Boat Speed

Introduction

For a fast boat, rowers must maximize the amount of time that the boat is running fast and minimize the amount of time that the boat is slow or is slowing down. A boat that is balanced at all times with a crew that has good technical skills, team and individual, will be a fast boat.

The following information will help you to identify errors and offer ways to correct the errors. See the drills page for drills that will help with the proposed corrections.

A common error – body movements and timing

Problem: an error that is common to all phases of the rowing stroke is body movement and timing. If rowers have different movements or they are not moving together during the recovery, catch, drive, and or finish, the boat will rock and roll and it will be difficult to maintain good technique.

Possible Causes Correction
Rowers movements are different from each other or or their timing is off. Rowers should know the recovery and drive sequence for the team and watch the outside shoulder of the rower directly in front of them to make sure they are moving and working together during the recovery, catch, drive, and finish.
Rowers have unnecessary movements such moving their heads in the boat. Rowers should minimize unnecessary movements – this takes concentration, focus, and practice.
Rowers have the same movements and timing but some movements, such as layback, are excessive. Rowers should tame excessive movements – this takes concentration, focus, and practice.

Boat Speed and Boat Balance

Most rowing crews, inexperienced and experienced, have difficulty keeping the boat “on keel” and moving in the right direction. It is difficult to keep the boat from rolling or rocking from side to side and to feel complete balance in the boat.

A boat that has poor balance will be a slow boat because

  • it is difficult for each rower to row properly and apply power effectively;
  • the boat is not in the best position to “run” smoothly down the pond; and or
  • the boat will slow down a little each time it rocks or rolls.

Testing boat balance

The following exercise can be done before every start to check for a set and balanced boat and to help rowers gain awareness of handle heights and posture.

  1. Stop the boat with all rowers sitting up tall and relaxed in a neutral position with their blades flat on the water. The coxswain should be sitting as well.
  2. Check that the boat is level on the water and that the oar handles are level on both sides.
  3. If there is unevenness, the rowers should check their body position and posture and make necessary adjustments.
  4. Next, in the neutral or catch position, square the blades and hold them just above the water. Rowers should have the same handle heights when the boat is balanced.
  5. Finally, in the catch position, drop the blades in the water and hold them loosely to allow them to float. The boat should be balanced. Rowers should lift up slightly to bury the blades without disrupting the balance in the boat.
  6. Rowers are now ready to row.

Down on one side

Problem: the boat is consistently down on one side and runs slowly because it is “off keel.”

Possible Causes Correction
Body weight is unevenly distributed in the boat. If possible, try to seat rowers so that there is an even amount of weight on each side.
One or more rowers consistently rows with a different hand level than the others. Ensure that the boat is balanced, with the blades buried and with the blades out of the water, before you start to row. Rowers should keep those hand levels as the row.
One or more rowers is leaning out over the side of the boat. This could be a lack of flexibility in the hips and hamstrings causing the rower to move in a semi-circle rather than straight forward. Rowers should be sit tall and relaxed and move straight forward and back from the hips during the recovery and drive.

Boat Speed and Rowing Technique

Like poor boat balance, poor rowing technique can make it difficult to gain maximum boat speed and can cause the boat to slow down.

The following tables will help you to identify technique errors and offer ways to correct the problems. See the drills page for drills that will help with the proposed corrections.

Poor recovery

Problem: the boat dips to one side and rocks back as rowers start the recovery

Possible Causes Correction
One or more rowers fail to control the oar handle during the recovery. The handle moves up and down during the recovery and the blade may clip the water. Rowers should control the oar handle and move their hands away in a straight line from the finish position to the catch position.
One or more rowers lift their knees too early in the recovery (before hands and body are away). The handle lifts up over the knees in the middle of the recovery and the blade may clip the water. After the finish, rowers should sit steady, keeping the legs flat, as the hands move away and the body swings forward.

Ineffective catch

Problem: the boat dips to one side and rocks back just as rowers drop the oars for the the catch

Possible Causes Correction
One or more rowers dip their hands at the catch. The coxswain may call “skying” as the blade goes up in the air. The boat will dip to the unbalanced side. Move the hands in a straight line from the finish position to the catch position. During the last part of the recovery, lift the hands slightly to allow the blade to enter the water.
Rowers lunge at the catch to get more reach. Forward momentum forces to boat to dip to one sides. Rowers should set the forward body angle early in the recovery and keep forward at the catch.
One or more rowers “catch” with an under-square, partially feathered, blade. The blade goes deep and the rower may end up dropping the oar mid-stroke. Find the position of the oar sleeve when the blade is square and wrists are flat; turn the oar to this position early in the recovery.ld be sit tall and relaxed and move straight forward and back from the hips during the recovery and drive.
One or more rowers lifts the oar handle too high at the catch. The blade goes deep immediately and pulls the boat down on that side. During the last part of the recovery, lift the hands slightly to allow the blade to enter the water. No need to slam the blade into the water.
One or more rowers cock their wrists too far forward and over-square the blade making it impossible to “catch.” They may miss the stroke entirely. Ensure that wrists are flat when the blade is square.

Poor drive sequence

Problem: the boat dips to one side and rocks back just as rowers during the drive.

Possible Causes Correction
Rowers lift their hands through the drive or allow the blade to turn under the water during the drive. The blade goes deep through the middle of the drive. Drop the blade in at the catch when the blade is buried, no deeper, and hold the handle at that height throughout the drive.

Unbalanced finish

Problem: the boat dips to one side and rocks back at the finish.

Possible Causes Correction
One or more rowers pull the oar handle into the lap during the finish. The blade “washes out” at the finish. Rowers should pull straight through, with flat wrists, to the lower ribs before tapping the blade out of the water.
One or more rowers have a weak drive and or finish making it difficult to tap the blade out of the water. The blade gets caught in the water at the finish. Rowers should use the legs during the initial part of the drive and pull the handle in firmly at the finish. Tap down with the outside hand to clear the blade from the water.
One or more rowers lays back excessively making it difficult to get back up. Rowers may get caught behind the oar handle. Sit up straight, lay back into the bow 10 degrees or in the 11 o’clock position.

“Checking” the boat

[DENISE – move these to the catch and drive tables]

Problem: The boat “checks” forward (moves in the wrong direction)

Possible Causes Correction
Rowers rush up the slide to get into the catch position. The boat “checks” or moves back toward the stern. Follow the set recovery sequence and relax as you move forward on the seat.
Falling into the catch. TBD
Shooting the tail / improper connection. TBD

References

http://montgomeryrowing.org/

http://www.barchouston.org/pdfs/2004-Technique-CommonMistakes.pdf

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