Competitors drop off as Bond, Murray dominate

CHAMPS...AGAIN: Eric Murray (L) and Hamish Bond with their gold medals after winning the men's pair at the World Cup regatta in London.
CHAMPS...AGAIN: Eric Murray (L) and Hamish Bond with their gold medals after winning the men's pair at the World Cup regatta in London.

If you can't beat 'em, don't join their races.

That seems to be the mantra of the men's pairs who don't want to race the all-conquering Kiwi duo of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond.

The Olympic champions romped to a ridiculously easy victory in the World Cup regatta at Eton Dorney on Sunday, finishing 15.73 seconds ahead of Poland.

The Polish combination of Wojciech Gutorski and Jaroslaw Godek were fifth in the B final at last year's London Olympics and won silver at the European Championships in Seville earlier this month behind the Serbian combination of Nenad Bedik and Nikola Stojic.

The Serbs didn't compete in London and it's not know if they will front at Lucerne in the final World Cup regatta of the season next month.

Missing from the Eton Dorney regatta were the two crews who grabbed silver and bronze behind the Kiwis last year.

The French combination of Germain Chardin and Dorian Mortelette, who were four and a half seconds behind the New Zealanders at the Olympics, were originally expected to return to Eton Dorney for the World Cup event. However, Chardin has been troubled by a sprained ankle, but is hopeful he and his crewmate will provide the Kiwis with stiff oppposition in Lucerne from July.

The Great Britain duo of George Nash and William Satch that gained bronze on their home course last year has been split up this year. Satch was part of the Great Britain eight that won gold on Sunday while Nash has taken time out this year to finish his university degree.

The hosts last weekend fielded two new pairs combinations, with the best finishers being the crew of Ertan Hazine and James Cook in fifth spot, over 23 seconds behind the Kiwis.

The year following an Olympics always witnesses a swag of changes to crews, as a new four-year cycle begins with the next Olympics the major goal. Rowing New Zealand also fielded a number of new crews at the first two World Cups this year, with outstanding performances coming from the men's doubles sculls (Michael Arms and Robbie Manson), the men's lightweight four and the women's pair (Kayla Pratt and Rebecca Scown).

But it appears no one overseas wants to take on Murray and Bond, whose victory on Sunday was their 14th conescutive at major regattas, setting an unofficial new world rowing mark for successive wins at the highest level. The duo haven't lost in an official pairs race since teaming up at the start of the 2009 season following the bitter disappointment of being part of the defending world champion four that failed to make the A final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The trend of ducking the pair was set last summer by the Great Britain duo of Peter Reed and Andrew Triggs Hodge.

That combination had some fierce battles trying to usurp the Kiwis - most notably in the 2010 world championship final at Lake Karapiro won by New Zealand by just 0.32 seconds - but never managed to beat them.

At the end of 2011, the duo - rated as the top two sweep oar rowers in Great Britain - made the switch to the GB eight and won gold at the Olympics eight months later.

Murray and Bond have a new coach this season, with Rowing New Zealand's men's sweep oar coach Noel Donaldson taking over the task from Dick Tonks.

The switch appears to be working as smoothly as the previous partnership, as the pair recorded quick time of 6:16.01 in blustery conditions.

"It was good but the water was very tricky," Murray told the World Rowing website.

"The strong tail wind knocked the balance off a bit which we didn't like very much. Overall the preparation was very good and a good stepping stone for the next event."

Waikato Times