Who were fastest this morning at the Brit Champs?

Around 300 crews are racing this weekend at the British Championships at Nottingham’s National Water Sports Centre.

World silver medallists Pete Lambert and Charles Cousins kicked off the race programme this morning in the open double scull.

All racing this morning took place in time-trial format with the fastest 12 crews moving into the afternoon’s main semi-finals and the remainder fighting for lower places in the rankings through semi-finals and finals. Crews contested ten categories of double scull and six categories of fours.

Windy conditions at the start led to those time trials moving from an intended 1900m course to a 1750m course. The afternoon’s semis will also be seeded from lane 1 to take account of the wind.

Leander Club dominated the open men’s double scull with four crews fastest in the morning time trial. Jonny Walton and John Collins, the 2014 GB Rowing Team double were somewhat inevitably the quickest finishers followed by Charles Cousins and Pete Lambert who were part of the silver medal-winning GB Rowing Team quad at this year’s Worlds.

Sam Townsend, also from the quad, rowed with club rower Sam Twine in this event. They came home sixth whilst the World U23 medallists Jack Beaumount and Angus Groom were third with Samuel Mottram and Steven Parsonage, the Leander lightweights taking fourth.

Cousins said: “It was a bit of a baptism of fire. It’s the first time we’ve raced since the Worlds so it was nice to get that done. It wasn’t the best but it wasn’t the worst.

“I always find the British Championships help kick-start the season a bit. You go from doing no racing after the World Championships to being thrown into six races over two days. It really gets you back in the right mindset.

It’s brilliant for the club rowers and it’s a good time for them to be competing against us as it’s the point where we are at our most vulnerable. We haven’t done a lot of training and are all quite unfit. That’s a nice incentive”.

Collins added: “It was very challenging conditions, we are being blown around quite a lot but it’s an outdoor sport so we have to expect that. We didn’t think it would be the cleanest or easiest of runs.

Walton said: “It was about laying down a good marker and stepping up with each race. We’re looking forward to the semis and final. This is the start of the season for us but we had a big year and we want to keep that going. 

We had Sam Townsend in the crew in front of us with a club rower from Reading, which is great. It shows them the standard of where we are and hopefully gives the other guys in the rowing community somewhere to look to”.

Cousins and Lambert were later drawn in the same semi-final as Groom and Beaumont whilst Collins and Walton were drawn against their Leander lightweight counterparts.

In the equivalent women’s event, World Champion Emma Twigg from New Zealand raced for Imperial College London with former GB squad member Melanie Wilson. They took first place ahead of Gloucester’s Beth Rodford and Mathilda Hodgkins-Bryne. Rodford is an Olympian and former World Champion whilst Hodgkins-Byrne was in the 2014 GB Rowing Team U23 quad.

Olympic lightweight women’s double champion Kat Copeland raced with Tina Stiller, representing Tees RC. They came home third ahead of scratch pairing Emily Carmichael – whose father raced at the Moscow Olympics int he pair – and 2013 World Junior Champion Jess Leyden after the GB Rowing Team’s single sculler VIcky Thornley had to withdraw.

Stiller was sanguine about the water conditions: “The conditions were quite tricky but I think we had a good row. We only got together yesterday so it was bit difficult to tell what would happen. It’s quite patchy and the gusts of wind are quite difficult to deal with but the water itself isn’t too bad and I was expecting a lot worse.

“It’s really important to mix in with the club athletes and give people who don’t usually get to row with squad members the chance to experience what it’s like. It makes racing more fun for them and gives us a different focus as well, it’s really enjoyable”.

Copeland added: “I find it really useful because I’m obviously a lightweight and Tina’s a heavyweight, so we tend to row differently and can learn things from each other.

Tina and I have the same outlook, it is important to row as a full Tees crew. I would hope in future years there is a stonger and stronger club emphasis, I see that as the main reason for this event”.

Today also saw the return to action for the first time since the Lucerne World Cup of Olympic bronze medalist Alan Campbell in a Tideway Scullers School men’s four.

He was racing in an event in which the Molesey BC four came home first. This crew featured Andrew Triggs Hodge, George Nash, Moe Shihi and James Foad – all Olympic and World medallists. Hodge, Nash and Sbihi are also reigning World Champions – an event they won with Alex Gregory earlier this year.

Isis BC including Olympic medallist and World men’s eight champion Constantine Louloudis were second ahead of Leander “B”. The fastest lightweight crew were the Leander lightweights.

Nathaniel Reilly O’Donnell was in the University of London four who qualified for the semi-finals in ninth place.

“It was a bit rough and tumble. It’s the first big race of the season so everything still feels fresh and new. It’s quite windy so there was a bit of chop on the water and we could have been a bit cleaner but it’s good to get a run-out in the legs.

“We’ve not been doing so much since the Worlds and have only been back in training for a couple of weeks, so it’s a bit of a shock. It’s nice to be back racing, though, it’s a great chance to get a lot of races under our belts and to compete. We’re not here to train, we’re here to race.

“I’m back with the University of London this weekend and it’s exciting to get the chance to represent them again”.

Olympic medallist Pete Chambers, from Oxford Brookes, raced against his older brother, Richard, racing for Leander, in the lightweight men’s four category. He said: “It was tough, there’s a big old wind out there. We’ve got a bit of work to do but it’s good to be here. It was good to get that race out of the way.

“There’s a good rivalry between me and Richard, quite a bit of banter. It’s good to get to race him but it’s good that all of us in the squad are in different boats, it gives it an extra edge”.

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning are racing here today in a four with GB Rowing Team crew mates Jess Eddie and Zoe Lee. The quartet represent Bath Minerva (Glover), Imperial College (Lee), London RC (Eddie) and the Army RC (Stanning). They were fastest in the time trial ahead of the Leander Club four of Olympians Katie Greves, Louisa Reeve with Rosamund Bradbury and European women’s pair champion Polly Swann.

The strength of the North East’s rowing was again shown in this event when Durham University and Newcastle University came home fourth and fifth respectively with their U23 fours.

Glover explained: “It was a lot tougher conditions than we thought. With the time trial format you don’t know how everyone else is doing but we definitely have a lot to improve on. We’re looking forward to the side-by-side racing now.

“We’re coming out of winter training and to jump straight into racing was fun, it’s good to remind ourselves why we put those miles in so hopefully it should hurt less than it did just then! 

“This weekend is about getting all four of us moving, not only for this season but for the next two years”.