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Welsh Boat Race hopefuls battle it out on Thames; Siddorn invited to compete in British trial today ROWING.

Byline: NICK HARTLAND

THREE boat race hopefuls from North Wales who learnt to row on the Dee did their chances a world of good by winning dress rehearsals on the River Thames in London.

Ruth Siddorn and Emma Spruce helped Oxford set the fastest women's time in the 223-boat Quintin 8s Head of the River Race.

And the Cambridge president who is aiming to stop them in their tracks in next month's Women's Boat Race - Hannah Roberts from Hope in Flintshire - also tasted triumph, in two head-to-head clashes with a strong Oxford Brookes outfit.

And there could be a divide on the Dee if all three win seats in the Boat Race, with Oxford's Welsh duo both products of Royal Chester Rowing Club, while Cambridge's Roberts first picked up an oar at fierce rivals Grosvenor.

Spruce, from Higher Kinnerton, at bow, and Abbey Gate College product Siddorn, at four, helped the Dark Blues set the women's benchmark racing against the clock over three-fifths of the varsity course in the Quintin Head, from Hammersmith to Chiswick Bridge, covering the 2.5 miles in 13 minutes 28.1secs to take the elite women's title in 32nd overall.

Second fastest women's crew included Wales' triple Home Countries champion Helen Roberts, whose Molesey club boat took the women's senior crown in 13.49.3 for 49th overall, six seconds up on London University's elite class crew.

Welsh Rowing Academy product Rebecca Te Water Naude was in Oxford University's second crew, which finished another four seconds back to place second in the senior category in 55th overall. Roberts' Light Blues turned in a confidenceboosting performance when they took to a stormtossed Tideway against Oxford Brookes.

Cambridge drew the Surrey station for the first of two races from the Putney Boat Race start, but Brookes showed first grabbing a couple of seats along the Embankment, and moving out to a third of a length on the inside of the first Middlesex bend.

Roberts' crew moved back as the river straightened and the crews hit flatter water past the Mile Post, drawing level at Harrods depository after seven minutes' racing and quickly grabbing a length's lead before the finish at Hammersmith Bridge.

The second race began at the end of Chiswick Eyot, with Brookes on the inside Surrey station, and there was still only a seat between them at the Bandstand, where the river began to turn Cambridge's way.

And it was the Light Blues who fared better in the choppy water, drawing out to a half-length lead at Barnes Bridge, where the crews clashed, before the 20-year-old Welsh rower's boat pulled away to a con-fidence-boosting 3L win at Chiswick Bridge.

Oxford chemistry student Siddorn, 19, has been invited to race against GB's Olympic gold medal stars Katherine Grainger, Anna Watkins, Helen Glover, Heather Stanning and Kat Copeland, plus Wales' world medal stars Vicky Thornley from Holt near Wrexham and Becca Chin from Deganwy near Llandudno in today's British trials in Boston.

GB rower Oxford crewmate Spruce, a former pupil at Castell Alun High School, represented Wales in 2012 at the Home Countries Regatta on Cardiff Bay, and with the four-nation event returning there in July, Welsh rowing bosses are hopeful of getting the varsity trio on board this time. Spruce certainly packs plenty of experience, landing European Universities silver for GB in Moscow in 2011, and helping the prestigious Leander Club take the club prize at last year's Women's Eights Head on the reverse Boat Race course, the biggest only-female race in the world, which attracts 300 crews.

The 71st Cancer Research UK Women's Boat Race will this year be held along with the men's Boat Race on the full Tideway course for only the second year, following last year's historic Oxford victory by 6.5 lengths.

Becca Chin Cambridge sciences student Roberts, who learnt to row while studying at Queen's Chester, will be looking to halt a recent tide of Oxford wins when the crews come under starter's orders on Sunday, March 27.

CAPTION(S):

GB rower Becca Chin

Hannah Roberts, second from right rowing, in action during the Cancer Research UK Boat Race Trial between Cambridge University and Oxford Brookes
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 13, 2016
Words:696
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