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Last Updated: Friday, 18 August 2006, 05:15 GMT 06:15 UK
GB boats to watch
By Martin Gough

As the World Rowing Championships return to the UK for the first time in 20 years, at Eton's Dorney Lake from 20-27 August, BBC Sport highlights some of the Great Britain boats to keep an eye on.

MEN'S COXLESS FOUR

This boat has been Great Britain's top priority for much of the time since Sir Steve Redgrave stepped from a pair into a four in 1997 but this is its second year without anyone who rowed alongside Redgrave aboard.

Williams, Reed, Hodge and Patridge celebrate in Gifu
Britain's coxless four are defending world champions
The next generation have stepped up well, though, as the look to extend their streak of 21 races without defeat, including the 2005 World Championships and last year's World Cup event at Eton.

Steve Williams, the last survivor of the four that won gold at the Athens Olympics with Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell, gives tactical calls during the race from the two seat.

Alex Partridge was part of the four preparing for Athens before suffering a collapsed lung two months beforehand but returned to his best the following year.

Naval officer Peter Reed only started rowing four years ago but a reported lung capacity of 9.2 litres is even bigger than Pinsent's in a sport where physiology is hugely important.

Strokeman Andy Triggs Hodge was nicknamed "The English Patient" by his Dutch opponents when his stomach bug forced the crew to withdraw from Henley Royal Regatta in July.

He will be eager to have the last laugh over a strong Netherlands crew, and the four will keep an eye on the fast finish of the American boat.

Unlike the Olympic Games, the World Championships also features the coxed four event, with a cox steering and directing the crew, but the coxless event carries the prestige.

WOMEN'S QUADRUPLE SCULL

Britain's other defending world champion boat is in the largest class available to scullers, who use two smaller blades each.

Grainger, Houghton, Winckless, Flood
Grainger strokes an experienced quad scull
They have made just one change since taking gold in Gifu, Japan last year, bringing Debbie Flood back into the boat in which she won silver at the Athens Olympics.

Stroke Kath Grainger is GB's most successful Olympic female rower, with silver medals from Athens and Sydney in 2000 and was recently awarded the MBE for services to the sport.

Powerhouse Frances Houghton and the experienced Sarah Winkless make up the group, who will be confident of gold despite pressure from Australia and China.

WOMEN'S DOUBLE SCULL

They only came together at the start of this season but Annie Vernon and Anna Bebington, a pair of 23-year-olds, are already among the best in the world in this boat class.

At Lucerne Regatta last month they finish just half a second behind four-time World and 2004 Olympic champions the Evers Swindell sisters from New Zealand, and are expected to push them again on home water.

Cornishwoman Vernon and Bebington, from Staffordshire, came through the Great Britain's World Class Start programme, which looks to spot athletes who are physically suited to rowing and fast-track them to elite level.

Bebington, who lists "baking" as one of her favourite off-the-water pastimes, hold the British best for 2000m on a rowing machine of 6min 40.3secs. Try it.

MEN'S SINGLE SCULL

The men's single sculling division is packed with talent this season but Alan Campbell proved in the first race of the season - his first season as a full international in a single - that he had the right to be considered among them.

Campbell and Kiwi Mahe Drysdale
Clubmates and friends, Campbell and Drysdale are arch-rivals
An outstanding display of power saw Campbell, nicknamed "Monkey", beat Norway's Olympic champion Olaf Tufte in Munich and set him on course to be the first GB single sculler to win the World Cup series.

From Coleraine, Campbell now trains in London with the Tideway Scullers club, alongside one of the few people he has not beaten this year, world champion New Zealander Mahe Drysdale.

A back-to-form Tufte and Czech Ondrej Synek will look to edge Campbell off the medal podium as they did at Lucerne Regatta but Campbell clearly does not pay much heed to the form book.

WOMEN'S EIGHT

In contrast to the men's squad, where the coxless four are the starts and the eight won gold in the Sydney Olympics six years ago, Great Britain's women have seldom stood out in large sweep-oar events.

This year, though, a young group have emerged with an eye on the Beijing Olympics, and it has already made their mark, beating current world champs Australia to take bronze in the World Cup event in Poznan, Poland in June.

The big name in the group is Elise Laverick, an Olympic bronze medalist in 2004 in the double scull, who recovered from a hit-and-run accident on her bike last year to regain fitness.

A medal here will be tough, with Romania, the USA and Germany all highly rated and China yet to show their form but the eight are keen to win for coach Gary Stubbs, who will step down at the end of the year.

MEN'S LIGHTWEIGHT SINGLE SCULL

Great Britain showed its desire to take lightweight rowing seriously when it employed former Cambridge University coach Robin Williams to take charge of the programme last year.

Purchase celebrates victory at Lucerne Regatta
Purchase came back from injury to win at Lucerne
The shoots of success are starting to show but the only man with a gold medal so far is Zac Purchase, who came back from a long-term wrist injury to take gold at the Munich World Cup event in June.

If you see rowers wearing as many clothes as possible on a hot day, they are lightweights, who have to weigh in on the morning of each race, looking to sweat off the final few ounces.

Purchase, from Gloucestershire, must weigh no more than 72.5kg (11st 4oz), while larger boats are limited to an average of 70kg.

However he performs here, though, the 20-year-old knows he must make a change for next year as the lightweight single is not an Olympic class event so he is likely to look for a place in the double scull.



SEE ALSO
Find out where to start rowing
19 Oct 05 |  Rowing
Rowing on the BBC
10 Aug 06 |  Rowing


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