Most commentators appeared surprised that the 4- could only manage 8th. Britain's rowers suffer sinking feeling I would echo Sir Steven Redgrave’s comment on TV ‘Why did they start?’ But not for the reason Redgrave offered; that there is no point staring with a crew with 2 subs and little chance of winning.
I see a missed opportunity in the other crews in the sweep team.
The 8+ has been producing steady results of late with Bronzes at the ’07 world’s and the 1st world Cup this year. With the decision to put all the top athletes who weren’t in the 4- into the 8+ the team signalled an intention to strengthen the big boat rather than chase 3 medals this year. Logical enough, though maybe un-ambitious for a rowing nation as strong as GB.
At Munich Tom James was replaced by Tom Lucy from one of the 2-‘s thus leaving the 8+ to get a good measure of its speed. At Luzern however with the removal of Smith from the 8+ to the 4- and Lucy still in the 4-, neither crew was able to learn much about their true position and ranking. Would it not have been better to race the desired 8+ and 2- and get some hard data? Luzern is clearly the fairest and best course on which to test a crew against the opposition.
The decision reminds me of the situation last year at Amsterdam where the 4- were put in a super 8+ that duly went fast but provided little useful information. The team had spoken all year of trying Hodge and Reed in the 2- to see if they really were as quick as a series of GB trials wins had suggested. If instead Hodge and Reed had raced the 2- this would have allowed for a decision on what boat to put the top pairing into to be made on the basis of performances on the international stage. As it is we still don’t know how they would go against the likes of Ginn and Free.
Now the sweep group must go to the final World Cup in Poznan with neither the 4-, nor the 2- crews having had any chance to race in their selected line-ups, and with the 8 only having had one race. This is not a good situation to be in a few weeks out from the Olympics. If the 8+ and 2- had started in their proper line-ups at Luzern then the team would have had a chance to adjust where necessary and to gain valuable extra race practice at Poznan. As it is they are going in to the last regatta before Beijing still in experimental mode.