Australia claimed a narrow victory over Britain in the men's four final at the World Cup regatta in Munich on Sunday, boosting hopes the crew can wrest back the Olympic title from its archrival at the London Olympics.
The Australian boat contained three-time Olympic gold medalist Drew Ginn and beat Britain by 0.87 seconds, inflicting a rare loss on the reigning world and Olympic champions despite having strengthened their lineup this year ahead of the games.
With the men's four the flagship boats for both countries, the race is set to be one of the highlights of the Olympic regatta on Dorney Lake from July 28 to Aug. 4. Britain has won the event at the last three Olympics, with Ginn helping Australia to victory in 1996 in Atlanta.
''This is a very satisfying result and we are looking forward to London,'' Ginn said. ''Especially our young guys are very excited and enjoying the surprise of winning on this top level.''
With just six weeks to go until the Olympics, many of the world's top crews headed to Munich for the last of three World Cup regattas and two boats - New Zealand's men's pair and Britain's women's double sculls - maintained their unbeaten runs.
Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, who haven't lost since first rowing together in 2009, won by almost five seconds in another dominant performance, while Anna Watkins and Katherine Grainger overcome their Australian rivals to stay unbeaten since 2010.
''This was a tough race and we learnt a lot. We needed this first big test,'' said Watkins, aiming with Grainger to become the first British women to win rowing gold. ''Now we have six weeks to prepare for Run 2 against the Australians.''
Belarus' Ekaterina Karsten, who will be bidding to win a medal at a sixth straight Olympics, won the women's single sculls in her first international regatta this year.
Having recently turned 40, Karsten has kept a low profile in 2012 while she recovers from rib problems.
Britain is widely expected to top the rowing medals table at the Olympics. It won three races and captured eight medals in Munich to finish the World Cup series with most points (199).
Germany (134) was second overall while New Zealand took third with 97 points after winning three golds and six medals in the third regatta.