Of all New Zealand's world championship crews chasing Olympic places this week, the ones wearing the broadest smiles after the opening day's heats should have been the women's quad.

The four of Sarah Gray, Louise Trappitt, Fiona Bourke and stroke Eve Macfarlane won straight through to the final of their event with victory in their heat.

It was a significant achievement, considering events at Lake Karapiro last November.

There, a different New Zealand four - Gray and Bourke along with Genevieve Armstrong and Linda Matthews - were last in the A final, some way off the pace.

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Now, with Rowing New Zealand head coach Dick Tonks calling the shots, they've made rapid strides.

Third placings at both the Hamburg and Lucerne regattas provided an encouraging lead-in to the worlds.

At Bled, New Zealand were second at the 1500m, and edged past Australia to win in 6:22.47s, . 42s ahead of their transtasman rivals. It was enough to progress straight to the final.

Defending champions Britain were third in 6:23.06, and they too have slightly tweaked their personnel since Karapiro.

Germany won the other heat in 6:22.04, the United States 1.94s back in second. Those four countries look set for a decent scrap in the final.

"We've been working on getting every aspect of the stroke working together and we've been tracking along pretty nicely," Trappitt said.

Much of the focus between Hamburg and Lucerne had been on cleaner finishes to their strokes.

"We were flicking a lot less water and the whole boat became a lot smoother."

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The quad are the latest crew to encounter the Tonks style of coaching, which would never be called verbose.

"He doesn't say a lot but he doesn't need to," Trappitt said. "When we're out training it's the way he says things gives you a good picture in mind of the sort of movement he's looking for.

"If he comes up afterwards and says something like 'that was good', then it was pretty good," she laughed.

Before the worlds, Trappitt said New Zealand's primary objective was to finish in the top seven, thus qualifying the boat for the London Olympics.

That part of the job is now done as they'll be in the top six as a minimum, but "we want to be in with a sniff of winning". Events yesterday suggest they've certainly done that.

Nine Kiwi crews on day one won their heats in an encouraging start to the champs. Apart from the women's quad, the others progressed to either semi or quarter-finals, depending on the numbers in their class.

Four crews had repechages early today or tonight - the men's eight, lightweight coxless men James Lassche and Graham Oberlin-Brown, the men's quad and coxless fours.