After an endearingly modest opening ceremony on Tuesday night that featured a six-member preteen baton troupe from the neighboring village of Štetí, a bit of backyard-style fireworks and colored smoke, and a performance from a waterjet flyboard champ, racing got underway today in some pretty toasty conditions, most notably a puffy tailwind and warm water temps that created fast enough racing conditions to enable one new Junior World Record for defending M1x champ Clark Dean of the United States, and a lot of anticipation for the singles finals in particular.
(Note that, due to the heat, Thursday racing has been moved up to a 9am start, with races on five minute centers through 12:20pm local time.)
Only three events were contested today, the men's double, men's single, and women's single (in that order), each of which has enough entries to warrant quarterfinals on Friday. Everyone else except the women's eight get underway tomorrow (the eight has a race for lanes on Friday).
As defending champ, a world record for Dean in the heats – and a convincing one, too, five seconds faster than the previous record that had stood since 2004 - might seem to put him out of reach of the field, but it is notable that German Moritz Wolff, with whom Dean had a thrilling showdown last year, was two seconds faster than Dean to the 500 meter mark, and that Tristan Vandenbussche of Belgium had been only .36 off the old world record in the first heat. Dean did have a pretty shaky first stroke, however, so he may have a little more to show in the early going.
Dean on way to Junior World Best Time in M1x
The competency level of scullers throughout the sculling ranks continues to improve; even last year it was obvious that some of the scullers from countries that do not traditionally enter rowing events were still learning their craft, while this year you would have been hard pressed to spot any near-novices. Differences in skill and certainly athletic ability remain, and by the finish line there were some large margins, but up at the startling line taking pictures it simply was not an obvious factor.
In other US racing, the men's double rowed in second to the 1000 before having to settle for the fourth of four quarterfinal advancing spots, and women's single sculler Cassandra Reed placed fifth and will head to tomorrow's reps. There could be a lot of tactics going on, so with each passing day in these heavily subscribed events we should start to see where the real speed lies.
Spares Racing The spare races took place midday, with 2k races in five events, but not before they were used as the lab animals for a test of a 900-meter stake turn event that will be featured in the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina in the fall. The rowing there will take place on a 500-meter body of water, so the plan is to do a 900 meter, two times 450m race with a stake turn to seed the 500 meter finals.
As one observer noted, "this may be the future of rowing," but if so it didn't help that the crews were encouraged mostly to paddle the course so not to compromise the 2k races that took place immediately afterward. As a result it looked like a bunch of small boats doing steady state with quick-ish turnarounds on a buoyed course. Whew.
USA Men's Spare Pair
Notes from the Course
-The starter's tower looks more like a Habitrail than a starting platform, which made some onlookers ponder comparisons between refs and… ah, hey refs, don't beef at me, I am just stating the facts!
-The Racice course usually has individual Habitrail cages for each lane (not kidding), but the organizers installed a really nice starting platform for the event, including a great lighting system, a pretty stable floatation dock, and easily adjustable lane docks – though the kids in the outside lanes might have been happier if their lane helpers had actually used the adjustments, whew!
-A water bottle obstructed one of the lanes in the women's single, so while the starting official called for a launch to come into the lane to pick it up, the stakeboat kids came up with their own solution in the native tongue, and before anyone knew it one of the stakeboaters was in the water swimming for the water bottle. Give them this, it was a lot faster than a launch would have been.
-There was a delay in one of the women's races, so Canadian sculler Grace VandenBroek used the time to do some balance drills; pretty good!