Day one in Lucerne, at World Rowing Cup III

Lucerne, Switzerland

4 minute read
Words Rachel Quarrell
Photography Benedict Tufnell
Published 07.07.23

Fierce sun blasted the Rotsee and its surrounding hills into submission on Friday of the third world cup regatta, Lucerne drowsing in the heat with few spectators as the first racing session was turned into time-trial purgatory. There’s no getting round it, time-trials are very difficult to get properly excited by, particularly when this time they were being run as more of a technical test, in case the Olympics in 2024 or the opening rounds of this year’s worlds sprout impossible weather so that six lanes can’t be used.

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There were no terrible upsets, no disasters, even for the men’s pairs and both openweight singles where finishing in the top four out of six was essential to avoid relegation to the E-final or worse. There was some good racing, and there was a little relief at the end of the heats session when the smaller events — quads, lightweight women’s singles, women’s fours and men’s eights — were liberated to race one another properly for the honour of getting straight into the final. Amongst those was the Austrian men’s openweight eight, its first since the 1974 worlds when an AUT M8+ raced on this very lake, coming last.

This was, of course, the World Rowing version of time-trials, rather different from head races or the type often used at the start of selection processes, to sift rowers into speed zones of the competition. Instead of everyone racing all other boats in their event, the WR time-trials work by still racing in drawn heats — seeded as usual to keep the best rowers away from one another early on — with the same qualification as before. The highest seed goes first, then a lower seed, then the rest in that heat in lane order.  

This means you’re aiming to finish high enough in your group of 4, 5 or 6 to ensure that you will progress. It doesn’t matter if your ‘heat’ or group is slower than everyone else, it is intended to replicate the side-by-side racing pressure, but run using just one or two lanes. This time only events with 13 or more entries by the time of the draw were run in TT format, over 2000m and with the tower announcer keeping the small number of supporters up to date with which boats were posting the best splits in their heat.

A mega 42 men’s singles were in action on day one, with all the usual suspects — Ntouskos, Arakawa, Nielsen — winning their heats, except for Zeidler who finished second to New Zealand’s Tom Mackintosh. Ryuta Arakawa (JPN) posted a startlingly quick time-trial over a second quicker than Stefanos Ntouskos (GRE), but was more cautious when being runner-up to Oli Zeidler (GER) in the quarterfinal. Thomas Mackintosh (NZL) did a good job beating Dovydas Nemeravicius (LTU1) in the quarters, but may not find it as easy another time.

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A former top-class single sculler, New Zealand’s Robbie Manson, has done a Redgrave and come back to sculling, fitting into the Kiwi double with Benjamin Mason. Manson, who is sitting at bow, has recently launched an OnlyFans channel with some very modelesque posing going on, but we can assume the photographers at the Rotsee were more interested in his bladework and boat speed, which was enough for them to win their heat.

The women’s singles was fairly spread out in the time-trial, quickest being Karolien Florijn (NED), though Kiwi Emma Twigg wasn’t far behind. We also saw the first World Rowing appearance of Anna Prakaten (who used to be called Hannah Prakatsen when she was rowing for ROC at the Tokyo Olympics). She is rowing for Uzbekistan here and won her heat over Martine Veldhuis (NED), and will increase the pressure on the middle ranking scullers, who will be lucky to make the B-final here. Another event where anyone not at the top of their game will be left out is the lightweight men’s doubles, enlivened by the return of Paul O’Donovan to the Irish crew: he and Fintan McCarthy predictably went three seconds quicker than anyone else in their time-trial.

There were a few direct qualifiers to the medal races, including the AUS and GBR men’s eights, and the ROU and AUS women’s fours. The Polish men’s quad has withdrawn completely following medical concerns last week at Henley Royal, and Britain’s women’s eight narrowly beat a potentially messing about Canada in a weird race for lanes with the Romanians absent.

This article was amended on 7 July 2023. An earlier version erroneously stated Oliver Zeidler won his heat.

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