Published Friday 25 May 2012

New Zealand's new women's lightweight double sculling crew stole the show on their international debut, with Julia Edward and Louise Ayling taking a World Best Time in fast conditions on a great opening day for New Zealand at the second World Cup Regatta in Lucerne.

All crews made it through to A finals, semis or quarter finals with all Kiwi boats inside the top three in the heats on the famous Rotsee course. Most enjoyed comfortable passage to the next stages.

With only one to qualify for the A final from the heat, it was a tough international debut for lightweight women's double scull Edward and Ayling. The new combination though, is one to watch and by half way had an impressive lead ahead of the British, the Canadians, the Chinese and the USA.

With 500 metres to go, they had a length lead over the USA and were able to maintain their lead to to take a very impressive debut win and a coveted place in the A final. Moments after celebrating their win, the girls saw they had stopped the clocks in 6.49.43 seconds, three tenths ahead of the previous best. The record books could have been re-written moments later when Greece, the acknowledged pacesetters in this class, also broke the old mark, but the Kiwi time was marginally faster.

World champions Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown had a comfortable debut 2012 row - cruising out to an easy three second advantage over Germany, Belarus and Italy in that order. By the halfway mark - with a stroke rate at a comfortable 33 strokes per minute - they had eased their lead out to a five second advantage, with Italy heading the distant chase. The order remained unchanged for the rest of the race, putting the Kiwis into the semi final.

Triple world champions Eric Murray and Hamish Bond faced a stern test on their first showing of the season, facing Scott Frandsen and Dave Calder. The Canadians are the Olympic silver medalists and had two years out before making a relatively low key return last season with fifth place in the world championship final. But they arrived in Lucerne meaning business and at halfway were still just two tenths down on the Kiwis - something of an eye-opener given the New Zealander’s dominant form in recent years. Normal service was resumed at 1500 metres with the Kiwis taking a one length lead and moving out to a three and a half second margin at the end - a place in the semi finals secure.

Storm Uru and Peter Taylor were slow out of the blocks in their heat of the lightweight double sculls, losing well over a length to the Canadian double of Douglas Vandor and Morgan Jarvis at the first 500 metre mark, with seasoned Olympic bronze medal winners from Beijing Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist of Denmark also ahead in second. The Kiwis had narrowed the gap to about a length at halfway, but were still in third in a very tight race. All three crews crossed the 1500 metre mark virtually level but in the last 500 metres Uru and Taylor finally made their move and took a three second lead they would hold to the end. All three boats qualified but the fierce level of competition in this boat class was immediately obvious and it turned out to be a very good win for the 2009 New Zealand world champions.

Next up for Team New Zealand were the heavyweight double world champions of Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan and with Julien Bahain and Cederic Berrest of France in the field, they too had a challenging first test to kick off their 2012 campaign. It was the speed of the Egyptians and Argentinians which was a surprise though - and New Zealand could do no better than fourth until the final quarter of the race when they sprinted through the Egyptian double to take a distant third place and the final semi final qualifying spot for the men's double sculls.

Emma Twigg cruised into the semis of the women;s single scull with a comfortable second place behind Australia's Kim Crow, who qualified for the Olympics earlier in the week at Lucerne's Last Chance regatta. Sarah Gray, working her way back into the women's quad after an injury, was also entered and excelled in her heat to race head to head with 2010 world champion Frida Svensson of Sweden in the race for second place. Third place in close company with Svensson and a place in the semi finals was a noteable result for the youngster. Both were some ten seconds behind heat winner Mirka Knapkova, the current world champion from the Czech Republic.

Anna Reymer and Fi Paterson - bronze medal winners at last year's world championships in the women's double scull, also qualified comfortably, taking second behind the 2009 world champions from Poland and well ahead of both Chinese combinations in the race. Neither crew needed to exert themselves and will have plenty in the tank for the semi finals.

The men's four of Jade Uru, Chris Harris, Tyson Williams and Sean O'Neill - the only Olympic-bound crew to race at the first World Cup Regatta in Belgrade where they made a B final appearance - lined up in their heat against the winners of Belgrade, Great Britain, boating Andrew Triggs Hodge and Peter Reed in the crew. The Kiwis made a strong start, establishing themselves in second behind the British as the field went through the halfway mark. Into the second half the British put in a huge push which took them clear and into an unassailable lead, leaving the Kiwis to fight off Canada and Germany for second and a direct route to the A final.

New Zealand came home in second by two thirds of a length after a much improved row. The British boat also chose this race to unleash their speed and as conditions got faster and faster, they clocked a World Best time of 5.37.86 - the performance of the day that smashed the existing record and provided a clear pointer to their intentions in London.

With records tumbling, the New Zealand women’s quad followed out Edward and Ayling. Missing two of their usual combination the crew rowed well in a fiercely fast race. Although they had no answer for the speed of the heat winning Ukranians out front, in a nailbiting photo finish they held on to second place by just six one hundredths of a second ahead of Germany – and they too secured passage directly to the A final.

The men’s quad of John Storey, Matthew Trott, Robbie Manson and Michael Arms followed that up with another great row to take second behind the Russians – the latter rewriting the record books again by taking three seconds off the World Best time. The Kiwis were also under the old mark, and qualified, like the women’s boat, directly to the A final and would have pleased coach Mike Rodger by being ahead of more fancied crews from Australia and Great Britain.

Last to race was five time world champion Mahe Drysdale who dominated his heat of a packed men's single scull event to progress without any trouble to the quarter final.