GB eight wins "Ashes"? semi to take on Germany in the 2015 Henley final
Great Britain's eight, racing here as Leander & Molesey B.C., made light of the headwind to beat Australia's national eight comfortably in their semi-final of the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta.
The GB eight, stacked with World or Olympic medallists such as Alex Gregory, Pete Reed, George Nash, Matt Gotrel, Paul Bennett, Mohamed Shihi and Phelan Hill, produced a rock-solid start and gradually pulled away.
Stroked by local hero Will Satch - and including for the first time this year Boat Race winner Constantine Louloudis who is back in action after his University finals - the British eight just piled on the pressure to win by a length and a quarter in 6:32.
Australia, who are coached now by the renowned Tim McClaren, challenged consistently in the second half but could not make any headway.
David Webster the Australian cox said: "Taking on the World Champions on their home water in a head-to-head is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. This is our first week in Europe this season and to get to race them is a bit of an honour. We will definitely cherish that but try to turn the tables if we get to race them again in Lucerne next week"?.
Germany, the Olympic Champions, will also relish the opportunity to race the British, coached by Jurgen Grobler, on their home waters. They are the European Champions, having beaten the GB boat in Poznan at the end of May before the British crew turned the tables at the world cup in Varese ten days ago in a thrilling final.
"We like racing here, it's very British, it's different to other international regattas and the boys like it"?, said German coach Ralf Holtmeyer. "Poznan was not the normal form of the British eight. After Poznan we said the potential of the British eight is higher and Varese was the higher level. And now we see."?
World Champion Paul Bennett said of today's performance and tomorrow's final: "Fair play to the Australians. We didn't know much about them and they hung with us. It was a good race.
"I am actually really excited about facing Germany here. We obviously usually race six lanes but this will be a real side-by-side, honest battle. We have been back and forth the last few times we have raced each other, so I really don't know what is going to happen. It's just going to be a genuine, hard race fought tooth and nail"?
This rivalry has captured the imagination of the rowing world and the Henley crowd should have a cracking final to savour tomorrow.
The 2015 Regatta has attracted a record number of American crews and three of these made a positive start to Independence day with three quarter-final wins.
Yale, University of Washington and Harvard all won their Prince Albert Challenge Cup contests - an event for Student coxed fours. Harvard had a storming finish along the enclosures to win by half a length from Imperial College who had otherwise led all the way.
The closest and most exciting race of the morning session, however, came in the Fawley Challenge Cup for junior men's quadruple sculls between Sir William Borlase Grammar School, coached by Robin Dowell, and Glasgow Academy.
Borlase snatched the win by just a canvas after clawing back Glasgow's lead in the final sprint to the line.
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