Supersprint Rowing Commentary 2000

14th October 2000: 11:20 am.

Right, so the computer's fired up, and what's happening? Well, the roads around Dorney Lake are completely clogged, with thousands of people driving, cycling and walking to the new Eton College rowing course ready to watch some seriously competitive rowing.

The organisation is not slick, largely due to the technical problems involved in hosting an event on a site which is nowhere near being finished yet. The Dorney construction project rests largely on the demand for gravel, so scooping out the remaining metres of the course cannot really be speeded up unless the demand for the scooped-out bit increases. In the mean time, communications are basic, facilities are largely temporary and the gloss on an event such as this, with VIP hospitality tents and so on, has to play second fiddle to getting the real racing done.

That said, the large crowds are coping well with mud and temporary seating, and the competitors are staying cheerful in the face of quite extended delays on the start for the first few races.

So what's this page all about? Well, the Rowing Service has been developing live-written commentary for the last few years, at Henley Royal Regatta, the Boat Race, World Championships and most recently at the Sydney Olympics. Commentary was provided on last year's Supersprints live at the Docklands, but this year it won't be quite as easy. You are probably reading this after the event, since the lack of phone and power lines makes it difficult for the race news to go straight to the website.

No matter. Read on, and you'll see how this day of rowing developed. For those anxious to see it, the BBC showed some of the international races on Grandstand live on Saturday 14th October. For information on the format of racing, and the scoring, visit the official website.

School Supersprints
Due to delays and difficulties in setting up, the school heats could not be covered live here. Commentary at the course was also sketchy, and the TV feed left a lot to be desired. By the time of the individual finals, things were getting sorted out, but it was still difficult to both be close enough to see, and to get any impression of what was going on. The individual men's singles final schools was won by Marlow/Borlase with Radley/Headington and Wycliffe/Gloucester splitting second place, the women's doubles by Wycliffe Gloucester, and the men's pairs by Westminster/KGS. That left Radley/Headington lying tied first with Wycliffe/Gloucester in the standings at the end of the first set of races.

11:45 am, and the TV coverage cuts to Steve Redgrave signing schoolkid autographs outside the main boathouse. Funnily enough whenever it's filming on land, the TV coverage miraculously improves. The rowing course footage, however, looks shrouded in night gloom and as if bathed in fluorescent light. They'd better fix that up before Grandstand starts broadcasting. We're waiting now for the start of the University races, and the cameras are having fun filming the hundreds-of-yards-long queue stretching right around the main boathouse. This isn't, as you might think, for the loos, but for a little group of four blokes signing their names......

University individual heats
Men's sculls: Cambridge in lane 2, next to London and Exeter. London off at 38, takes a quick lead, and is followed in by Cambridge and Exeter. In the second heat, Oxford's Dan Snow leads off, sculling powerfully, and takes the win, with Imperial and Durham next.
Women's doubles: The doubles go off in the high 30's, with London impressing immediately and able to drop down to 29 after getting a few lengths lead. For heat two, it's Durham, Oxford, Imperial in lane order. This time, Durham blast off, closely hounded by Imperial with Durham trailing. Durham are too strong for the IC girls, and keep their lead, though under pressure.
Men's pairs: First heat in this is Cambridge, London, Exeter. An on-board camera pointing at Kieran West shows the speed of the start. Cambridge off quick, London next, with Exeter a few lengths back, and Cambridge take a comfortable win. For the second heat, it's Durham, Oxford, IC. IC and Oxford battle it out, neck and neck right to the finish line, and the win goes to IC I think: it's not clear.

University individual finals
Men's sculls: Cambridge, Oxford, London, Imperial. This time it's serious: rates over 50, and some powerful strokes going down. Cambridge and London scrap it out, with London crossing first over CUBC, OUBC and Durham a little way behind.
Women's doubles: London taking the lead, Imperial closing fast, but they run out of water, with Durham and Cambridge behind.
Men's pairs: Cambridge way too strong for the opposition, Imperial and Oxford neck and neck, this sprint's over with the first stroke, finishing order CUBC, Oxford, IC, London.
That leaves the final points score for the University individual events as London 9, Cambridge 8, Oxford and Imperial College 5, Durham 3 and Exeter 0.

Another short break, while the Elite (club) crews get themselves organised. This time the competition is between Tideway Scullers, London RC (as opposed to the University of London in the previous event), Upper Thames, Notts County, the Lea, Molesey, Combined Services and Kingston. Their scullers are warming up, while the crew boats mill near the rafts. Meanwhile Messrs Pinsent, Redgrave, Foster and Cracknell are snailing around the bank path, not getting a yard at a time before they are stopped to sign more autographs. Tim Foster, off rowing duty today, is heroically signing his name for his country instead.

Elite individual heats
Men's single sculls: Heat one see the clubs off in a pack, a very close race, won in the end by the Molesey sculler. Heat two, Kingston up, the Lea also fast, it's a fight between these two, and the Kingston boat whips across the line to grab top spot in the final.
Women's double sculls: Molesey and Tideway Scullers off like bullets, Notts drop right back with some kind of problem. TSS cross first, then Molesey Lea and London. Second heat, Upper Thames get a great start, Kingston very powerful though, pushing through, and it's another blanket field through the middle of the course. They spread a bit, and it's Kingston from UTRC.
Men's pairs: Notts County looking good, London a nd Molesey keeping pace as the Scullers crew drops back a bit, up go the rates for the final dash, and Molesey sneak a win from London. Heat 2, the wind's picking up, and the pairs adjust as they wait for the start. UTRC and the Lea go away quickly, Kingston and Services not quick enough to keep up, Upper Thames surge through and get a win by nearly a length.

Elite individual finals
Men's single sculls: A false start, from Tony Larkman of Molesey, and they get back onto the stakeboats. Simon Goodbrand of Kingston takes an grip on the race, with Molesey and Nash of the Lea closing up quickly. Those three cross the line within feet of each other, useful points for their clubs to rack up.
Women's double sculls: Tideway Scullers and Kingston get good starts, Molesey not quite close enough to challenge, TSS look strong and cross at the front of the pack.
Men's pairs: A very clean start, all four pairs away together. Molesey race off quickly, at 45, steering into Upper Thames a little. London also quick, and these three have dropped Kingston. A very tight, exciting race, London sneaking ahead, Molesey fighting back, 2 feet in it, to London over Molesey with UTRC just behind.

Final points scores from the club event is Kingston 8, Molesey 7, Tideway Scullers 5, Upper Thames and London 4, Lea 2 and Notts County 0. That's the last of the finals from this set of races, and the lunch hour is now upon us. Officials are busying around trying to organise various presentations, VIP handshakings and the like, and racing resumes with the individual races for the International teams, at 2 pm.

2 pm: international individual races

Finally the crowds around the lake, now roughly twnenty thousand people, are facing the water, and clapping and cheering as Matt Pinsent and Steve Redgrave row up along the shoreline to the start. They're doing a new kind of hands-off paddling, International heats
Men's pairs: Netherlands get off to a good start, with Dennis and Hunt-Davis lagging a little off the start, but catching up rapidly in the first ten strokes. Russia and Denmark a way back and with no chance of getting past. Second heat, and GB I are rowing in the lane away from the crowds. Pinsent takes it off to 48, Steve checking to see where the other crews are, it's a tight race this one with Germany and USA leading off, GBR coming back and Norway slow. The Aylings bow edges through the others, and the famous duo have won their heat, as expected: smiles all round and a bucket-load of cheering and clapping.
Men's single scull: Heat one featuring Andrew Lindsay for GBR, but Denmark races off very rapidly, Lindsay upping the rate to catch up. Dane Kaliszan wins the heat, Lindsay second. Heat two, and GBR I's sculler is James Cracknell, who is dropped by USA and Germany off the start. Cheering begins as they approach the finish-line, Crackers coming through, Bekken from Norway takes it, and Cracknell beats Schulze for the second finals spot.
Women's doubles: GBR II in the first heat: Frances Houghton and Helen Fenoullet, who were told last night that they were going to row. Dropped by the Dutch and Russians off the start, no chance of coming back. A titanic fight for first place, won by the Russians over the experienced Dutch double. Second heat now on the blocks, and GBR I's crew is Miriam Batten-Luke (her swansong in competitive rowing) plus Gillian Lindsay, the world champion double from 1998. A great start for the Brits, with Germany also off quickly in the nearer lane, but GBR have a distinct edge. Coming to the line, Germany up the rate, but GBR draw well away, an assured win for the two, who won silver medals as half of the Olympic quad this year.

International individual finals
Men's single sculls: Crackers in the outside lane, Lindsay in the near, and both led by Kaliszan (DEN) Sokolov (RUS) off the start. Crackers powering through, his muscles visibly bulging, Kaliszan, lifts it again, everyone sprinting together. Final result Denmark, Norway, GBR I (Cracknell), GBR II (Lindsay).
Women's doubles: Just one British crew in this final, all the doubles waiting on the start as the men's pairs slide up towards them. Ben Hunt-Davis and Simon Dennis having a quick chat about how they can rumble Pinsent and Redgrave. Finally the women are off, only Germany dropped at the start in the outside lane, and Russia pushing through GBR and NED quickly. A storming race from the Russians, nearly at clear water as they come into the last 100 metres, with GBR and the Dutch fighting it out for second. Final result Russia from Netherlands, GBR and Germany.
Men's pairs: Lane order NED, GBR I, GBR II and USA. In-boat camera again gives us a peek up Redgrave's shorts (well it would if it weren't so blurred). Hunt-Davis and Dennis having a laugh with Americans Ted Murphy and Sebastian Bea. Wind's dropped again. Pinsent curls the rate up smoothly above 50, Hunt-Davis and Dennis having more trouble, not helped by difficult steering, USA keeping pace with the Olympic champions, NED also in the frame. The crowd starts yelling, USA and GBR I neck and neck to the line, then a wee crablet from the Americans. This convenient mishap leaves GBR I in front, USA second, then NED, and finally GBR II. Note that the two GBR teams are working independently of each other today, not hunting as a pack.

Final points scores from the international events before the relay is GBR I 8, Netherlands 5, Denmark and Russia 4, USA 3, GBR II 2 and Germany 1.

Team relay heats

These follow the same pattern: two heats first, then later in the afternoon the final. The relay begins with the men's single scull rowing the course, and when he finishes the women's double starts, then the men's pair. Combined time/position is the only thing which matters here, so it is no good having a quick first two legs if the third lets you down. Two teams from each heat through to the final for their event, which is after all the heats. As with the individual races, the finalists win points to add to the team's day total - in this case 8 for a first place, 6 for second, 4 for third and 2 for fourth. Teams not making the final get no points.

Before the relays begin, the leaders in each category are Radley/Headington tied with Wycliffe/Gloucester (school); University of London over Cambridge (universities); Kingston over Molesey (elite clubs), and Great Britain over the Netherlands (international).

School relays
Heat 1: Borlase's sculler off quickly, with the Radley singler also quick. As each sculler crosses the line, their number is called to the start, so that the double can start. Borlase have a good lead now, which the Marlow girls are maintaining. Headington (racing with Radley) and Kingston GS (with Westminster) are making up ground, though, with Oratory/Henley dropping right back. Now the pairs are off, and the Radley pair have overtaking Borlase, with Westminster also closing quickly to make it a three-way fight to the finish. The two teams through to the final are Radley/Headington, and Westminster/KGS.
Heat 2: The first leg is pretty tight, the Wycliffe sculler having a slight lead at half-way, but all in contention, particularly a big Hampton effort to catch up after a poor start. This time there are only feet between crews as the doubles set off, LEH and Gloucester fighting hard and drawing away at the front. In the last leg Wycliffe and Hampton/LEH set off first, with Abingdon then St. Paul's a way back. Hampton/LEH look to have control, Wycliffe rowing scrappily, and these two teams get through to the final.

University relays
Heat 1: Dan Snow goes off like a bullet in the Oxford scull, but UL is ahead by nearly a length as they get to the line, with Durham next. Taking over, the UL women's double stretches the lead out, Durham gains ground and takes over second place as the Oxford women struggle. Next is the men's pairs in the final leg of the race, and Durham and UL look comfortable way up in front, as the Oxford men fight in vain to make up a hundred metres of ground. That's UL and Durham through to the final.
Heat 2: Tom Stallard of Cambridge setting up a useful lead, but not particularly battling it, a little odd when teams need all the advantage they can get. Rowers are just too used to having to cross the line first without worrying about how much by, I suppose. Second leg, and Imperial's women gain great ground to overtake the Cambridge women, with Exeter languishing at the back. Off go the men's pairs, Rivers and Warner from IC with a big job to hold off the two Wests from CUBC. But the lead's a good one, the course is short, and they can do it. Whether or not the Light Blues have anything in the tank for the final is a different matter, but it's IC and CUBC through to that.

Elite relays
Heat 1: It's all getting a bit chilly now, the wind quite brisk and the lake unsheltered. Single sculls away first, and Commander Dave Hoskings of the Royal Navy showing that veterans don't go that slowly. After a fast start, though, he's passed by Tideway Scullers and Upper Thames, and fades again as Notts County pick up speed. The Scullers women go off rapidly, breaking away to a several-length lead which their men's pair will find handy, and the Services double of Kirman and Templeton clawing back some ground towards the Upper Thames double. Into the final leg, and Gale and Valla from TSS have a decent lead on Hall and Bushnell from UTRC: these two teams should be through without difficulty. Gale and Valla open up the race completely, winning by a clear 10 seconds, and that's thrown down a gauntlet the other club crews will have to race to match.
Heat 2: All four scullers get away well, and Kingston's got the slight edge over the Lea as the first leg winds up to the finish. The commentator passing the "virtual baton" has a frog in her throat, but it seems to work, and the Kingston women take up the pace, matching and then pulling away from the slower Lea. Meanwhile behind Molesey's women are catching up after a poor first leg, and London pass Lea as they drop back. For the final leg, Kingston is off first, then Molesey, before London and Lea. Molesey are blasting away, though, and rapidly catching Kingston. The Molesey steering's much better than last time, but Greenaway and Cottle of KRC jam the rate up again and nip over the line first, the boys in black following close behind to take the second qualification place for the final.

International relays
Heat 1: Norway off rapidly, Netherlands rating even higher but slightly behind, and GBR II's Andrew Lindsay is puffing away to keep up with these specialist scullers. Norway maintaining the lead, GBR and NED set off together for the second leg, USA last. The Dutch women's double take up the challenge and close on Norway, just getting through them before the line. Their men don't start too quickly, though, messing up the first stroke a bit and giving away the slight lead they had. After Houghton and Fenoullet's relatively slow leg, Hunt-Davis and Dennis have a lot to do, with a dodgy start and now behind the USA. Norway and Netherlands qualify, USA and GBR II have to drop out.
Heat 2: When in doubt or waiting, look at a famous face, goes the cameraman's maxim, and here they are focusing on James Cracknell as he readjusts his lycra on the stakeboats. He gets a slow start, with Denmark and Germany away quicker, and has a lot of work to do. Here go the big finishes, and he wallops past Germany and challenges Denmark, closing right up before the line. Lindsay and Batten don't hang about, and by halfway down the course they're still in contention with DEN and RUS with Germany falling back. The timer has to shout over the roar of the crowd, and Pinsent and Redgrave set off first, looking round to see where Russia have got to, and do their usual vanishing trick, pulling out a very handy lead within the first hundred metres. Down goes the rate, and they cruise in to loud applause. Russia qualify in second, and Denmark and Germany drop out.

Relay finals

School relay final: Going into this race the Wycliffe/Gloucester combination and Radley/Headington tie for first place, so if they can continue to impress, the positions of these two crews will determine the overall placings. Much splashing of water as the sculls speed off, Westminster and Radley leading, but Wycliffe coming storming back. Wycliffe has a great last ten strokes, and grabs the lead before the line, letting the Gloucester girls go off first. With Headington/Radley edging through the other two doubles, Gloucester are well up, and everyone else is pretty close. End of the second leg sees the Wycliffe boys off first, Westminster next, and the remaining two pairs almost together after Hampton have a disastrous start. Radley come steaming back into contention, pushing Wycliffe hard. Wycliffe/Gloucester win, then Radley/Headington, then Westminster/Kingston and finally Hampton/LEH.
Final School scores:

University relay final: Again the same order of legs, and in the singles, rather as expected London and Cambridge are off fast. Durham's sculler catches up fast with some high rating, and Imperial's not far behind. As the leg ends, it's UL off first, opening out an even bigger lead, with IC catching Durham and Cambridge dropping back. By the start of the final leg UL are well in control and now the distance doesn't matter to them, just the verdict. Way back, Cambridge race to catch the other three, getting close by half-way and blasting on through to grab second place over Imperial after a photofinish, with Durham only a tiny way back in fourth.
Final University scores:

Elite relay final: Molesey, UTRC and TSS off in a block, but Kingston are quickest, and the KRC sculler opens up a great lead. Kingston's double picks up the race, with TSS starting to edge past Molesey, and UTRC dropping back a bit. An appalling start for Kingston's men's pair on the third leg, but they recover quickly, despite Tideway Scullers getting past them and scenting victory. This does it for Kingston, though, you can't come back, and with Molesey also at full speed, KRC drop back as TSS and MBC grab the big points. Final order Tideway Scullers, Molesey, Kingston, Upper Thames.
Final Elite scores:

International relay final: GBR I go into the last race of the day with a three-point lead over the Netherlands team. GBR II are stuck with the two points they gained from the individual events, and aren't in the relay final now. There's quite a delay - after running to time it seems there is some kind of problem, whether it's Redgrave stopping to sign more autographs or a technical hitch is not obvious. Aha, now we've found out: it's Grandstand asking for a short delay so that they can screen the final live at 16:41 precisely rather than any later. Let's just hope Final Score doesn't cut into it at a crucial moment. Cracknell goes for a short paddle to keep himself warm.
Right, they're off. Looking at the previous relays, it's clearly the overall speed of the team which really matters, more than the speed of each individual leg. Plus, you need to keep your head on the start: rowers aren't designed to set off non-simultaneously. Crackers really giving it welly, last race of the day and nothing to lose. He has a slight lead over Norway's Bekken at halfway and has to heave on the sculls to hold the Norwegian off at the end. Despite roars of "Come on James" it doesn't quite happen, and Miriam and Gillian have to pull out all the stops. Which they do in customarily queenly style, lording it over the pack despite a great fight-back from the Netherlands double of Van Nes and Dishoeck. Off go the pairs in the final leg, the crowd falls silent as they wait to see what happens. Pinsent and Redgrave shovelling down spoonfuls, Russia behind, Norway and Netherlands creeping back a little, up goes the Pinsent rate again as the crowd roars and they're going to win this cleanly, not a race lost today and both arms up from Redgrave over the finish line. Off go the pair to meet up with the scull and double and celebrate. Nobody has any idea of the other positions in the race until an hour later...
Final International scores: