West London rowers triumph at GB trials

West London-based rowers won three of the five major categories at GB Rowing’s long-distance trials in Boston, Lincolnshire, on Saturday – the first big step towards selection for the 2012 Olympics.

Six of the top seven men’s pairs featured members of Molesey Boat Club, with captain Andy Hodge leading the way in a boat put together at the last minute after regular partner Pete Reed pulled out through illness.

Hodge and Alex Partridge were 11 seconds faster than any rival over the 5km course, with a time of 17 minutes and three seconds.

Alan Campbell (pictured above), who comes from Coleraine but races for Tideway Scullers School in Chiswick, was similarly dominant in the single sculls, beating Leander Club’s Tom Solesbury by 12 seconds.

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

As expected, world bronze medallist Hosking won the women’s lightweight singles, with fellow London Rowing Club member Imogen Walsh third.

“I quite like coming here. I quite enjoy it.  I think it’s all about the bare bones of rowing,” she said.

“It’s about getting back to basics, taking away the glamour of the summer and just racing hard.”

Another London RC lightweight, Rob Williams, beat Olympic champion Mark Hunter in the men’s lightweight singles, finishing third in the category.

Molesey provided five of the world silver medallist Great Britain eight in Slovenia in September and three of them – Moe Sbihi, Greg Searle and Cameron Nichol – were in boats finishing in the top four.

Hudspith finished ninth in the pairs. (Photo: Martin Gough)

There was some surprise as another Molesey rower, former Cambridge University student George Nash, finished third overall with partner Constantine Louloudis – his rival in the Boat Race last March with whom he won world under-23 gold last season.

Searle – the 1992 Olympic champion who has made a comeback, aiming to win his second gold in London at the age of 40 – and partner Nichol were only 0.3 seconds behind them despite hitting a bush on the bank at one point.

There has been speculation that Hodge and Reed – Olympic champions in the four in Beijing in 2008 – could move back into that boat from the pair, where they have won world silver in each of the past three years.

But Hodge said: “We have more testing in January, February and then the senior trials in March so we won’t know for some time yet which boat we will be in next year.

“Everyone is fighting hard and wants to be the best they can be in the Olympic year.”

This year’s Oxford University president, Twickenham’s Karl Hudspith, finished ninth in the pairs with partner Alex Davidson – one of his rivals in last week’s Boat Races trials on the Thames.

A shoulder injury meant that Jessica Eddie, who still races in the colours of University of London, was a late withdrawal from the women’s openweight singles won by Anna Watkins.

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

Many of the GB senior squad live in west London and commute daily to the team’s headquarters in Caversham near Reading, but travelled to Boston because it offers 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.

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