – all of whom have been world and/or Olympic medalists since 2008 bar newcomer Satch.
1992 Olympic gold medalist Greg Searle, meanwhile, will race in a pairing with Tom Ransley after their regular pairs partners Cameron Nichol and Nathaniel Reilly O’Donnell were ruled out of competing by injury and illness respectively today.
The stand-out favourite to win the equivalent women’s event must be Heather Stanning and Helen Glover – world silver medalists in 2010 and 2011.
Each of the lightweight rowers (weight-restricted category) who are aiming for slots in the lightweight men’s and women’s double sculls and the lightweight men’s four will race in singles. So, too, will the open weight women who are aiming for places in the women’s double and quadruple sculls.
Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins will therefore go head to head in the open women’s single scull. The two women are more accustomed to racing together as world champions in the double scull in 2010 and 2011. Annabel Vernon, 2008 Olympic silver medalist, is the only “big name” missing from this event because of recent illness.
Olympic champion Mark Hunter will race in a competitive lightweight men’s single scull event which features Paul Mattick and Chris Bartley from the 2010 world champion lightweight men’s four as well as world U23 champion Peter Chambers.
Peter and his older brother Richard might have been expected to go head-to-head in the lightweight men’s single sculls but Richard has not yet recovered fully from recent injury. Sophie Hosking, world bronze medalist last year, will seek to defend her title in the equivalent women’s event.
Alan Campbell, from the same Coleraine stable as the Chambers’ brothers, will head the list in the open men’s single scull trial. In recent years he and Matt Wells, 2008 Olympic men’s double scull bronze medallist, have battled it out in the final of this event which Campbell has won in the previous seven successive years. Bill Lucas, Sam Townsend and Charles Cousins, all graduates of rowing’s Siemens and lottery backed Start programme of talent identification and development will be contenders in this event as will Tom Solesbury and Wells’ 2008 doubles partner Stephen Rowbotham.
Britain’s adaptive rowers – aiming for places in the Paralympic class four, single and double scull boats – will also have trials this weekend. These take place at the national training centre. Hot competition is expected for places in the mixed adaptive coxed four an event in which GB were world gold medalists in 2011.
For all British rowers the weekend poses the toughest test of the year. Alex Gregory, a member of the 2011 GB Rowing Team world champion men’s four, summed up those sentiments when he said:
“It is the hardest time of the year for me. It is so easy to go out and race against other countries, but when it comes to racing your friends and teammates, that’s tough”.
More than 400 rowers started the trials and assessments journey in October 2011.
“Our rowers are very familiar with the venue”, said GB Rowing Team Performance Director, David Tanner. “This event is one of the toughest of the whole calendar, though, when they have to race against their team-mates and friends”.
Anyone participating in the Trials who is an U23 rower will also have the chance to be considered for the 2012 World U23 Champs and put themselves in a prime slot for the Rio Games cycle.
THE 2011 TRIALS WINNERS
M1x Alan Campbell
LM1x Zac Purchase
M2- Andy Triggs Hodge/Pete Reed
W1x Anna Watkins
LW1x Sophie Hosking
W2- Helen Glover/Heather Stanning
TIMETABLE AND NATURE OF RACING*
Racing takes place on a 2km course in six boat categories and all the top British names will be in action:
Open weight: men’s and women’s pairs; men’s and women’s single scull
Lightweight: men’s and women’s single sculls
Saturday March 10
Time trials and heats* 10.00 – 11.00
Semi-finals and repechages: 16.00 – 17.15
Sunday 11 March
FINALS – for all categories: 09.30 – 11.45
*NB 1 – As the winners of heats in some events will gain direct qualification for Sunday’s finals, not all triallists will be in action on Saturday afternoon.