Amongst the casualties of Saturday morning was Sean Drea, a dark, dour Irishman from County Carlow, now studying in Philadelphia. In the 1974 championships he had had to withdraw because of kidney trouble after appearing to have a lock on the gold. This time, 250 Irish fans had come to watch him in the single sculls, hoping for Ireland's first world rowing champion, but Drea faded in mid-course and came in second to West Germany's Peter-Michael Kolbe. A girl in a dripping yellow slicker embraced Drea tearfully, and a fan consoled him with the nation's special logic: "If you'd won today, you'd be in a more vulnerable position next July in Montreal, now wouldn't you, Sean?"
But for most fans, all these were sideshows. The eights were what they were waiting for, and early that morning Rosenberg had put his thoughts together on the prospects. "It's not like football, where you have a second half to come back," he said. "Here you have no second half. The East Germans are physically awesome. They never seem to have a drop-off, they row evenly all the way. If you take the lead they whittle away at you, they catch you when you're tired. And the Russians haven't shown what they've got. They're deceptive devils. They've never won a world title in this event, but they are very determined and sure. And disciplined, which is unlike what we have seen in the past. And the New Zealanders are as fast as hell. The Czechs, too. The Australians? I think we can beat the Australians. They aren't quick starters, though they're strong."
Rosenberg should be a betting man. By race time, or teatime, as they say in Nottingham, the sky had darkened though the north wind had dropped, and Rosenberg had slipped away after what turned out to have been his most noteworthy achievement. As he had named the teams, so they finished.
The magnificent East Germans took the lead at once and held it through the race. "After 200 meters, we commenced to dominate," said Herr Quolke, their coach, adding, more humanly, "I'm sorry. My legs are still shaking." New Zealand had gone forward early, too, but by 1,500 meters had dropped behind the Russians and the Czechs. The U.S. eight was never better than fourth, and in the second half of the race fell back to fifth. As Rosenberg had predicted, though, they beat the Australians. In the finish it was East Germany, with 5:39.01, over Russia, with the New Zealanders getting into third just ahead of the Czechs. America's time was 5:46.62.
Rosenberg walked back slowly. "He didn't expect this," somebody in the U.S. camp muttered. "Nobody did." The U.S.A. would not appear in the medals table for the first time in rowing history.
As the storm that had threatened all day burst over Holme Pierrepont and lightning competed with the fireworks display marking the end of the championships, there were few explanations or plans that Rosenberg could offer. "Our problem for Montreal now is time and training," he said. "I don't know if we have the time. I thought we might have got a place. Third, even second. There's Mexico in a month, the Pan-American Games. That might help...."
For Herr Quolke, the problem was different. Would the same East German eight row at Montreal? "We will have to see," he said, "whether this team or one of the two others that we have prepared will appear." It is the only problem he seems to have.