Day one in Varese at the 2021 European Rowing Championships

9th - 11th April 2021, Varese, Italy

2 minute read
Words Tom Ransley
Photography Benedict Tufnell
Published 09.04.21

Italy hosts 629 rowers keen to test their speed this Olympic season. After strong winds delayed the finals of the European Olympic Qualification Regatta, also held at Varese, it was a tight turnaround for World Rowing the event organisers to get this Championship underway. Nonetheless, the first day of competition went smoothly and additional measures to ensure Covid-security were well-managed. Here’s the roundup of the notable and the newsworthy from inside the boat park.

Achtung Achter!
Photo The German M8+ suffered a shock defeat in the heat on Friday
Credit Benedict Tufnell

The gauntlet has been thrown down in the men’s eight event – Great Britain dominated the exhibition race with Romania and Netherlands taking respective second and third positions. It was a shock defeat for the German Achter who are defending World and European Champions. Despite their impressive tally of three consecutive World titles and eight consecutive European titles the Germans were forced into fourth place.

Photo The Dutch M8+ debrief after defeating the Germans
Credit Benedict Tufnell

Great Britain paid no heed to history as they executed a fearless first 500 metres before transitioning into a ruthless mid-race pace. In the middle thousand the rest of the field were unable to claw back any distance on the dominant British eight. Romania produced the fastest sprint finish to pull themselves into second place while the Dutch overhauled the beleaguered Germans for third. The scene is set for a hair raising final on Sunday – can the Germans reassert control or will Great Britain produce the upset of the Championship?

Photo The Dutch power off the start in Varese
Credit Benedict Tufnell
Comeback Queens
Photo Donata Karaliene and Milda Valciukaite line up at the start
Credit Benedict Tufnell

Donata Karaliene rejoins Milda Valciukaite in the Lithuanian women’s double. If the name is unfamiliar Donata last raced as Donata Vištartaitė. She hung up her oars after winning the bronze medal at the Rio Olympics. Donata paused her international sculling career to marry former Lithuanian rower Jonas Karalius and start a family. Her new name translates to ‘Queen’ befitting of a former World and two-time European Champion. She is on track to return home with yet more silverware after qualifying direct to Sunday’s A-Final.

Photo Helen Glover and Polly Swann backing into position
Credit Benedict Tufnell

Another duo rolling back the hands of time are Olympic medallists Polly Swann and Helen Glover who unite to form the current British pair. In the wake of Glover’s much-publicised last-minute return to the sport the former 2013 World Champions discovered the pair still fits like a glove. The British crew acquitted themselves well by establishing a considerable lead in the first 500 metres. A little lull in the third quarter was easily remedied by Dr Swann in the stroke seat as the pair moved through the gears to secure the win and progression through to Sunday’s A-Final.

Photo Helen Glover and Polly Swann ready to start
Credit Benedict Tufnell

Friday’s heat was Swann’s first race at a European Rowing Championships since completing her medical degree and returning to the Great Britain team in 2019. It was Helen Glover’s first international competition since defending her Olympic title with Heather Stanning in this boat class five years ago at the Rio Olympics.

Single Slip
Photo Oliver Zeidler off the start
Credit Benedict Tufnell

In a heavily stacked men’s single event, 23 scullers began their battle for the European crown. Oliver Zeidler was the first sculler to take a tumble on the treacherous path to the podium. Zeidler a former swimmer and 2019 World Rowing Champion was forced into the repechage by the young Greek Stefanos Ntouskos who qualified directly to the A/B Semi-Final. The other heat winners were Kjetil Borch of Norway, Sverri Nielsen of Denmark and Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk of Poland who claimed the fastest time of the day.

Photo Sverri Nielsen pumped to race
Credit Benedict Tufnell