Bond and Murray pick up where they left off
Olympic champions Hamish Bond and Eric Murray began their 2013 season the way they finished their previous one - with a win in London.
The New Zealand men's pair won their heat on the opening day of the year's second World Cup regatta at Eton Dorney; scene of New Zealand's haul of five Olympic Games medals last year which included gold for the seemingly unbeatable combination.
The duo spearheaded a successful outing for the nine Kiwi boats that competed on the first day of three at the regatta. Four crews qualified directly to Sunday night’s (NZ time) finals, while another four made tonight’s semifinals, with the men’s quad the only boat to miss out on advancing.
Bond and Murray led from the start in the second of two heats to romp home by almost 20 seconds, winning in a time of six minutes 26.33 seconds and will start the final as red-hot favourites to continue an unbeaten streak since they teamed up in the pair at the start of 2009.
The Kiwi women's pair of Rebecca Scown and Kayla Pratt came through strongly in the back half of their race to win their heat and be the only direct qualifiers from that heat to make the final.
Scown won bronze at last year's Olympics with crewmate Juliette Haigh, who retired soon after the Games, with Pratt replacing her in the boat over summer. They finished in 7:12.60, more than two seconds ahead of one of two Chinese crews.
Peter Taylor was another Kiwi who was part of last year's medal haul and has switched boats from the lightweight men's double sculls which captured bronze to the lightweight four this season.
James Hunter, James Lassche, Taylor and Curtis Rapley produced an excellent race to see off the hosts, winning their second heat in 6:00.88 to avoid having to race again until Sunday’s final while also recording the fastest heat time.
Another new-look New Zealand combination came from behind at the midway stage to win their heat of the men's double sculls to move directly on to the final.
Michael Arms and Robbie Manson have taken over the roles of last year's gold medal winners Joseph Sullivan and Nathan Cohen and had to fight hard to get past the highly-touted Azerbaijan duo of Aleksandar Aleksandrov and Boris Yotov before pulling away in the second half to win by almost 10 seconds in 6:24.15.
Sullivan is representing New Zealand in the men's single sculls at Eton Dorney and the final World Cup regatta of the year at Lucerne next month.
With Mahe Drysdale only recently returning to training, former world under-23 two-times single sculls gold medalist Sullivan has moved from the double he won Olympic gold with Nathan Cohen in to the single after missing selection in the Kiwi team for the opening World Cup regatta in Sydney in March.
Sullivan was a long way behind London Games bronze medalist Alan Campbell (GB) after just 500 metres. Renown for his sprint finish which helped he and Cohen to a memorable triumph last year, Sullivan couldn't peg back much time on the winner Campbell, but still did enough to finish third and advance to tonight’s semifinals.
The first heat was won by Czech Republic star Ondrej Synek, who won gold behind Drysdale at last year's Olympics.
Contesting her first international regatta of the year, Kiwi women's single sculler Emma Twigg made a bold beginning by winning her heat in 7:37.09, almost three seconds ahead of Germany's Julia Lier.
Twigg missed out on the medals in London last year and will have been encouraged by her showing after illness and injury hampered her earlier this season. She will race again in tonight’s semis.
Former three-times world champion Duncan Grant started New Zealand's campaign in the heats of the men's lightweight single sculls with a second place.
Racing in the second of three heats, Grant - who fought his way back into favouritism with the Rowing NZ selection panel after being omitted from the elite summer training squad - spent his entire journey in second spot behind Ireland's Paul O'Donovan.
Grant finished the 2000m in 7min 17.37 seconds, over three seconds behind O'Donovan with the top two finishers in each heat advancing directly to tonight's semifinals.
The New Zealand men's four of Jade Uru, Tobias Wehr-Candler, Robert Kells and Adam Tripp needed to win their heat to avoid a repechage later that afternoon (UK time).
Competing in the second of two heats, with just two rivals in their race, they trailed by a couple of seconds behind a Great Britain crew that has undergone a number of changes since winning gold in the event last year for most of the journey. The four finished 3.58 seconds back in second spot, forcing them a repechage which they won narrowly over Romania to qualify for the semifinals.
The Kiwi men's quad got off to a slow start in the first of two heats, being fifth and last after 500 metres. Nathan Flannery, Fergus Fauvel, London 2012 gold medalist Nathan Cohen and younger brother Hayden Cohen improved to third, some distance behind winners Great Britain as conditions grew windy.
That sent them to a repechage, and matters did not improve when they finished fourth to miss out on the semifinals.