The high-quality of the international entries showed today at Henley Royal Regatta, as many crews were eliminated in the this head-to-head rowing challenge.
The Canadian women's eight (entered as Western Rowing Club), however, managed to keep Canada's hopes up by beating the Dutch boat (Hollandia Roeiclub) nicely by three lengths.
The crew had a powerful start, which set a course record to what is termed the "barrier" mark of the course (approx. 637 meters) in 1.55 minutes. The eight's final time was 6.53.
"This group has not rowed together in an eight for long, so it was nice to test our speed in a race situation," said veteran women's coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willie, who has been to six Olympics, but is only on her second Henley Royal. "We had a decent start, but we will have to be sharp for tomorrow."
The women's eight is Thompson-Willie of London, ON, Cristin McCarty of Saskatoon, SK, Darcy Marquardt of Richmond, BC, Ashley Brzozowicz of London, ON, Krista Guloien of Port Moody, BC, Andreanne Morin of Montreal, QC, Janine Hanson of Winnipeg, MB, Sandra Kisil of Ancaster, ON and Emma Darling of Burnaby, BC.
Tomorrow, the Canadian women face local favourites - a top British crew entered under Leander Club & Oxford Brookes University - in the final of the open women's eight event called the Remenham Challenge Cup.
The rest of the Canadian crews racing today faced stiff competition, and do not advance to the finals.
Malcolm Howard of Victoria, B.C. raced Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand, a four-time singles World Champion, in the Diamond Challenge Cup semis today. Drysdale ended up winning by four lengths in 7.47.
"You really get to learn from each race," said Howard. "Mahe is very experienced, and I'm still learning what it takes. I have a long-term goal and that's what I have to keep in mind."
The New Zealand sculler now faces top Swedish sculler Lassi Karonen tomorrow to determine the final champion.
The Canadian men's eight faced a similar fate - in a fast and furious race against a strong German eight (Hansa Dortmund), the Canadians missed out by 3/4 length when the 2,112 metre Grand Challenge Cup race was done.
The men's eight is Mark Laidlaw (cox) of Mississauga, ON, Derek O'Farrell of Unionville, ON, Andrew Byrnes of Toronto, ON, Doug Csima of Oakville, ON, Rob Gibson of Kingston, ON, Conlin McCabe of Brockville, ON, Anthony Jacob of Vancouver, BC, Gabe Bergen of 100 Mile House, BC, and Steve Van Knotsenburg of Beamsville, ON.
The eight will now put this race behind them and focus on the World Cup, held next week in Lucerne, Switzerland.
The men's four of Will Crothers of Kingston, Ont., Fraser Berkhout of St. Catharines, Ont., Mike Wilkinson of Vancouver, BC and - returning from an illness this week - David Calder of Victoria, lost to the Princeton Training Center, the U.S. National Team's base, in their Stewards' Challenge Cup race today.
Also despite a valiant effort, the Canadian women's quad (which was a mix of light and heavyweight rowers who typically do not row together, under the Western Rowing Club banner), succumbed to the British women's quad by more than three boat lengths. The women's quad event is named after the late Princess Grace.
"All the boats racing put up a strong effort," said Peter Cookson, Rowing Canada High Performance Director. "Henley is a unique regatta and we had some very good crews to race against in today's races. I believe the whole team has benefitted from our experience here at Henley Royal... It will be exciting to watch the women's eight race in the final tomorrow."
See http://www.hrr.co.uk/ for full results.