Coupe De La Jeunesse 2019

The 35th Coupe De La Jeunesse in Corgeno, Italy again proved successful for the Team GB Juniors, coming second in both the men’s events and the overall ranking. Hosted by Canottieri Corgeno on the shores of Lake Comabbio with an army of pink-shirted volunteers, the 3-day regatta was smoothly ran, and brilliantly organised, a real credit to the organising committee.

The event started on the Friday with Women’s eight; this race was a straight final with the girls coming third, losing out to the Netherlands by less than a second and securing our first medal for the regatta. This crew was comprised of members of the women’s coxed four, pair and quad. Friday was also the opening ceremony, with the Union Jack being carried by the cox of the coxed four and coupe returner Jack Tottem, accompanied by single sculler Izzy Lack. The short day then ended with some last paddles for racing crews ahead of Saturday’s busy schedule.

The format of Coupe De La Jeunesse is quite simple. On the Saturday, every single boat category (except the Women’s eight) completes 1 round of heats in the morning to sort the crews into their respective finals in the afternoon. Medals are awarded and flags are raised by the podium, and then the cycle repeats with exactly the same on Sunday, giving athletes two chances to get on the podium over the weekend. This can provide some very interesting results on the Sunday given some crews may be resting on their laurels, and some may be that much more desperate for a medal.

Great Britain had fourteen crews racing, and kicked off with the Men’s coxed four. Eager to get back on the podium, Jack Tottem commanded his crew of George Thompson, Emil Ghattas, Ben Brockway and Dominic Newton to a great win over France, Italy and The Netherlands in their straight final to collect GB’s first gold of the regatta. The following day saw them return to the podium with a silver medal in a nail-biting race which saw France edge out by 0.2 seconds.

Ned Rae-Smith, Alex Senior, Arnav Sawhney and Seb Hjortland-Marks collected GB’s first silver medal with a comfortable third in their heat preceding their A final. After the Netherlands went out hard and paid the price at the 1k, it was between Italy and GB for the gold medal. Level with 500m to go, the Italians did what Italians do best and jacked the rate to above 40, spectacularly taking a length and leaving GB with the Silver. Doing the opposite of what the coxed four did, their silver turned to gold as they successfully held off a Czech charge.

The pair of Dom Valt and George Langstone-Bolt had a harder time in their semi. Down off the start the two of them had the one of the fastest second thousand of all the pairs, however their fourth place left them in the B final. Sunday saw them in exactly the same position, coming third in the B final. 

Paul Phillips from Manchester was chosen to race the single, but his strong start on Saturday unfortunately didn’t last as he finished fourth in his heat and thus was left in the B Final. Leading from the front all the way he won the B Final. Paul edged his way into the A Final on Sunday, but was left in fifth place. 

Men’s double sculls is one of the busiest events at the regatta, and the Lea RC duo of Luca Ferraro and Louis Powell used their experience together and finished a strong second. Their A Final had some of the closest margins of the day, and with Italy and The Netherlands five seconds ahead it was a tight battle between these two and Switzerland for bronze. At halfway the Swiss had almost two seconds on the Lea rowers, and despite closing this gap to only half a second by the finish, it was another fourth place for Team GB. The double had a similar result the following day, finishing fifth in the A final.

The men’s quad certainly had a great start to their day – a win in their heat just a canvas ahead of the Italians would put a smile on anyone’s face. However, their lightning start in the semi wasn’t replicated in their Saturday final as their plan of leaving more for the finish left them with a Bronze medal – an amazing achievement, but they felt there was more to come.  They went out strong, and while everybody’s attention was on France and Spain battling it out in first and second, the brits dispatched of yesterday’s rivals, the Irish, and finished with a more comfortable bronze – a great row. 

Being the spare for any team has a tough entry requirement – you must be able to row on both sides (and scull) to a high enough standard as all of your teammates, and some people can only row one side sweep! The GB spare was Stephen Hughes, and in the men’s spares race he won by the closest margin of the regatta: 0.03 seconds ahead of France’s Alistair Gicqueau. Whoever says the spares race is never fun clearly didn’t watch this unfold. Sunday wasn’t as exciting, Stephen still won the singles by a seven second margin, but (unsurprisingly) lost out to the Italian spare pair.

Without a doubt the most unpredictable race of the day was Izzy Lack’s first heat on Saturday. There are many, many reasons why rowers may not perform their best on race day: nerves, an unfamiliar race plan, bad gearing on the boat or blades etc… Izzy suffered from none of these, as instead her gate decided to fall off around the 1250m mark. Izzy said her start was lightning fast, so maybe there were simply too many watts for the boat. This meant that Izzy had to be rescued and was by default placed in the B Final, which she cruised through for an easy win by 10 seconds. She then made the A Final as predicted on Sunday, where her huge sprint at the finish certainly got the Italian sculler ahead of her nervous, however it wasn’t enough to vie for a medal.

Anna Buchanan and Zoe-Zara Scheske in the Women’s Double had a tough time in the extremely competitive women’s doubles category, and with a time that would’ve placed them second in a different heat they came fourth and so were entered into the B Final. Another tough row in the busy field, they came back from fifth at halfway, rowing through Poland and Austria to do so, and finished third. Sunday was a repeat of this, however an Italian sprint edged them into fourth by just half a second.

Fresh off a bronze medal the day before in the eight, the women’s quad of Avril Walters, Lily Abbott, Phoebe Hayden and Emily Keen switched one stick for two and came third again in their first heat, securing an A Final place. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, and they finished sixth to an incredibly strong field, a result they repeated the following day. 

Alice Patton and Selena Jones clearly weren’t satisfied with their bronze the day before and had a blisteringly quick heat in their pair, only 0.7s off France. I would say that moving through France in their final would have felt good, but they didn’t need to – they led from the front the entire race and finished with a gold medal on the podium, a clear 3 seconds ahead of second and 5 from third. This was also GB’s first gold in the women’s events. Sunday saw them lead at halfway, but the Spanish just caught them with 250 to go, and capitalised to take the gold, with Alice and Selena taking silver a good length ahead of France. 

The women’s spare Evelyna Davies may not walk away with a win in the women’s spares race like Stephen Hughes, as she came fourth behind two singles and a pair, but her bronze medal in the eight will more than make up for this I’m sure. Her second spares race saw her as the second fastest single, losing out to a Dutch girl who wouldn’t have been out of place in the singles A final, and a French pair.

The rest of the women’s sweep team were placed into a coxless four, and on Saturday they successfully defended a French charge to finish third in their head and slip into their A Final. Despite being down at halfway the girls fought hard and overtook the Czech Republic to finish fourth behind two lightning fast Italian and Dutch crews. They failed to repeat this the following day, and finished sixth in the field. 

The men’s eight has been the standout crew of the coupe in terms of winning margins, literally cruising through their head ten seconds ahead of Hungary for their A Final where they would meet their two rivals Italy and Switzerland, who both posted considerably faster times in their heat. They gave the talk, and they walked the walk as they got out, led by 3 seconds at halfway and held it right through to the finish, giving us GB’s fifth medal and third gold of the Saturday. On Sunday, it seemed that there were many different race plans to the previous day. France went out huge with a two second lead on the field at halfway, with Switzerland trying to do the same but paying the price halfway in with a big drop in speed. It looked like the Italians were going to be France’s main competitors, but GB walked past at the 4-minute mark, and they simply had too much water to gain with too little time. An extra 112 meters would’ve been interesting… but alas, a final verdict of half a length closed off an incredible Coupe De La Jeunesse. Next year is being held in Linz, Austria, and we will as ever be there to document and support Team GB.

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