THE GB trials brought plenty of Leander success on Saturday, with outright wins in both men’s and women’s single sculls, another win in lightweight men’s singles, and a shared success in men’s pairs.
An adverse weather forecast meant the entire race programme was forced into a single day, and a stiff northerly breeze down the Caversham course resulted in several mishaps as two scullers capsized.
But the established favourites were unfazed by the conditions as Olympic champion Alex Gregory and his Molesey partner Moe Sbihi forged off the start in the men’s pairs final. But after chief coach Jurgen Grobler had spread his world champions around the field Molesey’s Andrew Triggs-Hodge and George Nash squeezed back the advantage.
With 250m left a punishing burst by Sbihi and Gregory saw them across the line in first place.
“I’m very pleased to have won with Moe - it’s everyone’s aim to be at the top of the team, and after years of second places I’ve finally done it. It’s a great start to the season,” said Gregory afterwards.
He added: “Moe is incredibly strong, and I was hanging on for dear life at the end.”
Third place went to Leander’s Al Sinclair and his UL partner, Nathaniel Reilly O’Donnell, but a chest complaint formed the withdrawal of Pete Reed, leaving his partner Will Satch to finish fifth in a scratch crew with Mat Tarrant of Oxford Brookes.
There was also a first-time trials win for Leander’s Jamie Kirkwood in the lightweight single sculls. After competing at last year’s world championships in the single the former Imperial College sculler is looking to move up into an Olympic boat class, and a decisive win ahead of more experienced opposition will have done his chances nothing but good.
Second place went to Leander’s Will Fletcher, ahead of the Olympic bronze medal Chambers brothers, with Pete taking third place and Richard in fourth.
Speaking after the race, Kirkwood said: “It was really important for me to do well here and to impress the coaches and I’m pleased all the hard work has paid off. Things have been going pretty well these last few months.”
World bronze medallist Charles Cousins had to work hard for his second successive trials win in the men’s single sculls after Alan Campbell and Graeme Thomas forced the pace inside the losing stages. But Cousins’ finishing sprint proved decisive as Campbell was ultimately disqualified for attracting two yellow cards — one for arriving late at the start and the second for a false start. Agecroft’s Graeme Thomas finished in second while Leander’s Pete Lambert was promoted to third. Two more Leander athletes finished fourth and fifth - multiple Henley winner John Collins, and 20-year-old Jack Beaumont of Maidenhead, who finished ahead of more senior opposition in their respective semi-finals.
There was no stopping Leander’s Vicky Thornley with a seven-second verdict ahead of her clubmate Frances Houghton, in the women’s singles, where Gloucester’s Beth Rodford finished third and Houghton’s doubles partner, Vicki Meyer-Laker in fourth.
In the women’s pairs event there was another win for the Olympic champions, Heather Stanning of Army RC and Helen Glover of Minerva Bath, back together again after Stanning’s return from army duties in Afghanistan.
But Glover’s 2013 partner Polly Swann, ousted from the boat despite a world title last year, was determined to prove a point and finished only 1.14 seconds down in second place partnered by Jess Eddie of London RC.