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Rowing Better

A  Getting Things Right in the Boat


At the start of the stroke, when the cox has said ‘Forward to row’, you lean forward from the waist, with back straight and your shoulders just forward of vertical in a comfortable position.


Your arms will  stretch forward again to a comfortable position. The knees will have bent upwards and feet well planted on the footrest. Your  handgrip needs to be relaxed; fingers hooked around the handle at just less than shoulder width apart, with the wrists straight, level with the forearms.


The outer hand is the main puller and the inside hand is the guiding and lesser pulling hand. (Also the feather operating hand- see later).


You must be relaxed above all, straight-backed to enable your legs and arms to connect and coiled like a spring, ready for the next phase.


This is the body set up that you will use. REMEMBER: comfortable and relaxed – no sagging backs.


B  The Catch  = The blade enters the water


From the forward position you raise your hands to place the blade into the water. Carefully place the blade vertically into the water. Do not slash the blade into the water at an angle. Don’t snatch at the oar handle. The blade should enter the water at same speed that the boat is travelling with the minimum disturbance to the movement of the boat.


You are allowed a small splash at the back of the oar which proves that you have entered the water nicely.


C  The Drive


When the blade is covered, push hard on the footrest and bring the thigh muscles into play, keeping the arms and the back straight. Pivot from the hips. When the shoulders are above the hips, bring in the arms strongly. Finish this phase with the elbows drawn down and the hands in the chest and leaning back just past the vertical.


Throughout the drive, keep the body square on to the stern: don’t squirm from side to side.


D  Extraction of the Blade


Lower your hands briskly to extract the blade vertically from the water. Great! You completed the stroke.


Now comes the crucial part of obtaining the classic rhythm and poise of rowing. It is this that you must stamp into your system, to carry you through the rest of your rowing career.


E  Recovery  - Moving into the next stroke


This is a most important technique.


Extract the blade vertically (here you would  roll it onto the feather – see later) by dropping the hands  quickly and  smoothly down from the chest  with a straight back. Then moving  hands and arms forwards. In this part of the stroke you use “fast hands” and this gives time for slowing down in the second part of the recovery.


(The hands are higher if the water is calm and lower if it is rough.)


Continue in this manner until half way to the start of the next stroke. Really relax here. Back straight, hands loose.

From this half-way point begin to slow down, back straight well-relaxed body. It’s the thinking and even resting stage. Take the hands and arms forward, as well as swinging the upper body forward, gradually slowing down to a pause, (while, if feathering,  rolling the blade square ready for entering the water). This important slowing down phase gives you the rhythm and poise in your rowing.


You then place the oar into the water. You’re now into the next stroke.


The above is tricky at first, but with some very slow paddling exercises can soon be achieved. It will give pleasure and a feeling of a job well done.


F  Feathering


Feathering is an aerodynamic procedure. Into a wind it gains the boat some distance and makes it easier to handle the oar.


At the end of the stroke, just after the blade leaves the water, turn the oar handle, with the inside hand, wrist having been straight, so that the blade rolls backwards through 90 degrees. Roll it with the button pressed up against the gate. Make sure not to twist it suddenly with a loose button.


On reaching the start of the next stroke roll the blade back into the vertical again just before entering the water.


Remember, no jerking, plenty of poise. Job Done!