Day two in Lucerne at World Rowing Cup II

Lucerne, Switzerland

4 minute read
Words Rachel Quarrell
Photography Steve McArthur and Benedict Tufnell
Published 26.05.24

Saturday at a world cup can be an odd affair, desperate semi-finals and reps segueing into international-event finals then finishing abruptly in mid-afternoon. At Lucerne this weekend it was all about setting the scene for what look set to be some intensely fought finals on Sunday, some of which will be straight finals full of crews of uncertain form. Meanwhile day two served up a few unexpected results to tantalise spectators. 

Photo GBR M2-

You can count on one hand the number of times that Irish lightweights Fintan McCarthy and Paul O’Donovan have been beaten when racing as a partnership. Before this year it’s been three times, to be precise, and they’ve all been at Lucerne. Twice in 2019 courtesy of the Germans, once last summer to France. In both cases it was followed by the Irishmen mercilessly slaughtering their opposition at the next event, the end of season championships. Don’t annoy the Irish, is the motto of the tale.

Which makes it more interesting that on Saturday in Lucerne this weekend Jan Schauble and Raphael Ahumada Ireland (SUI), reigning European champions, got the better of Ireland immediately in their semi-final and held the lead to the line, winning by a second and a half. Behind them Norway finished third, a full 11 seconds back. The final on Sunday is going to be some race, when the duelling rivals will be joined by Italy, Spain and Belgium, none of whom are likely to achieve the top spot but who may muddy the action.

Photo NED W2x

The men’s singles on Sunday ought to be a shoo-in for Olli Zeidler (GER) since he has beaten everyone in the final either this or last year. That includes Yauheni Zalaty (AIN) who wound up Dane Sverri Nielsen by jumping him to first place in the semi with a teasing little sprint. Dutch threat Simon van Dorp was content to coast in behind Zeidler, and Olympic champion Stefanos Ntouskos (GRE) isn’t in the field after dropping to the D-final then withdrawing on medical grounds. Nevertheless Zalaty, van Dorp and Nielsen could easily combine to give Zeidler a tough ride if they want to.

Having a go was in the air, with Australia’s Tara Rigney also trying it on briefly in the women’s singles, then giving up and quietly finishing behind the woman of this Olympiad, Karolien Florijn (NED). The Dutch star has gone unbeaten in World Rowing events for the last three years, and has an answer for everyone, even New Zealand’s Olympic expert Emma Twigg. Behind Florijn Germany’s Alexandra Foester was relieved to qualify for the A-final by beating her compatriot Juliane Faralisch. Kara Kohler (USA) missed out in the other semi which was led by Twigg, as did Uzbekistan’s Anna Prakaten, outgunned by the best in the world on her first race against them since last year’s worlds. 

Photo GBR2 M2-

The doubles sprang a surprise too, the Netherlands’ world cup I winners Lisa Scheenaard and Martine Veldhuis never getting enough of a foothold in their race to qualify for the A-final, in a race won by Ireland with Norway and New Zealand hard on their heels. The other women’s semi was closer and won by the clearly improving Australians, while if a tight four-through rep is anything to go by the men’s doubles minor medals will be hotly disputed on Sunday. It’s unusual to have more women’s than men’s doubles, but that’s the case here. 

Qualifying first in the women’s pairs semi-finals were the Irish and Dutch, the latter just ahead of Australian Olympic fours champions Jessica Morrison and Annabelle McIntyre, who are the flagship Aussie women’s crew. The Netherlands and Australia were so much faster than anyone else in the event that it’s tempting to suggest they could be up the front battling it out on Sunday, a re-run of the 2023 worlds final won by the Dutch. 

Photo NED W1x

In the men’s pairs GBR2 has shown significant speed behind the Swiss world champions and then the Spanish, but it is the British top pair who are unbeaten so far this season and planning to keep it that way. They and the Swiss dawdled home in the first semi, with South African comeback kid John Smith (former Olympic lightweight champion) and his crewmate Christopher Baxter far enough behind them not to need a sprint. They’ll be saving their beans for the final, when the home crowd cowbells will be deafening.

Photo HKG1 LM1x (centre)

The first medals of the regatta were awarded on Saturday too, blue-haired LW1x world champion Siobhan McCrohan (IRL) claiming a confident win, and there was LM1x singles gold for an extremely happy Hin Chun Chiu (HKG) after he and his doubles partner failed to qualify for the Olympics. Most of these scullers are going to the worlds in Canada in late August where they will be the stars, even if they are also spares for Olympic doubles: it’s a significant year for lightweight rowing. 

Photo IRL LW1x (centre)