Defending champions Great Britain won their men’s four heat today ©Igor Meijer/FISA

Defending champions Great Britain won their men’s four heat today to progress through to the semi-finals on the opening day of the European Rowing Championships in Czech village Račice.

The quartet of Matthew Tarrant, William Satch, Callum McBrierty and Mohamed Sbihi clocked a time of 5min 59.710sec to win heat three ahead of fellow qualifiers France and Romania.

The Netherlands triumphed in heat one in 5:57.090 as Spain and Germany took second and third place respectively.

Heat two, meanwhile, saw Italy claim victory in 5:59.730 followed by Russia in second and Czech Republic in third. 

Britain also performed strongly in the women’s single sculls with Victoria Thornley comfortably winning heat one to earn the sole direct passage to the final on Sunday (May 28).

Thornley posted a time of 7:42.230 to beat nearest challenger Lovisa Claesson of Sweden by 5.070sec.

Heat two was won by London 2012 Olympic silver medallist Fie Udby Erichsen, who finished in 7:40.850.

Belarus’ Ekaterina Karsten was 4.32sec behind the Dane in the runners-up spot.

Britain will also be represented in the women’s pair and women’s quadruple sculls finals on Sunday.

Karen Bennett and Holly Norton dominated heat one of the women’s pair with a time 7:26.420, while the quartet of Bethany Bryan, Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne, Jess Leyden and Holly Nixon came second to The Netherlands in heat one of the women’s quadruple sculls.

Denmark's Fie Udby Erichsen won her women's single sculls heat today ©Getty Images
Denmark's Fie Udby Erichsen won her women's single sculls heat today ©Getty Images

Denmark’s Hedvig Rasmussen won heat two of the women’s pair in 7:21.720 and it was Poland’s Agnieszka Kobus, Marta Wieliczko, Maria Springwald and Katarzyna Zillmann that beat France to victory in heat two of the women’s quadruple sculls in 6:34.480.

The biggest field at the regatta lined up for the men’s single sculls with the four heat winners advancing through to the semi-finals.

Serbia’s Marko Marjanovic won heat one with a European best time of 6:39.220, while Hugo Boucheron triumphed in heat two in 6:50.200.

Heat three went the way of home favourite Ondrej Synek in 6:55.270 before Rio 2016 Olympic silver medallist and reigning European champion Damir Martin of Croatia dominated heat four with a time of 6:55.720. 

Also making their mark today were Romania, who never dropped below 40 strokes per minute in heat one of the men’s eight and finished in a time of 5:42.960. 

Poland also reached Sunday’s final after coming second in 5:43.580.

Olympic champions Britain ended up fourth and will have to contest the repechage.

European champions and Rio 2016 silver medallists Germany won heat two in 5:47.550 with Russia second in 5:49.460.

More than 500 athletes from 34 nations are competing in Račice. 

Action is due to continue tomorrow.