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Women’s Pair and Men’s Four win on opening day in Plovdiv

Strong performances for U23 crews on first day of World Rowing U23 Championships

All seven of Australia’s Under 23 crews were in action today (Wednesday) in Plovdiv on the first day of the World Rowing U23 Championships. The Women’s Pair and Men’s Four dominated their heats to reserve places in their respective A-Final and semi-finals, while the Women’s Quadruple Scull finished in second in their heat to progress straight to Saturday’s A-Finals. Caleb Antill, in the U23 Men’s Single Scull, finished third in his heat to book a place in Friday’s quarter-finals.

Meanwhile, the U23 Women’s Four, Men’s Coxed Four and Lightweight Women’s Quadruple Scull will all contest repechages tomorrow (Thursday) in a bid to make semi-finals or A-Finals of their respective boat classes.

Deputy Performance Director, Jaime Fernandez, said: “It’s pleasing to see some strong results from our crews on the opening day of the regatta. This is just the beginning of the event which has an unprecedented amount of entries this year, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the regatta unfolds as the week progresses.”

U23 Women’s Pair National Champions Annabelle McIntrye and Bronwyn Cox are representing Australia in the U23 Women’s Pair here in Bulgaria. The crew needed a first place finish to secure a place in Saturday’s A-Finals, otherwise it was straight to the repechage.

Joining the Australians in their heat were crews from Serbia, Mexico, Italy, Germany and Czech Republic. At halfway mark, the U23 debutants had established a strong lead in their race and were two lengths ahead of their closest competition, Serbia.

The crew, coached by WAIS Head Rowing Coach Rhett Ayliffe, showed the skill of moving the boat at great speed and yet by the final 500m mark were still only on 34 strokes per minutes. The Australians crossed the line, in a time of 7 mins 31 seconds, to secure a comfortable victory and a place in Saturday’s A-Finals.

The U23 Men’s Four of Robert Black, Harley Moore, Liam Donald and Adam Bakker needed a top three finish to book a spot in Friday’s semi-finals and avoid the repechage. At the halfway mark, the Australians had put a chasm of clear water between themselves and the rest of the field.

The crew, featuring 2016 U23 World Champion in the Men’s Quadruple Scull – Rob Black, dominated their heat from start to finish, with none of their rivals coming close as they crossed the line in a time of 6 minutes 4 seconds and booked a place in Friday’s semi-finals.

The U23 Women’s Quadruple Scull featured some familiar faces, with recent World Rowing Cup medallists Caitlin Cronin, Rowena Meredith and Genevieve Horton in action, this time with Harriet Hudson in the bow seat, who has made the step up from the Junior Australian Rowing Team.

Needing a top two finish to automatically make the A-Finals, the crew had strong competition from the British and Dutch crews, with the Brits coming out hard despite an earlier false start. The British crew led from the start, with the Australians comfortably in second for the entire race. The crew upped it’s rating in the final 250m to come within touching distance of the Brits, but, crossing the line in second, they had done the work required and booked themselves a place in Saturday’s A-Final.

Caleb Antill, another member of the 2016 U23 World Championship winning Men’s Quadruple Scull, today raced in the U23 Men’s Single Scull. The Canberra-born rower needed a top four finish to book a place in the quarter-finals.

In a race that saw all four of the top four finishers hold the lead, it was Trevor Jones of Canada who eventually won the heat, followed by Bulgarian Boris Yotov in second and Antill coming in third to book himself a place in Friday’s quarter-finals.

The U23 Women’s Four were Australia’s first crew to take to the water in the glorious sunshine. Elise Franetic, India Dempsey, Amanda Bateman and Rafaela Stalph needed a top three finish to go straight to the semi-finals and avoid the repechage tomorrow (Thursday).

Taking on crews from Italy, New Zealand, Great Britain and Poland, the Australians powered out the start, but it was New Zealand who led for the first half of the race. At the crews reached the halfway mark, Australia were in fourth place, while New Zealand had lost some of its pace, which Italy capitalized on to take the lead.

As the New Zealanders dropped back into third, the Australians upped their rate in a bid to take their place. However, as they crossed the line they were three-quarters of a length down on the New Zealanders and finished in fourth and therefore will contest the repechage.

The U23 Men’s Coxed Four of Henry Youl, Sam Hardy, Sam Marsh, Andrew Judge and coxswain Georgia Litt took on crews from USA, Romania and Great Britain. Only a first place finish would guarantee a spot in the A-Finals, otherwise it was to be the repechage.

The USA crew took the lead early on in the race and maintained it throughout, while Australia and Romania battled it out for second and third. As the crews reached the 1500m marker, the Romania’s attempted to push past the Americans, while the Australians also upped their rate but it was the Americans who crossed the line first, leaving the rest to contest the repechage on Thursday.

The young U23 Lightweight Women’s Quadruple Scull of Madeleine Williams, Georgina Masters, Verayna Zilm and Wallis Russell had a tough heat with in form Italy dominating alongside Netherlands to snap up the only two automatic A-Final places.

The crew, which has an average age of just 18.5 years, finished in third place and will contest tomorrow’s repechage in a bid to make Saturday’s A-Finals.

U23 Australian Crews to race on Thursday 20 July at World Rowing U23 Championships

U23 Women’s Four – Repechage (top three to semi-finals) at 11:45 local time (18:45 AEST)
U23 Men’s Coxed Four – Repechage (top four to A-Final) at 11:50 local time (18:50 AEST)
U23  Lightweight Women’s Quadruple Scull Repechage (top two to A-Final) at 11:55 local time (18:55 AEST)