Great Britain’s top crews started as they intend to go on at the European Championships in Belgrade, each winning in dominant fashion, by a length of clear water, while setting Championships best times. But it’s too soon to be talking possible Olympic line-ups.

Mo Sbihi and George Nash slotted seamlessly into the men’s heavyweight four, while Polly Swann and Helen Glover got their world champion pair back together and dominated the field in Serbia.

Double Olympic champ Pete Reed has his work cut out if he is to regain a seat in the four after struggling all winter with what turned out to be a dog allergy. Still, he has dived with enthusiasm into a new project in the eight, which grabbed a surprise bronze at the end of a difficult weekend.

Meanwhile Glover expects to chop and change partners during this season, in the run-up to the World Champs in Amsterdam at the end of August, with her Olympic partner Heather Stanning coming back from a spell out with fatigue.

Potential rivals for Amsterdam? Glover expects the United States and New Zealand to also prioritise the pair.

Josh Dunkley-Smith is the only remaining member of the Aussie four who took Olympic silver behind GB in 2012 still in the crew that will start their European season at the next World Cup regatta in Aiguebelette from 20-22 June.


Up for the challenge?

Metropolitan Regatta’s inaugural Challenge Eights event seemed to be universally popular and could point the way towards a future of more competitive - and less bureaucratic – summer racing.

Met’s event – which saw crews of all statuses take part in the same time trials to produce seeded semis and finals – is seen as one of the “pathfinder” models being used by British Rowing to look at methods to provide a shot in the arm to club rowing.

If you haven’t managed to plough through the acres of proposal documents, a boiled down version is: simplify the system and allow regattas to run modified events that best suit them.

Marlow Regatta will also run time trials next month but will continue to ring-fence entries within their categories, so the close racing that saw IM2 crews from Lea and Kingston mix it with the big boys in the B final at Met won’t be in evidence there. However, crews should all expect a closer side-by-side race rather than a first-round thrashing.

It isn’t just about fun, though, as a look at Met’s accounts from last year shows the need to find new revenue if it is to stay afloat.

Meanwhile, European rowing federations are considering a Champions League of Rowing, encouraging new sprint regattas in each country that could lead to qualification for an final in Berlin this coming September. Could Challenge Eights events do that job for the UK?


Henleywatch: Temple Challenge Cup

The standout men’s eight on the British student scene all year has been from Oxford Brookes University, winners at the BUCS Regatta, stormers of Ghent and winners of the Challenge Eights at Metropolitan Regatta, in a time of 5:49.

Their nearest rivals at BUCS, Newcastle and University of London, didn’t make it to “Dorney II” but one possible Temple contender is the freshman crew from Brown University, who put down a 5:54 in coming third at the IRA National Championship Regatta in Massachusetts on the same weekend.

Brown’s varsity crew could also be Henley-bound after finishing second behind Washington at the IRAs. Top US university crews, of course, aren’t allowed in the Temple so the Bruins would enter the Ladies Plate, where recent evidence suggests they might find Leander and easier prospect than Brookes.


If you ever see that pair again …

Here’s a question that might work on the TV show Pointless: If you hear that Redgrave and Pinsent have been spotted in a boat together again, what’s your knee-jerk reaction?

A recent survey around Henley-on-Thames showed that the most popular answer was a reference to having permission to shoot Sir Steve, followed by a question as to whether Leander Club owns a big enough boat for the retired legends.


What do you think?

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