All the favourites through in Nottingham

Under grey skies and racing into a gusty wind, the semi-finals session of the 2014 British Championships saw all the favourites through as anticipated.

Isis BC, with British Olympian Constantine Louloudis in the crew, could be one of the top challengers to Molesey BC – featuring three of the World Champion men’s four – for the men’s four title. Both crews dominated their semi-finals.

Helen Glover, Heather Stanning, Jess Eddie and Zoe Lee are in pole position in the equivalent women’s event having led their semi-final from the outset.

Beth Rodford and emerging talent Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne sculled to victory in the women’s double scull semis but look set to face a stern test from Emma Twigg and Melanie Wilson of Imperial College in the final. The Kiwi-GB combination, representing Imperial College, also looked strong in winning their semi-final.

World U23 medalists Angus Groom and Jack Beaumont were close finishers to the senior Worlds counterparts Charles Cousins and Pete Lambert in the first of two men’s double scull semis. Both crews are from Leander Club and with Leander also taking a one-two in the second semi-final the die might already be cast for all three podium slots in this event.

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RACE REPORTS

Beth Rodford from Gloucester RC and Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne from Gloucester-Hartpury won the opening women’s double scull semi-final from Tees RC’s Kat Copeland, the Olympic lightweight women’s double scull champion, and Tina Stiller. The Leander B crew featuring 2004 and 2008 Olympic medallist Debbie Flood was third.

Rodford was delighted with the performance, saying: “We came into this weekend without really knowing how we would perform against everyone else. We’d had a good week of training but you really don’t know what shape you are in until you start racing, so we’re really pleased with that and the A final is anyone’s now.

“For us it is really nice to mix it up, go back to our clubs and do some club sculling. We get to race against the people we train with every day but we’re also racing against the people who are going to be challenging us for our seats in a few years time.”

Hodgkins-Byrne said the conditions were “pretty horrible” but added: “It makes you need technique even more than you’d like to allow but you just have to deal with what you are given – if you’re having a bad stroke, the chances are someone else is.”

In the opposing semi-final British Olympian Melanie Wilson and New Zealand’s World single scull champion Emma Twigg, competing for Imperial College, put in a strong performance from the outset to take the honours.

It was Twigg’s first race since she started studying on the Fifa Master in Management, Law and Humanities of Sport programme, which will rule her out of competing for New Zealand in 2015.

“It’s really windy up at the start and has actually got worse since this morning – nice weather to start the new season!” she said.

“I started my course a month or so ago and it’s going well so far. It’s a bit challenging, fitting in training with studies, but [medical student] Mel is an old hand at that and has been helping me along.”

Emily Carmichael, rowing as a substitute for Victoria Thornley, and Jess Leyden were second for Leander with the Molesey and University of London composite of Ruth Walczak and Emily Craig in third.

Charles Cousins and Pete Lambert, World medallists, held their young Leander club-mates Angus Groom and Jack Beaumont, World U23 medallists, at bay in a close finish to the opening men’s double scull semi-final. 

Groom said: “We could have eased off a bit sooner in that race had we wanted to but we are here to win it, so we wanted to really go for it and lay down a marker.

“We’ve just made the transition up to the senior squad, so we are really gunning for Pete, Charles, John [Collins] and Jonny [Walton].”

Beaumont added: “We’re looking to medal. We finished fourth last year so we want to step up.

“There’s definitely room for improvement. We have rowed together on and off since we were 16 but every time we race we ask what can we do better and try to implement that next time.

“Three races in a day means we have a good opportunity to improve quite a lot and hopefully we can do so again in the final.

A significant gap split the top two crews from the remainder of the field with GB Rowing Team’s Sam Townsend rowing with Sam Twine from Reading University, taking the vital third qualifying slot for today’s final.

In the second semi-final John Collins and Jonny Walton, the GB double this season, led the charge with the Leander lightweights Samuel Mottram and Steve Parsonage, an U23 lightweight crew, tucked behind them to the finish in second. Agecroft’s Zak Lee Green, also a lightweight, and Hugh Callie, grabbed the third qualifying slot having tussled earlier in the race with Molesey’s Harry Glenister and Luke Moon.

European women’s pair champion Polly Swann stroked her Leander Club’s women’s four featuring GB rowers Louisa Reeve, Katie Greves and Rosamund Bradbury to a significant early lead in their semi-final today. They eventually came home ahead of another Leander Club crew stroked by Katherine Douglas.

Imperial College, with current GB international Donna Etiebet on board, held off a strong challenge from Thames RC to secure the final qualifying spot.

The result continued an “enjoyable day” for Swann, who added: “The conditions are tricky but it’s quite fun as well, it reminds me of being a junior and battling the wind.

“I like the atmosphere here as well. Edinburgh Uni is here, GRC is here, my two other clubs so it’s nice to catch up with old friends.

“We’ve done a meet and greet as well as part of the Women on Water programme, which was great. I met the Cambridge Uni lightweight girls and they were so keen, so lovely. They had some good questions.

“I like to think the club rowers look up to us and enjoy rowing against us. When people come up to you and want to have a little chat, that’s really great.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly the composite crew of Jess Eddie, Helen Glover, Zoe Lee and Heather Stanning dominated the second semi.

Swann, who partnered Glover to the world women’s pair title in 2013, is relishing the final, saying: “I think it will be a really good ding-dong between ourselves and the composite crew. You know your friend’s strengths so we have a good measure of each other.”

Durham and Newcastle Universities were involved in a local derby behind them for second and third with Durham winning the battle of wills leaving Newcastle to ease off towards the end when they realised that they would qualify for the final in third.

Charlotte Drury – who is in the Durham crew with Rebecca Dell, Amy Ellerker and Hanna Gailis Inntjore – believes the timing of the British Championships in October, while providing testing conditions, benefits the university crews.

“This is the last summer regatta for some clubs but it’s our first of the season as students, which is useful as it gives us the chance to get a couple of 2k races under our belts before we start thinking about the Women’s Head of the River over 7k,” she said. 

“It’s a good chance to see where we are at compared to other unis, especially Newcastle!”

Drury also enjoyed the chance to share the water with Glover, Stanning, Eddie and Lee, saying: “It’s a great experience for us to see top-class rowers and compete against them.

“You don’t usually get that opportunity, especially if you’re not a trialist. The internationals are all really approachable and friendly as well, so if you want to chat to them and get advice you can.”

In the final two semis of the session Constantine Louloudis, Michael DiSanto, Iain Mandale and William Geffen, of Isis BC, surged to a two-length lead in their men’s four semi-final. Tracking them were two Leander Club crews. Matt Langridge, in Leander “B” with Edward Rippon, Matt Rossiter and Barnaby Stentiford took second. Olympic champions Alex Gregory and Pete Reed, rowing here with Callum McBrierty and Chris Boddy, were third.

Molesey dominated the final semi-final of the day taking the verdict by clearwater from Leander Club and then Oxford Brookes’ “D” crew. Andrew Triggs Hodge, Moe Sbihi, George Nash and James Foad now move into the final as favourites.

Joel Cassells, of Oxford Brookes D, was relieved to get through, saying: “We want to win the lightweight pennant. It didn’t quite go to plan in the semi but at least we have the A final to give it another go – death or glory. 

“It’s very difficult conditions as you can see by the times – seven minutes for a lightweight four tells you that. It’s an outdoor sport, though – you take what you’re given and you do your best.

“The British Championships are too good an opportunity to miss – the chance to race against the very best. I love coming back to Brookes and bringing the likes of Peter Chambers into it – it’s all about giving back to the clubs and moving the clubs on. Everyone can see the exact standards expected of the GB Rowing team, it is the pinnacle of rowing.”

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