Ireland had an excellent start to the World Cup Regatta in Lucerne on Friday. Six of the seven crews qualified directly from their heats, with Sanita Puspure and Paul O’Donovan and Gary O’Donovan winning theirs.
The first heat of the lightweight double sculls was an exciting race. There were just two semi-final places on offer and the O’Donovans set down an early marker by taking the lead from the start. They held a small margin over closest rivals Poland at halfway. Then the race got interesting. Poland took over the lead – and Austria came with them. The three boats were together in the final quarter, before Ireland moved decisively.
Poland missed out and must go to a repechage, a very satisfactory outcome for the Ireland lightweight double, who were beaten by Poland in the first World Cup in Belgrade.
Puspure won her heat of the single sculls in majestic fashion. Only the winner qualified directly for the semi-finals, and Puspure took the lead early and kept building it against her one dangerous rival, Kara Kohler of the United States. The American got the message and eased off in the final quarter. Puspure won by 14 seconds – and still set the fastest time of the 22 scullers in the four heats.
Two Ireland pairs qualified for the quarter-finals. Shane O’Driscoll and Mark O’Donovan took second in their heat. One of the four boats would not qualify, and it was not going to be Croatia – the Sinkovic brothers won the race with a start-to-finish show. Australia and Brazil battled for the next two places with Ireland, but O’Donovan and O’Driscoll moved into a clear second place and held it to the end.
Ireland Two, Patrick Boomer and Andy Harrington, showed good pace and race management to finish third in their heat and take a quarter-final place. With just one boat missing out, the key battle was at the back of the field, and Ireland judged it well, producing the fastest final quarter of the five boats and taking out Croatia and fast-fading China at the end.
The double of Monika Dukarska and Aileen Crowley finished second to the dominant US crew of Meghan O’Leary and Ellen Tomek. Through early and middle stages Ireland were securely in the top two, but China produced a blistering finish and finished under half a second behind them.
Philip Doyle did well in his first outing for Ireland at this level. He actually led Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale through 500 metres of the single sculls. Even when Drysdale took over, the Ulster man did not lose touch. He finished third, a comfortable qualifier for the quarter-finals.
Aifric Keogh and Tara Hanlon, a new pair, finished sixth in their heat and will compete in a repechage.
Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll produced the goods in the pairs quarter-final. They raced well and took second behind France One to secure their place in the A/B Semi-Final - guaranteeing a top-12 place for the former lightweights.
Patrick Boomer and Andy Harrington finished sixth and fall out of the running for an A or B Final.
World Cup Regatta, Lucerne, Day One (Irish interest; selected results)
Pair - Heat Two (First Four to Quarter-Final; rest to Quarter-Final or E Final): 1 Spain 6:40.29; 3 Ireland Two (P Boomer, P Harrington) 6:45.74
Heat Six (First Three to Quarter-Final; rest to Quarter-Final or E Final): 1 Croatia 6:37.66, 2 Ireland One (M O’Donovan, S O’Driscoll) 6:40.95.
Lightweight Double Sculls- Heat One (First two to A/B Semi-Finals; rest to Repechage): 1 Ireland (G O’Donovan, P O’Donovan) 6:17.43, 2 Austria 6:17.79; 3 Poland 6:17.91.
Single Sculls - Heat One (First Four to Quarter-Final; rest to Quarter-Final or E Final): 1 New Zealand (M Drysdale) 6:52.98; 3 Ireland (P Doyle) 6:55.18.
Pair- Heat Two (First to A Final; rest to Repechage): 1 Canada 7:13.98; 6 Ireland (A Keogh, T Hanlon) 7:32.49.
Double Sculls- Heat Two (First Three to A/B Semi-Finals; rest to Repechages): 1 United States 6:58.58, 2 Ireland (A Crowley, M Dukarska) 7:03.05.
Single Sculls- Heat One (First to A/B Semi-Final; rest to Repechages): 1 Ireland (S Puspure) 7:26.51; 2 United States 7:40.98.