LAKE BARRINGTON, AUSTRALIA, OCT. 29 -- Americans Kris Karlson and Alison Townley won their heat today and qualified for the open double sculls final at the World Rowing Championships.

Karlson won gold medals at last year's championships in the women's lightweight single and double sculls.

Karlson and Townley were timed in 6 minutes 58.66 seconds to beat Australia and the Netherlands.

The East German pair of Kathrin Boron and Beate Scramm won the other heat in 6:55.79, but the Americans had plenty in reserve. "We did what we had to do," said Karlson, of Weston, Conn. "We have to be pleased with our race."

Townley, of Belmont, Mass., was optimistic about the pair's medal prospects. "We had the third-fastest time without being challenged in our heat. We're excited," she said. "We felt we rowed a calm race that we executed well."

World Cup holder Yuri Yaanson of the Soviet Union qualified with the best time for the semifinals of the men's single sculls -- 6:56.16. West German student Christian Haendle and Poland's Kajetan Broniewski also captured first-round heats to clinch spots in the semifinals. Haendle was timed in 6:56.62 and Broniewski 6:56.91.

The other 13 competitors, including triple Olympic champion Pertti Karppinen of Finland, will row in repechages Wednesday.

West Germany and East Germany are competing against each other for the final time in a major international sporting event.