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Chapter

Rowing Technique and Terminology
2.1 A Glossary of Rowing Terms

A

more detailed glossary of basic rowing terms is provided in the RCA “Journey 1 Skills Program”, available on the RCA web site. The selected definitions included below are those items that may have a special meaning when used in the context of adaptive rowing.

A – Used to designate “arms only” rowing in competition. ADAPTIVE ROWING - Adaptive rowing is rowing for people who have physical disabilities, people with visual and hearing impairments and people with intellectual disabilities. BOAT-ON-A-ROPE – This is a good technique for introducing a new rower to sculling in a single or double. A 15 m length of rope can be attached to the stern of a recreational rowing boat. The instructor stands on the dock and pays out the rope as the new sculler rows away. When the sculler has rowed the length of the rope, the instructor pulls the boat back to the dock and the exercise is repeated. The advantage of this technique is that the instructor is in complete control of the practice. The sculler builds confidence by knowing that he/she has a life line, is close to the dock and in visual and verbal contact with their instructor. It also eases the challenge of docking after the first outing. COX BOX - A small electronic device that aids the coxswain by amplifying his/her voice and by giving him/her a readout of various information, such as stroke rate and elapsed time. There is sometimes an attitude that cox boxes are only needed in elite boats. However, it’s essential that learn-to-row crews be able to hear the coxswain clearly at all times. So fours and eights used in adaptive rowing programs should be wired for a cox box and speaker system.

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COXSWAIN or COX’N – The person who steers the boat and directs the race plan, acting as the eyes of the crew. Sometimes considered as an on-the-water coach for the crew. In adaptive rowing the coxswain must be aware of the abilities of the crew he or she is responsible for. The coxswain should monitor the crew and be ready to shorten the practice or modify the training based on feedback from the participants. Some recreational doubles have room for a coxswain to sit in the stern of the boat and provide coaching assistance to the rower in stroke seat.

DOCK-SIDE TRAINER – A seat, footstretcher and rigger combination that can be set-up on a dock to allow beginners to practice the rowing stroke before going out in a rowing shell. A dock-side trainer or indoor rowing tank are very important for adaptive rowing programs. The dock-side trainer provides a vital transition from boat house orientation to on-water training. The dock-side trainer can be equipped with a fixed seat. Where a dock-side trainer is not available, sweep rowing can be practiced by rowing on ‘water-side’ in a boat held along side the dock.

(Photo provided by Three River Rowing Association)

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ERG/ERGOMETER - Rowing machine that most closely simulates rowing in a boat. It is used for training, testing and competitions. The ergometer can be equipped with a fixed seat and/or a seat with a support back. FEATHERING - Rotating the oar in the oarlock so that the blade is parallel to the surface of the water. For adaptive rowers who row with their arms only, feathering the blade is not essential. FIXED SEAT – Where the sliding seat is fixed to prevent it moving. Used where the rower does not have use of his or her legs. LAYBACK - Term for how much you lean back at the release. Typically in sliding seat rowing the layback angle is 10 to 15 ° past vertical. In fixed seat rowing the layback may be less or more, depending on what works best for an individual rower. Rowers with spinal chord injuries who row with arms only, generally have a support strap that secures him or her to the seat back. The angle of the fixed seat back to the seat is established in consultation with a sports physiotherapist. LTA – Short for “legs, trunk and arms” and is the classification for adaptive rowers who use the full rowing stroke of leg drive, body swing and arms when rowing. PFD – Personal flotation device, usually a life jacket. Some adaptive rowers like the added security of wearing a PFD while rowing. The less bulky, inflatable PFD’s seem to work best since they are less restrictive. PONTOONS – Rectangular or cylindrical floats that can be attached to the riggers of a rowing shell to provide added stability, analogous to training wheels on a bicycle. When the boat is perfectly balanced, the pontoons should be out of the water. The use of pontoons allows a wider range of single sculls to be used in adaptive programs.

(Photo provided by Three Rivers Rowing Association)

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POSTURE SEAT – A seat with a back, usually made from canvas, mesh, plastic or fiberglass, that is used in a fixed position in the boat by rowers who require back support during rowing. It is sometimes fitted with a support strap. (Photo provided by Three Rivers Rowing Association) RIGGER – A framework mounted on the side of the boat to provide support for the oarlock. For fixed seat rowing, modifications to the rigging will be required. This may involve moving the pin forward beyond its typical range, so as to increase the catch angle.

RIGGING - The settings for the riggers and other adjustable parts of the boat to allow the rowers to perform their most efficient stroke. (e.g. pitch, height, span, etc.). When a sliding seat boat is used for fixed seat rowing, rigging adjustments will be needed to provide greater comfort and efficiency for the rower. SLIDE - The tracks in which the seat rolls. For fixed seat rowing, the seat needs to be clamped to the slide at the optimum position for the rower. TA – Short for “trunk and arms” and is the classification for adaptive rowers who use only body swing and arms when rowing in combination with a fixed seat. TRANSFER BOX – A simple wooden box that can be used on the dock to assist a rower to transfer from a wheelchair to the boat.

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2.2 Equipment Overview

Sculling
One oar in each hand

Sweep Rowing
Each rower has one oar

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Parts of Oar
Blade Shaft Sleeve Button/ Collar

Handle

Oars

Sculling (Macon)

Sweep (Macon)

Sculling (Hatchet)

Sweep (Hatchet)

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Inside of Rowing Shell
Rigger

Sliding Seat Footstretcher Fixed Seat

Seat Numbering

Cox

Stroke 3

2

Bow

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Boat Types: Single (1X)

Double (2X)

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Quad Scull (4X)

Pair (2-)

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Coxed Four (IV+)

Eight (VIII+)

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Boat Dimensions and Weights
Boat type 1X 2X/24+ 8+ Length 8.2 m (27') 10.4 m (34') 13.7 m (45') 20.0 m (63') 14 27 51 96 Weight kg (31 lb) kg (60 lb) kg (112 lb) kg (212 lb)

Something to Remember….

In most rowing clubs, there is a dedicated set of oars for each boat. Quite often these are colour coded to make them easy to identify. It is also important to put the correct oar in the correct position in the boat. With hatchet oars it won’t take you long to realize if you have a port oar in a starboard oarlock! On some boats, the oarlocks can rotate 3600 around the pin. Always make sure that the oar goes into the oarlock on the stern side of the pin and not on the bow side. This ensures that when you row, the pressure during the drive is against the pin and not against the outer side of the oarlock. Don’t laugh, crews have done it!

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2.3 Basic Rowing Technique
KEY CHARACTERISTICS OF ROWING STROKE

Oar is ‘anchored’ in water and boat is levered forward The distance the boat travels while the oar is in the water is related to the distance the oar handle is moved The distance the oar handle moves is made up of up to three components: o Leg drive/slide movement (LTA) o Body swing from hips (LTA and TA) o Arm movement (LTA, TA and A) Sequence of body motion o large muscle groups⇒small muscle groups o leg drive ⇒body swing ⇒arm movement Four main parts of rowing stroke: o Entry o Drive o Release o Recovery All motions are continuous Minimize body motions that do not contribute to the rowing stroke All actions should be as smooth and controlled as possible Recovery phase is longer than Drive phase A detailed description of rowing technique is provided in the RCA “Journey 2 Skills Program”, available on the RCA web site.

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Grip - Sculling
Hands relaxed Thumbs placed over ends of handles Wrists are flat and in line with oar handles Blades are feathered by rolling handles with fingers

Grip - Sweep
Hands are relaxed Outside hand at end of oar handle Hands 10 to 15 cm apart Wrists are flat during drive Inside hand turns oar handle to feather and square The oar handle rotates in the outside hand during feathering and squaring

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Historic Perspective

“I am convinced that it requires more skill to use the seat properly than it does the oar, thus making it doubly difficult to perfect a crew. The tendency for a beginner is to slide too much and at the wrong time – to use it improperly is easy and pleasant, while to use it properly is difficult and fatiguing. The crew should slide together.” J.C. Babcock, Captain of Nassau Boat Club of New York, 1870.

Coaching Points for Beginners – Things to Avoid
Entry
“Skying the blade” Hesitating at Entry Dropping shoulders and over-reaching

Drive
“Shooting the slide” Bending arms too soon during drive “Rowing over the barrel”/Digging too deep/”Washing out” Squaring late Release Pausing and/or hands too slow at release Back not steady and continuing to move

Recovery
Racing forward on slide Hands too high during recovery/dragging the blade

Historical Fact

The introduction of the sliding seat led to a change in the way boats were rowed. One of the first to use the sliding seat successfully was the professional Ned Hanlan from Toronto who won the world professional sculling title several times and was Canada’s first world champion - not just in rowing, but in any sport.

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Key Points to Emphasize
Stay in time with Stroke Quick Entry Drive with the legs Sit up straight for leverage Look straight ahead Pull through parallel to water/gunwale Fast hands down and away Correct lay-back at Release Slow slide on Recovery Focus on balance Blade squares before Entry

2.4 Fixed Seat Rowing Technique

I

n conventional sliding seat sweep rowing, the total arc that the oar travels through from catch to release is over 800 , with the catch angle being about 150 more than the release angle. In sculling the total arc is over 900 . In fixed seat rowing, the arc is much shorter, typically in the range of 300 to 450 . Longer boat travel on each stroke can be achieved by increasing the body reach at the catch and increasing the lay-back at the release. For rowers who use a seat with a back support, the lay-back will be limited. Rowers with limited mobility may not be able to use their trunk to lean forward, so will rely on arm action. Each rower should determine in consultation with the coach, what range of body swing works best. Exaggerated layback is not necessarily good, since it requires considerable effort to swing the upper body back

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on the recovery and this may not be the most efficient use of energy. In addition, it may put additional stress on the lower back and lead to injury. The good thing about rowing is that you can make the boat move without any body swing, simply with arm action. “Arms only” rowing is used by most rowers as part of their routine warm-up. It requires very precise arm control and with the crew rowing in unison, the boat can move surprisingly well. With arms only rowing, feathering of the blade is unnecessary. Upper body swing, when added to arm action generates more boat travel on each stroke. However, don’t try to over extend the body swing beyond what is comfortable and remember that a shorter stroke can be compensated for to some degree by a higher stroke rate. As in sliding seat rowing, the position of the rower’s body in relation to the position of the oarlock pin is very important to the efficiency of the stroke. This relationship is adjusted by moving the foot-stretchers. In fixed seat rowing, both the foot stretchers and the position of the fixed seat will need to be adjusted. As the seat position moves closer to the stern of the boat, the catch angle becomes larger at the expense of the angle at the release. The same effect can be realized by using modified riggers that move the pin closer to the bow. As the seat is moved towards the bow, the catch angle is reduced as the angle at the release is increased proportionately. As noted above, the total arc, i.e. the sum of the catch and release angles, will be determined by the optimum body swing and the arm pull. Since the most efficient part of the rowing stroke is when the oar is perpendicular to the side of the boat (i.e. then the force moving the boat forward is completely in the direction of travel), there needs to be some build-up and some followthrough from that position. In other words, neither the catch angle or release angle should be zero. The need to have the catch angle greater than the release angle may not apply in fixed seat rowing, since this practice is probably mainly dictated by the dominating influence of the leg drive which occurs during the early part of the stroke. It is recommended that the catch angle should be at least 150 to provide some acceleration through the most efficient part of the drive, but the breakdown between catch and release angle should be determined on an individual basis and what works best for a particular rower. In sculling, the length of the oar and the inboard on the oar may need to be shortened or the span on the riggers extended to provide greater efficiency for the rower. Some fixed seat scullers find it more efficient to rig their boat so that there is no cross-

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over of the sculling handles during the stroke. Alden Boat Works makes a special rigger for their single and double sculls, especially for people who row fixed seat. The adaptation of equipment and the modifications to conventional rowing technique for people with disabilities are still in the early stages of development and significant changes are likely to occur in the coming years.

Interesting Fact

Until about 1870, all rowing was done in fixed seat boats. Today the best place to see expert fixed seat rowing is in St. John’s, Newfoundland where the annual St. John’s Regatta is held on the first Wednesday of August on Quidi Vidi Lake. This is the oldest continuous sporting event in the world, having started in 1816 in St. John’s Harbour.

If you use a special seat, such as a posture seat, it may position the rower at a higher level than the standard sliding seat. It may be necessary to raise the oarlocks to allow for comfortable rowing. The easiest way to determine the appropriate height is to have the rower sit at the release position with the blades squared and in the water. The oar handle(s) should be in line with the second or third rib from the bottom. Split spacers that clip onto the oarlock pin either above or below the oarlock, allow easy adjustment of the height.

Useless Trivia

A surviving section of the Lenormant Relief on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, shows an oarsman bending his knee while taking a stroke in a Greek Trieres. The Trieres or trireme was the state-of-the-art warship of 2,000 years ago, designed for speed. Crack oarsmen of the Greek fleet had to provide their own oars and sheepskin cushions, lending substance to the theory that the Greeks slid on their seats.

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2.5 Role of the Coxswain

The role of the coxswain is an extremely important one, especially with learn-to-row and novice crews. The coxswain has close contact with the crew throughout the practice and so is in a good position to provide on-going feedback to the crew and to regulate the pace and duration of the practice. The coach needs to communicate effectively with the coxswain and the coxswain needs to fully appreciate any special needs the crew members may have. Coxswains should seek instruction and guidance from the coach and feedback from the crew. In most recreational boats, the coxswain’s seat is larger than in a racing shell and the restrictions on weight are less relevant. Thus it is quite common for the coach to take on the role of coxswain, from time to time. However, where this is done, there must still be a coach/safety boat on the water at all times. Whoever takes on the role of coxswain, he or she must, as a minimum be able to handle the boat safely, both in and out of the water be familiar with all crew commands understand the winds, currents and any specific hazards on the rowing course be experienced with docking a boat in crosswinds understand the abilities of each crew member, show them respect at all times and get agreement on how long the practice should be ask for instruction from the coach with respect to the objectives of the practice communicate frequently with the crew and ask for feedback be fully familiar with emergency procedures and where possible carry a cell phone help the crew members relax and enjoy the outing

C

oxing provides an added opportunity for a person with a disability to get involved in the sport of rowing. With practice there are opportunities for good coxswains to get involved in competitive rowing up to the highest levels.

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Attributes of a Coxswain

Be decisive Be responsible Be able to take initiative Be competitive Have a sharp, clear voice

(Level 1 Coaching Manual, Rowing Canada Aviron)

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