The independent voice of rowing in Britain

British four smash coxless world best time

Posted by rowingvoice on May 25, 2012

Medals are what they are really after, but today the GB men’s coxless four bagged a world best time, something many superb athletes have never done.

More than that, they smashed it to pieces, hacking 3.49 seconds off the time set 10 years ago by Germany on a scorchingly hot day in Seville, on one of rowing’s quicker courses.  This time the venue was the Rotsee in Switzerland, known for great tail-winds but considerably colder than the dammed and shallow Spanish river.

It wasn’t down to close racing, either.  Britain had the best part of three lengths advantage on New Zealand, their nearest challengers, by the finish line.  This was speed, pure and simple.

Andy Triggs Hodge, Tom James, Pete Reed and Alex Gregory were not thinking of world records when they woke up this morning.  “We’re here to win races, the margin’s irrelevant,” said James.  But then at 12:09 local time the stars began to align.  “We were aware of the conditions on the start line, and a bit of cross-wind picked up, we had to point the bows into it before we raced,” said Gregory.

The natural corridor shape of the Rotsee (“Lake of the Gods” in both Swiss and rowing terms) means that even a cross-wind at the start tends to be funnelled into a straight head- or tail-wind by the time the crews have got up to speed.

“I saw the time as we went through 1000 metres,” said stroke-man Hodge, who has the timer/stroke/rate-meter in front of him in the boat.  “It was 2 minutes 50 [on track to beat the record] so I’m not sure if they heard but I called to the guys not to slow down.”

By that point they were already moving away from New Zealand, who had been well off the pace in Belgrade.   “As we pushed away from the crews we found freedom and a relaxation in the rhythm,” said Hodge.  The result was a third quarter nearly two seconds faster than their second.  “It felt like back in Belgrade, we started off sensibly and had a better rowing rhythm in the second thousand.  When we called go, the boat just lifted.”

As they turned and paddled back past the grandstand, the over-excited journalists yelled the news to the crew, who whooped with uncharacteristically undignified delight.  There was another ripple of celebration as they passed the massed parents further on, shouts of “really?  what was the time?”, and cheers.  By the time they landed, the record-breaking time had been confirmed, with Australia winning the second heat in 5:44.70, 4sec outside Germany’s 2002 mark.

“It was obviously a strong tail-wind, but it’s just coming together quite well,” said Reed.  The fastest four in the world are however keeping their feet on the ground.  They’re aware that if they had been under pressure, they might not have found the same relaxation yet, as a relatively untested combination.  “Australia’s going to be tighter, we’ve got to watch them,” suggested Gregory.   “The time today was really nice, but it’s just a time.”

As soon as the Brits had broken through the barrier, records started to fall thick and fast:  the lightweight women’s doubles, women’s quads, men’s and women’s eights, and men’s quads (twice).  None by as much as the British four, despite relatively steady wind until it died down just before the last eights race.  As a statement of intent and ability, it was a pretty good one.

Rachel Quarrell, Lucerne.

Follow us on Twitter for all the latest from the Rotsee this weekend.

New world best times set on Friday 25 May 2012

  • M4-       Great Britain 5-37.86 (broke mark of 5-41.35 GER/2002)
  • LW2x   New Zealand 6-49.43 (broke mark of 6-49.77 CHN/2006)
  • W4x      Germany 6-09.38 (broke mark of 6-10.80 GER/1996)
  • M4x      Croatia 5-35.10 (broke mark of 5-36.20 AUS/2008)
  • M4x      Russia 5-33.15 (broke mark of 5-35.10 CRO/2012)
  • W8+    USA 5-54.17 (broke mark of 5-55.50 USA/2006)
  • M8+     Canada 5-19.35 (broke mark of 5-19.85 USA/2004)

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