Posted: 2 August, 2018
On Thursday morning, the organisers of the European Championships proudly declared “the moment has arrived” as the long-awaited action of this first multi-discipline event got underway.
Four Scottish rowers were involved in the opening morning of racing at Strathclyde Park, which has never looked better, with Glasgow’s Rowan McKellar and her pairs partner Harriet Taylor taking part in the first race of the regatta – the very first competitive action of the whole Championships.
The British duo led through the 500-metre mark, but slipped to second place behind Romania by the halfway mark. After this, the Netherlands moved past the British pair at 1500 metres gone and with the finishing order of Romania, the Netherlands and then Great Britain – with only the first two crews taking the direct route to the final - McKellar and Taylor now depend on Friday morning’s second-chance repechage race to stay in the medal hunt. From the other – slower – heat, Italy and Ukraine qualified for the final.
Before racing started, there was disappointment for Glasgow’s Angus Groom, whose sudden illness has forced him to withdraw from his double sculls partnership with Jack Beaumont. When Groom last raced at Strathclyde Park, he won the Commonwealth Championships singles sculls gold for Scotland, but there was to be no happy return.
Instead, his absence saw Harry Leask from Edinburgh, who was originally going to race in single sculls, drafted in to partner Beaumont. In a remarkable performance for what was effectively a scratch crew, Leask and Beaumont burst through from fourth place at halfway to take the lead by the finish line and qualify for the semi-finals of this event, along with second-placed Romania and the Netherlands in third place.
Edinburgh’s Melissa Wilson raced in the British women’s quad sculls crew, but they were never better than third place in this race, which was won by Poland, who qualified direct for the final, with the Netherlands in second-place ahead of the British crew in third. Wilson and her crew-mates will return for repechage action on Friday morning.
At the end of the first day’s programme, Alan Sinclair from Inverness was in the British eight that came second behind the Netherlands in their heat. With only one crew qualifying direct, the British men’s eight are also in repechage action on Friday.
The two other Scottish rowers in the British team, Olympic silver medallist Helen Bennett and Katherine Douglas – both from Edinburgh – are in the British women’s eight that has a direct final race without eliminators on Saturday afternoon.
Other British crews in action on Thursday included lightweight single sculler Sam Mottram who, coached by Hamish Burrell from Edinburgh, won his heat to qualify for Saturday’s semi-finals; the men’s pair of Oliver Cook and Matt Rossiter, who finished second in the heat to also qualify for the semi-finals; The men’s four – who won their heat to go direct to Saturday’s final; the lightweight women’s double of Eleanor Piggott and Fran Rawlins, who finished third in their heat and go to Friday’s repechage; and the lightweight men’s double of Zak Lee-Green and Jamie Copus, who had the same fate as the lightweight women – third place in their heat and a repechage race.
Racing starts at 10.30 on Friday, and information, including ticketing arrangements, is available at www.europeanchampionships.com
Report by Mike Haggerty