Tom James and Alex Gregory claim semi-final victory

Alex Gregory
Gregory formed an effective partnership with the returning James

Olympic men's four champion Tom James made a winning return as he partnered Alex Gregory to a men's pair semi-final victory at the GB Rowing senior trials.

James had been away from rowing for more than two years, having taken a sabbatical after the Beijing Olympics and then been injured for most of 2010.

The trials take place on the Olympic course at Eton-Dorney and are seen as key preparation for next year's Games.

Andrew Triggs Hodge and Pete Reed will be among the opposition the final.

Triggs Hodge and Reed, the reigning world silver medallists and crew-mates of James in Beijing, have won this event as a pair on five occasions and set a faster time in winning their semi-final.

"We were confident going into the semi-final and we can make a big step up on Sunday," said Reed.

Cameron Nichol and Greg Searle, a new pairing at these trials, were second behind Reed and Hodge in a controlled performance which saw them come through strongly in the second half of the course.

Constantine Louloudis and George Nash, an Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race combination, also made their mark on the men's pair by taking second place behind James and Gregory.

Only two seconds separated the top six crews across the men's semi-finals.

In the lightweight men's single scull semi-finals, world lightweight men's four champion Paul Mattick missed out on a place in the final when he came fourth.

Four reigning world champions from the UK featured in the race, which was won by Zac Purchase, while Olympic champion Mark Hunter was beaten into third place by Maidenhead's Rob Williams.

Coleraine's Richard Chambers and his younger brother Peter both qualified from the opposing semi-final, which was won by Adam Freeman-Pask, who was locked in close battle with the elder Chamber throughout the race.

In the women's single scull semi-finals there were victories for Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins.

The duo are world champions in the double scull and were named "World Crew of the Year" for their efforts at World Cup and World Championships level last year.

Annie Vernon and Mel Wilson contested a tight race behind Grainger in the first of the two semis with world women's quad champion Vernon coming out best to take second.

Vicky Thornley, part of the GB women's eight in 2010, underlined her growing stature by taking third place behind Watkins and world women's quad champion Beth Rodford in the other semi-final.

Thornley's qualification squeezed out world champion Debbie Flood into the B final.

The BBC will have live coverage of the World Cup event in Munich next month.

Sunday, 29 May - Red Button 10:00-13:15 (live coverage).

Monday, 30 May - BBC2 13:00-14:30 (highlights programme).

Also news reports on Five Live and BBC Sport website.