The hot temperatures on the Lago di Varese brought spicy racing on finals day of the 2024 World Rowing Cup I, with the Netherlands and Great Britain winning the bulk of the gold medals on offer.

Clevering and Meester in control

The women’s pair final was won by Dutch world champions Ymkje Clevering and Veronique Meester with a strong row. Although Ireland’s Fiona Murtagh and Aifric Keogh were the fastest starters, the Netherlands were into the lead by 500m and held that lead until the finish. Behind them, it was a race for silver and bronze. Great Britain were initially in second place before Denmark came through in the second 500m, but on the outside Ireland were charging and they had come into silver-medal position by the 1500m mark. The Dutch were able to hold off the Irish charge, while Hedvig Rasmussen and Fie Udby Erichsen of Denmark won bronze.

Clevering said: “You really notice that it’s Olympic year and everybody’s sharp, and you see some unpredictable results. We’re just really happy that we could win here today.”


Britain take win in men’s pair

The Danish Olympic bronze medallists, Frederic Vystavel and Joachim Sutton, have not had the best Olympiad so far – failing to qualify their boat for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games at last year’s World Rowing Championships. It was clear they had a point to prove in the final of the men’s pair and they charged out of the blocks from lane 6. However, former world champions Great Britain and reigning world champions Switzerland were not content to let the Danes have the race all their own way, and through the middle it was Britain’s Tom George and Ollie Wynne-Griffith who took on the charge, bringing Andrin Gulich and Roman Roeoesli with them. Denmark could not cope with the British pace and at the finish it was Great Britain in front, just over half a second ahead of Switzerland, with the Danes in third. Olympic champions Martin and Valent Sinkovic of Croatia were fourth.

George said: “We’re not back on top yet. The Europeans in two weeks’ time, that’s the big one for us for now before the Olympics. This is the stepping stone. Preparation hasn’t been amazing, so to have a positive weekend like this and learn a lot is important.”

Result: GBR1, SUI, DEN, CRO, GBR2, ITA1

New Dutch combination starts out strong

 Germany’s Frauke Hundeling and Sarah Wibberenz had a blinding start in the women’s double sculls, catching the rest of the field by surprise. But Dutch duo Lisa Scheenaard and Martine Veldhuis had a better mid-race pace, moving into first by the 1000m mark and extending their lead through the third quarter. Behind them, it was Norway’s Thea Helseth and Jenny Marie Rorvik who led the battle for silver and bronze, keeping in contact with the Netherlands and putting on a charge that had taken them through Germany by 1500m. The Germans just had enough in the tank to hold on to bronze, with Italy in fourth.

Scheenaard said: “This is our first regatta ever together, so we have to get to know each other and our pacing. In the preliminary race we went off like crazy and the pacing was a little bit difficult to find a nice rhythm. Now I think we turned around a little bit. Still a fast start but then nice pacing as well, and really aggressive on the field and take charge. It was comfortable even though we were hurting pretty badly.”


Netherlands win another sculling gold

At last year’s World Rowing Championships Stefan Broenink and Melvin Twellaar won gold by over three seconds, with Croatia second and Ireland third. In Varese, Broenink and Twellaar’s winning streak continued – but the field was much tighter. Local heroes Luca Rambaldi and Matteo Sartori led out the race and the Dutch had to work hard to take the lead – only doing so in the third 500m. Those positions remained the same until the line. Meanwhile the Irish, Daire Lynch and Philip Doyle, found themselves in a battle for bronze with Germany, eventually prevailing by 0.16 seconds.

Twellaar said: “To be honest the first race was a bit rusty because we had the idea that we could pick up where we stopped last year. That was not the case, so we need to rebuild and improve every race. I think we did that in the final, so that gives me confidence for the rest of the season.”

Result: NED, ITA, IRL, GER, NOR2, AUS1

Grant and Craig remain dominant

There was no doubt about the winners of the lightweight women’s double sculls, with British world champions Emily Craig and Imogen Grant continuing their unbeaten streak with a win that was only five seconds off their own world best time, set in Varese last year. Behind them, drama unfolded. Canada caught a crab off the start of the race, and were unable to get back into contention, leaving Australia to lead the charge for the minor medals. Italy’s Olympic champions, Valentina Rodini and Federica Cesarini, have been slowly building back up but face a selection challenge from their teammates Stefania Buttignon and Silvia Crosio – and that proved the story of the race. While Rodini and Cesarini moved through Australia into silver medal position Buttignon and Crosio were also charging on the outside, with each stroke into the finish changing the position of the two Italian boats. After a photofinish, Rodini and Cesarini won silver, 0.02 seconds ahead of Buttignon and Crosio, posing challenges for the Italian selectors ahead of the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta.

Grant said: “There’s still unknowns in races. The Canadians – I don’t quite know what happened off the start, but something like that can really throw a race so I’m really proud that we didn’t let it shake our rhythm and just kept doing what we planned to do.”

Result: GBR, ITA1, ITA2, AUS, CAN, SUI

Italy outsprints Switzerland

In Belgrade last year, Switzerland’s Jan Schaeuble and Raphael Ahumada Ireland won silver by just under 0.4 seconds ahead of Italy’s Stefano Oppo and Gabriel Soares. For much of the final in Varese, it looked like the Swiss would best the Italians once more – but Oppo and Soares had other ideas. Sitting third at the 500m mark, they moved through to second by halfway and then turned on the burners at 1500m. Schaeuble and Ahumada Ireland did not have the answer to that power, and the perfectly timed Italian sprint took them through to secure a 0.4 second victory. Norway’s Lars Benske and Ask Jarl Tjoem won bronze, after their sprint finish held off Italy 2 by 0.02 seconds.

Oppo said: “We want this victory, we try all during the race. The Swiss moved too fast at the start, but we stayed soft and then tried all the last 500.”

Result: ITA1, SUI, NOR, ITA2, GER2, GER1

Gold and silver for GB

With three boats in the final, a medal for Great Britain was always likely in the women’s four. And it was Great Britain 1 which set the pace, leading out early on and stretching out in the middle of the race. In their wake were Great Britain 2, followed in the early stages by Ireland and Great Britain 3. But the Dutch are reigning world champions in this event and were determined not to let the British have things all their own way; they were third by 500m and despite a battle with Great Britain 3 next to them, had more power in the second half that took them close to the second British boat, but never through. At the finish, gold for Great Britain 1 is the first win in this event since they won the 2022 World Rowing Championships, and the first gold for Helen Glover in the two-time Olympic pairs champion’s comeback from retirement.

Samantha Redgrave of GBR 1 said: “We’ve been doing well in training and obviously today was a good row. We have got that little bit of magic gel together which is really nice to have this early on. There’s still more to come, I’m sure, we’ve got a big training block after Europeans and after the next World Cup.”

Result: GBR1, GBR2, NED, IRL, DEN, GBR3

Italian sprint proves devastating for GB

In the heat on Friday, Italy 1 led out the race and surprised the British world champions with a one-second victory. Great Britain seemed determined not to let that happen again in the final, and by the 1000m mark had stretched out a two-second lead over the field. However, Italy are known for their ability to sprint, and the Italian four pushed into the 1500m mark, upping their rate and closing the gap on the British. The world champions were simply unable to respond, and Italy’s bows surged across the line for a good victory which suggests they are preparing to peak for the Final Olympic Qualification Regatta next month. Meanwhile the Netherlands rowed a composed race to win bronze from lane 6.

Italy’s Nicholas Kohl said: “Great Britain was faster in the middle 1000m but in the first few races of the season we work on our last 500 and implementing speed. It was also to get a gap from third and fourth place. Then in the last 150 metres we saw that we were walking on them pretty fast, and we just put an extra gear and were able to pass them right on the line.”


Ukraine on fire in women’s quads

Ukraine just missed out on a women’s quadruple sculls place at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games at the 2023 World Rowing Championships, but this year – having shuffled the seating order in their boat – they seem to be on fire. They won the preliminary race and in Sunday’s final showed that was no one-off. The Ukrainians tracked Germany’s fast start and were soon ahead, with no other boat able to stay in touch. Behind them, it was a four-boat race with only Italy dropping off the back. The Dutch had the better closing quarter of the chasing pack, and took silver, while Germany were able to hold on for bronze despite having had to make a late replacement with Lisa Gutfleisch stepping in after stroke Tabea Schendekehl was ruled out for medical reasons. World champions Great Britain were fourth, but just over a second separated them from the Netherlands.

Ukraine’s Nataliia Dovgodko said: “We were a long time out of our country, we spent three months on camp in Spain, we had some competitions there. Today it was the first start for us as a team. We think about each other in our boat, and we gathered, and we wanted to win this race and go all year in successful races for our country.”


Dutchmen still flying

The question of whether anyone can catch the Dutch world men’s quadruple sculls champions this year remains open after the quartet secured another win in Varese. However, the race did not go all their own way as Great Britain’s rejigged crew led out early on. The Dutch had to work hard to get their bows in front, and then keep the pressure on through the rest of the race. Behind them it was a battle between Italy and Great Britain, but for the first time in the regatta, it was the British sprint that proved stronger and they crossed the line just ahead for silver.

The Netherlands’ Lennart van Lierop said: “For our confidence and also to put a marker down for the other countries it’s really good to take a win and have a good row. Also some learning points of course, but the Olympics are still far away. You have to be happy with every win you take.”


Italy prevail over doubled-up Brits

On paper Great Britain were clear favourites for gold in the women’s eight, but Italy 1, a project designed to go for Olympic qualification, shot out of the blocks and had taken a one-second lead by the 500m mark. Britain responded with the rest of the field falling behind, but with less than an hour separating the women’s four final, in which all eight members of the crew had raced, from the women’s eights final, tired legs showed in the closing stages and Italy claimed victory. Romania won bronze, more than six seconds behind the winners. Italy’s four-seat Aisha Rocek joins her brother Patrick, the lightweight men’s single sculls winner on Saturday, with Varese gold.

Rocek said: “We were so excited to race, and from the warm-up we were really focused on us, also at the start we didn’t think about other crews. We did a solid start, very energetic start and then every call that the coxswain made we were able to reply with a lot of energy. We were at the end a little tired, but we maintained the form.”

Result: ITA1, GBR, ROU, GER, ITA2, DEN

Another gold for Zeidler

German world champion Oliver Zeidler looks untouchable in the men’s single sculls right now, and he cruised to victory in Varese. World silver medallist Simon van Dorp was clearly ahead of the rest of the field, but the Dutchman could not catch Zeidler who took a victory of almost three seconds, controlling the end of the race. However, the fight for bronze was superb. Croatian Damir Martin looked good early on but faded badly in the second half as first Tim Brys of Belgium, then Italy’s Davide Mumolo, moved into third place. Britain’s George Bourne, the least experienced in this boat class of the six finalists, found a burst of speed too in the last 500m – just not quite enough to overhaul Mumolo for bronze.

Zeidler said: “You need to be a bit flexible. For example today I really expected Damir to chase me down the course and then I went to copy him a little bit in the third 500. But then I had to change my race because Simon was a lot faster than yesterday and he had a very strong performance as well today.”


Florijn’s reign continues

Karolien Florijn has ruled the women’s single sculls in the past two seasons and her dominance looks set to continue. She was comfortably ahead of the field in the final, with a lead of a length by the 500m mark that she just extended. Germany’s Alexandra Foester, under-23 champion in 2022, won silver in a good comeback from a poor performance in the heats, while Norway’s Inger Seim Kavlie secured bronze – her first-ever international senior medal, at the age of 30 – a couple of seconds further back.

Florijn said: “It’s very nice, it’s good for your confidence. Every time you have prove again what you are worth, and everybody tries to win too, so every time you have to push quite hard. I’m very happy that here in the first World Cup I arrived to win again.”

Result: NED, GER1, NOR, GER2, IRL, ESP

Great British eight out in front again

Great Britain have the same nine men in their eight this season as last season, and they picked up right where they left off with another victory over the Netherlands in the men’s eight. The British had a good start and were soon ahead, extending the lead to around a length by halfway. Although the Dutch never lost contact and raised their rate earlier than the British in a bid to challenge in the last 500m, the world champions had done enough to take gold with the Dutch second again. Germany won bronze.

Great Britain’s Sholto Carnegie said: “It’s good to be back racing again. It’s been a long winter without any racing, so it’s about putting together the pieces and figuring out our best race, and each time we go out to race learning a bit more about ourselves. We’re happy, it’s a good starting point, but it’s a baseline and we need to be ready.”