West London rowers set for GB trials

West London-based rowers are among the favourites at GB Rowing’s long-distance trials in Boston, Lincolnshire, on Saturday – the first big step towards selection for the 2012 Olympics.

Chiswick duo Andy Hodge and Pete Reed – the Olympic champions in the four, who have won world silver medals together in the pair in each of the last three years – were expected to be the pick of the pairs field but Reed pulled out on Friday morning, leaving Hodge to race in a new pairing with veteran Alex Partridge.

Hodge’s Molesey Boat Club, who provided five of the world silver medallist Great Britain eight in Slovenia in September, are likely to shine in the men’s pairs, with rowers in three other leading boats.

Greg Searle – the 1992 Olympic champion who is aiming to win his second gold in London at the age of 40 – is one of them, partnered by club-mate Cameron Nichol.

Alan Campbell, racing for Tideway Scullers School in Chiswick, will be confident of success in the men’s singles as his closest rival Matt Wells is also unavailable.

And Sophie Hosking looks the pick of the lightweight women’s singles field, many of whom train alongside her at London Rowing Club in Putney.

London RC’s Rob Williams is likely to be the closest challenger to Olympic champ Mark Hunter in the men’s lightweight singles as Hunter’s doubles partner Zac Purchase is recovering from illness.

Despite forecasts of high winds over the weekend, GB Rowing performance director David Tanner took the decision on Wednesday to go ahead with the event, which was cancelled because of bad weather in 2009 and last year.

“Boston always provides a challenging test for the rowers.  All the ‘greats’ of our sport like Sir Matt Pinsent, Sir Steve Redgrave and James Cracknell have been through the process,” said Tanner.

“They all know how valuable it is, not only to gauge winter training but to provide a route into the squad for any serious challenger”.

The Great Britain women’s eight, who won world bronze in September, will compete against each other in single sculls in Lincolnshire.

Jessica Eddie, who still races in the colours of University of London, will be one of the ones to watch in a field likely to be dominated by world double sculls champions Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins.

University of London and Imperial College both field large numbers of entrants in the student and under-23 categories of the trials.

The world under-23 pairs champions, former Cambridge University student George Nash and Constantine Louloudis, his Oxford rival in the Boat Race last March, are reunited for the trial.

This year’s Oxford University president Karl Hudspith, who grew up in Twickenham, has been paired up with Alex Davidson, one of his rivals in this week’s Boat Races trials on the Thames.

Many of the GB senior squad live in West London and commute daily to the team’s headquarters in Caversham near Reading but they will make the trip north to Boston because the venue boasts some of the best conditions in the country for a 5km trial.

This is the first major step in a series of tests, which culminate in trials on the Olympic course, Dorney Lake near Windsor, on March 10 and 11.

The crews that are announced in April for the start of the World Cup series are likely to stay together until the Olympic regatta, which starts on 28 July.

Follow Martin Gough on Twitter