New Zealand's fleet of Olympic rowing crews will be out in action for the first time in 2012 this weekend, when all boats race at the second of the FISA World Cup regattas in Lucerne, Switzerland.
The weekend will be new territory for the men's pair triple world champions of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray. With the British number one boat of Triggs-Hodge and Reed now disbanded and the two best athletes in the GB team now placed in a four, the Kiwis will be looking to the field to see who will step up to challenge them. They are not expecting an easy ride this weekend and have had an excellent build up to their first international appearance of the year.
Five-time world single sculling champion Mah Drysdale also begins the final countdown to London this weekend, and will be keen to go well - though the wily sculler will be more than happy to be simply on the pace as all of his focus is on the Olympics.
Fellow world champions Juliette Haigh and Rebecca Scown, Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan and 2009 world champs Storm Uru and Peter Taylor have all had build-ups to the regatta that have been relatively trouble free compared to recent years and all are looking forward to blowing away the international cob webs. Watch out too for the two women's double sculls. Fi Paterson and Anna Reymer took a bronze medal at the world championships last season, and are determined to carry on their impressive rate of improvement. Dark horses for the weekend are the women's lightweight double scull of Julia Edward and Louise Ayling after some impressive prognostic times in training and testing.
Also racing will be the men's and women's quad sculls and the mens four, which will be looking for a significant hike in performance after a relatively low key 2012 debut at the first World Cup regatta in Belgrade. Emma Twigg will also be aiming to step up as the season builds towards the Olympics. She won Lucerne last year in some style and is now an acknowledged front runner in the women's single sculls. Could 2012 be her year?
Big things are expected from all of the qualified boats that make up the New Zealand rowing team - and all will be eager to get the highly rated squad back into its winning ways after the disappointment of the lightweight four and eight failing to make the Olympic cut mid-week.
You can follow the regatta and the performances of the New Zealand crews at www.worldrowing.com or catch highlights on Sky TV on SkySport 3 on Sunday evening - but do check on-screen listings for exact broadcast details.