Rowing legend Mahe Drysdale led the way from New Zealand as the World Championships opened ©Rowing NZ

Some of the biggest names were to the fore today as the World Rowing Championships opened with the heats Aiguebelette, with New Zealand leading the way with five victories, including for London 2012 Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale.

The 36-year-old single sculler, chasing a sixth world title but a first since 2011, continued his superb form this season, dominating his heat in 6min 49.05sec to comfortably overcome dogged Mexican rival Juan Carlos Cabrera.

Czech Republic's defending champion Ondrej Synek edged out Dani Fridman of Israel to win his opening race, while other winners included Britain's Olympic bronze medallist Alan Campbell, European champion Damir Martin of Croatia and last year's world silver medallist Angel Fournier Rodriguez of Cuba.

Drysdale's compatriots Hamish Bond and Eric Murray have been utterly dominant in recent years and are chasing their ninth successive global crown this week.

They cruised home over six seconds ahead of Spain in the coxless pairs event in a time of 6:30.21.

Female single sculler Fiona Bourke, competing in place of absent 2014 winner Emma Twigg, won her single sculls opener.

Defending women's lightweight double scull champions Julia Edward and Sophie MacKenzie were narrowly edged out by Danish rivals Juliane Rasmussen and Anne Lolk Thomsen.

Picturesque conditions greeted the world's best rowers as the biggest event of the year opened
Picturesque conditions greeted the world's best rowers as the biggest event of the year opened ©Getty Images

Britain was another country to enjoy a strong start with Olympic champion Helen Glover and Heather Stanning extending their four-year unbeaten streak with a comfortable victory over South Africa in their double sculls head.

Other heats were won by Dutch duo Elisabeth Hogerwerf and Olivia van Rooijen, United States' Felice Mueller and Eleanor Logan and Grace Prendergast and Kerri Gowler of New Zealand. 

Britain's James Foad and Matt Langridge brushed off Romania in the second half of their men’s pair heat to win, while Imogen Walsh completely controlled her lightweight women’s single scull heat as Will Fletcher and Richard Chambers - the latter a London 2012 silver medallist in the lightweight men’s four - won in the lightweight double sculls.

Italy, Canada, Australia and the US were the four heat winners in the coxless four, while crews from Australia, Poland, Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany and Lithuania made it through in the quad sculls.

A record 1,300 athletes from 77 countries are competing in France with action due to continue until September 6. 

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