- 1 Introduction to rowing
- 1.1 Part 1: Glossary of terms, jargon and useful hints for Novice Rowers
- 1.2 Part 2: Basic rowing technique
- 1.3 Part 3: Training Programme
Introduction to rowing
Part 1: Glossary of terms, jargon and useful hints for Novice Rowers
Rowing, very much a team activity, is highly disciplined and demanding of participants. It is an endurance sport and ranks as one of the toughest sports in the world. The achievement of greatness in any sphere is dependent on loyalty and respect. In UCD Boat Clubs, due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others is taken as a given, in keeping with UCD’s vision of Ad Astra and Cothrum na Feinne. That said, failing to adhere to rules, training schedules, mishandling equipment or tardiness of any form, is a fundamental disrespect of club colleagues. Respect your fellow crew, respect your coxes, respect your coaches, respect your equipment and respect the university authorities who make the facilities available. Remember, unity and loyalty is inherent in the word ‘crew’. Get to know people and, above all, make rowing fun for all.
- All novices must be able to swim and must prove their ability to do so.
- Do not lift boats and equipment unless you have been instructed in the correct method.
- Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions.
- Boats must have a bow ball fixed to the bow of the boat before going on the water. (rubber ball on the front of the boat to prevent impalement)
- Novice crews must be accompanied by a coach.
- Coxes must wear lifejackets.
- If the boat capsizes, the rule is to remain with the boat. It should float.
Stopping the Boat
“Hold it up” is the instruction to stop the boat and may be a safety requirement. To do so, place the blade in the water, so the water flows over the blade, initially at an angle of a few degrees and slowly reverse the blade increasing the angle so that it is ultimately at an angle of 90 degrees to the plane of the water. This process must be done slowly, as to do so quickly could result in “catching a crab”. Catching a crab is where the blade gets caught in the water and the handle of the oar is levered forcefully and vigorously back towards the rower’s chest or upper body. This can cause injury.
There are two types of rowing: Sweep Rowing and Sculling. In Sweep Rowing each person has one oar and in Sculling each person has two oars. University rowing traditionally focuses on sweep rowing.
Boats, sometimes called shells, are built of lightweight carbon material and are highly technical, designed to give the rower maximum leverage. They vary in length: a standard eight person boat being 17.6m or just less than 60 feet in length. An eight weighs roughly 100 kgs.
Racing boats are categorised as follows:
|Single scull||1x||One person sculling boat|
|Double scull||2x||Two person sculling boat|
|Quad||4x||Four person sculling boat|
|Coxed Quad||4x+||Four person sculling boat with cox|
|Pair||2-||Two person sweep boat|
|Four||4-||Four person sweep boat|
|Coxed four||4+||Four person sweep boat with a cox|
|Eight||8+||Eight person sweep boat with a cox|
Eights racing is deemed to be the blue riband event at regattas.
The front of the boat is called the bow and the back of the boat is called the stern. The side of the boat is called the gunnel or gunwale or sax board. The body of the boat is referred to as the hull. The deck at the bow of the boat is usually referred to as the canvas.
The oar, made from carbon fibre and plastic, is a shaft with a spoon or blade at the end. Oars are frequently referred to as blades and sculling oars are referred to as sculls. A sweep oar is over twelve feet long or 3.75 m and a sculling oar is about nine and a half feet or 2.9m. About 30cms along the shaft of the sweep oar, there is a plastic collar which is sometimes called the button. The collar is usually located on a plastic sleeve and is pressed against the pin while rowing. The distance from the collar to the end of the oar is referred to as the inboard.
Riggers are aluminium extensions from the side of the boat to support the pin around which the rower levers the boat forward. The pin is the fulcrum. The oar is secured in a gate or oarlock which swivels on the pin. The distance between the pin and the centre of the boat is known as the spread – spread is important from a leverage perspective. The pin normally is fractionally pitched outwards by about a degree and sternwards by about 5 degrees. This is called pitch. A backstay is a bar from the side of the boat that holds the pin in place.
Rowers sit on seats that run on tracks. These tracks are known as slides. The action of moving on the seat is referred to as sliding. Sliding allows the rower to get compression and use legs to provide power to propel the boat forward. Sliding together as a crew will be a keen focus of the coach.
When sitting in the boat, the rower’s feet are strapped into shoes that are attached by a foot-plate. The complete mechanism is called the stretcher. The stretcher can be adjusted forward or backward to allow for the length of the rowers legs. Shoes must have quick release straps or cords attached to the heel of the shoe to facilitate quick release of feet in case of emergency.
Positions in Boat
The crew is anonymous in the boat. Members are referred to by their seat number or position in the boat as follows in a conventionally rigged boat:
|Bow||Person in closest seat to bow of boat (front)|
|2||Next person moving towards stern|
|3||Next person moving towards stern|
|4||Next person moving towards stern|
|5||Next person moving towards stern|
|6||Next person moving towards stern|
|7||Next person moving towards stern|
|Stroke||Last rower and person that determines the stroke rate or cadence.|
|Cox||The abbreviation of coxswain: the person that steers the boat and issues instructions. The cox steers the boat using the tiller which is connected to the rudder.|
The stroke is conventionally deemed to be the skipper when on the water and instructions are given by the cox. The cox and the stroke are the only two people who speak when on the water unless there is a problem. The cox uses a cox-box to communicate over loudspeakers in the boat.
Bow-side (starboard in US) refers to those sitting in the bow seat and seats 3, 5 and 7. Stroke-side (port in US) refers to those sitting in seats 2, 4, 6 and stroke seat. Bow-siders row with the oar on their left hand side and stroke-siders row with the oar on their right hand side.
Feathering & Squaring
When the blade is out of the water it should be parallel to the water surface, this is called feathered. When the blade is in the water is should be at an angle of 90 degrees to the water surface. The blade is then referred to as being squared.
Carrying the Boat
The cox will call ‘hands on’ to lift the boat. When carrying the boat, it is normal to carry it overhead with one’s head in the foot well between the rower’s seat and stretcher. The crew commences marching left foot first. If instructed by the cox to take sides, lift the boat to arms stretched level, step aside to the side opposite one’s rigger and lower the boat to shoulder level. If instructed to lower to waist level by the cox, lower boat so that the arms are straight. Space in the boat house is confined, be careful not to bump riggers or hulls of other boats when moving boats. Take it slowly and carefully. Listen to the cox.
On occasions, the cox may require that one side holds the boat while the other side climbs under. In which case the cox will order ‘bow-side hold, stroke-side under’ or vice versa.
When lifting the boat from the water, grip a solid structure in the boat, and ensure that one’s back is straight and the boat is lifted cleanly with leg action to waist level on the order “together lift”. From waist level, the boat can be lifted in one action to overhead level or on the instruction of the cox: ‘overhead in three, one… two… three’ following two rocking motions, the boat is lifted to the overhead position on the third rock.
|Backstops||Sit with legs extended to the full with knees down and shoulders open. Handle of oar up to the chest with the blade resting on the water at an angle of 45 degrees.|
|Frontstops||Sit at compressed position with blade squared in the water. It will be some time before novices will be asked to take this position.|
|Row or Paddle or Go||The command to commence rowing|
|Light paddle||The order to row at light pressure. As the season progresses, novices will row at half pressure, three quarters pressure and full pressure according to the exercise programme.|
|Strike position||Sitting back, shoulders open with hands forward and the handle of the oar down on the gunnel at mid-thigh distance. Blades will be in feathered position off the water. Other positions such as hands position, body position and slide positon will be explained as training progresses.|
|Check it||Same as ‘hold it up’. Sometimes the cox will call ‘check it bow-side’ or ‘check it stroke-side’ in order to swing or turn the boat or ask a specific number to check it.|
|Touch it||Take a stroke. Frequently it will be ‘touch it bow’ or ‘touch it two’ in order to line the boat up before commencing to row. ‘Tap it’ has the same meaning.|
|Easy all||This is the order to stop doing what you are doing. When rowing, hold the oars at strike position with the blades parallel to the water. When carrying the boat, stop where you are.|
|Easy or drop||Drop blades on the water from the ‘easy all’ position.|
|Back it up||Or back it down. This is to reverse or back the boat. To back the boat, reverse the blade in the water and push the handle away from you.|
|Spin||This is the order to turn the boat. Cox may order ‘back it down bow-side, touch it up stroke-side’. In this instance bow-side will back it up while stroke side will touch it up. This should be done in sequence.|
|Sit the boat||To maintain balance during an exercise, e.g. ‘bow pair, sit the boat’: bow and two will keep their blades on the water, thereby sitting the boat in a balanced or level position. Likewise, bow four or stern four may be asked to sit the boat.|
|Square blade paddle||Row without feathering the blade|
Slip and slipping the boat are the actions of the launching and subsequent berthing of the boat. On launching, when parallel to the slip, the cox will order, ‘up, waist level’, extend arms fully overhead and drop the boat to waist level, hold momentarily at waist level. On the cox’s instruction ‘in the water’, lower the boat gently into the water, holding backs straight and making sure the skin of the boat is not supported by a knee, feet should be slightly over the edge of the slip.
Make sure that someone has their body weight over the rigger before getting into or out of the boat, as it may capsize. Boats at Islandbridge slip downstream. When the boat is in the water and being held by the cox, collect your oars and stand by your seat with oars erect until instructed to place ‘blades across’ by the cox (reduces likelihood of people being hit by oars). Stroke-side put blades in the gates and lock. While stroke-side hold riggers, Cox orders ‘bow-side, one foot in, in together’. When getting into boat, place foot on the supported surface between the slides. When bow-side have their blades in the gates and locked, cox, with body weight over a rigger, orders ‘stroke-side, one foot in, in together’. Secure feet in stretcher. When all are ready, number off from bow by shouting: Bow, 2, 3, 4 etc. Push off with hands and oars from the slip. These actions and orders are reversed when returning to the slip, commencing with the cox holding a bow-side rigger and giving the order: ‘stroke-side blades across’. Do not open gates until the cox orders ‘blades across’ as the boat may capsize.
Rowers, particularly from January onwards, must have a bottle of water with them while on the water. Please dispose of bottles in the bins provided and if these are full, bottles must be taken home.
In the winter months (October to April) time trials called Heads of the River or Heads are held. These are long distance races, usually ranging from 3km up to 17km. Crews are started at intervals and race against the clock. Regattas are held from April onwards and are shorter races, the regulation race being 2,000m. These are side by side races in multiple lanes – up to six lanes in some regattas.
The ‘Champs’ – Ireland’s national championship regatta – are normally held on the second week of July at the National Rowing Centre at Inniscarra Lake in County Cork. These championships are the main focus of the season. Novices race in coxed quads and eights at the Champs.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Never stand on the bottom of the boat, stand on fixed and supported structures in the boat.
- When lifting the boat, grip secure structures: ribs.
- Never lift the boat by its riggers, except Hudson boats.
- Make sure that all thumb screws and nuts are secure before moving from the slip.
- Make sure that shoes have quick release straps or cords fitted.
- Never remove oars from gates at the slip unless instructed by the cox to do so.
- Keep boathouse tidy, collect litter and bin it.
- Store equipment in appropriate locations and replace tools to tool boxes when finished with them.
- Always wear a T shirt when erging in the gym.
- Remain hydrated.
- Be in the boathouse or gym at least 10 minutes prior to prescribed session.
- Report damaged equipment to the appropriate person: Equipment officer, Captain or Coach.
- Novice coxes should stay well away from the weir when turning boats.
Part 2: Basic rowing technique
Rowing is a continuous sequence of strokes without pause. Each stroke is a non-stop fluent movement in which the blade is levered around the pin. The rower’s hands keep moving throughout, body swinging from hips, knees bending, as he/she maximises the compression and leverage that the sliding seat provides.
Holding the oar
Hold the oar with the outside hand (the hand furthest from the pin) at the end of the oar. All four fingers and thumb should be around the oar handle. The inside hand (hand closest to the pin) should be about two to three hands width along the shaft from the outside hand.
It is important not to grip the oar handle tightly, rather one should have a relaxed grip with the handle swivelling through the outside hand and the action of feathering and squaring being conducted by the inside hand.
Feathering & Squaring
Feathering and squaring is a wrist movement combined with a rolling of the blade with the fingers/palm of the hand. It is a light flicking action involving the inside hand only. The wrist of the outside hand remains straight throughout the stroke.
The back of the hands and wrists should be in the same plane as the oar handle arc (wrists should not be cocked) as the blade is drawn through the water.
In rowing, lots of things happen in swift succession which can be difficult for novices to grasp. Like driving a car though, with practice, they very quickly become instinctive movements.
The stroke can be broken down into four parts: the recovery, the catch, the drive and the finish.
During the recovery, the blade is out of the water and, from a time perspective, the recovery accounts for two thirds of the stroke. The ratio of time out of the water to time in the water is approximately 2:1. You should be totally relaxed during this phase of the stroke.
The recovery commences at backstops. At backstops, one is sitting back at the end of the previous stroke with the shoulders open, the oar handle held up against the chest and the blade at an angle of 45 degrees on the water.
The sequence of the recovery is:
- Strike down the oar handle with the outside hand and then feather the blade with the inside hand. In a clean movement, with the knees held down and slightly pressing the blade towards the pin, the:
- Hands move away with the shoulders held back. When the arms are straight and fully extended, the
- Body swings across from the hips, the hands pass over knees (with peripheral vision, watch hands going over knees), getting full reach before,
- The knees gently break and the slide The slide movement is a floating movement and the purpose is to get your body weight onto your feet for the catch. When sliding, the inside knee will move roughly to the middle of your chest and the outside knee will be just off centre. Slide or float gently, resisting the urge to rush towards the catch.
The movement is Strike Down…. Hands…. Body…. Slide. Reach being gained from backstops and the oar handle moves away parallel to the gunnel, not quite hitting the gunnel, but close to it.
Having passed the feet, the hands lift gently and the blade is squared by a finger/palm action of the inside hand. The gate and the oar are designed so that the blade will naturally square when flipped over. Lifting the hands gently brings the blade into position for the catch, which makes sure that no water is missed. Square in plenty of time in order that your wrists and arms are relaxed and ready for the catch.
Holding the oar lightly and feeling its weight, the handle hooked with all fingers and thumb of the outside hand, drop the blade into the water and drive it horizontally towards the stern. Your back should be braced as if you are about to snatch a heavy weight. The action should be as smooth as possible, shin bones less than vertical, outside arm straight, the body weight is transferred to the stretcher and, as the oar is levered around the pin, the boat moves forward.
Catches should be loose, light and quick. A good catch keeps the boat moving and prepares the rower for the drive. Tensing or holding the oar too tightly or hammering the catch may cause the blade to enter obliquely and slow the boat.
Your weight must be on your feet at the catch.
With the blade hooked in the water, your back straight, your feet firmly pressed against the stretcher, you build up power using your quads and your glutei (your thighs and your backside) and drive with your legs – try to feel the legs as being part of the connection with the water. While the drive is a clean springing action or controlled bounce, it is a building of power motion. Biomechanically, the body is not in a strong position at the catch but, as the knees go down, the body’s ability to build up power increases. Most power comes from your legs. Resist the temptation to yank the blade, rather, build power uniformly and steadily. Do not bend the arms too soon, but use the weight of the body to increase power.
Row the blade horizontally through the water and be conscious of drawing or describing an arc around the pin. The blade should be just covered in the water. Digging the blade too deeply will cause the water to run up the shaft of the blade (looming) and slow the boat. Drive your legs down as hard as possible. When the blade is at ninety degrees to the pin and your legs are pressed down, you are at your most powerful.
The rowing movement from the catch is a long sweeping motion. Using your back muscles, swinging your body back, draw the blade right through to your chest. The power that has been built up in the drive must be held right through to the finish. Sitting in a strong position at the finish, your back should be almost 30 degrees past the vertical. Keep the blade buried and square right through the stroke. The finish must be drawn high to the chest and your feet should feel firmly pressed against the stretcher.
The blade is extracted by a downward pressure on the handle using your outside hand. The downward movement is important in order that the blade can be extracted cleanly and that the boat is allowed to run. This is the strike down motion. The blade is then feathered and the rowing stroke continues into the recovery phase again.
Try not to row in a circular motion, rather draw the oar horizontally through the water. Likewise, be conscious of the strike down – do not draw the oar into the lap. One does not need to strike down on an erg machine and very skilled rowers make it seem as if they are not striking down, look closely – they are.
When you tell people that you row, they will immediately equate the sport to strong arms. Rowing is about legs, legs, legs and more legs. Experts debate the contribution of leg power to rowing. However, from a beginner’s perspective take it that 60% of power comes from the legs.
Keeping together is a fundamental of rowing. Feather together, get hands away together, get body across together, slide together, square together, spring from the catch together, drive together. Working together makes it easier to balance the boat and, above all, gives maximum efficiency. Strokes should be metronymic, fluent and relaxed in order to make best use of strength and ability.
Sit tall and upright in the boat, head high and looking at the neck of the man in front. Swing from the hips and feel totally loose and relaxed in the recovery. Peripheral vision should be on stroke’s blade to maintain timing and rhythm. With peripheral vision also, watch your hands go over your knees as you recover. Do not lean away from the pin and your oar, don’t be afraid of the oar. Remember that the boat sits perfectly when there is no one in it!
Oxygen provides energy. Breathe deeply. Inhale on the recovery and exhale on the drive. Practice this on the erg.
While rowing might appear daunting at the beginning, it is possible to become very skilful at rowing in a short space of time. Novices have moved to international and Olympic level performance in a matter of two years. However, it takes patience, dedication, fitness and practice.
There is nothing as exhilarating as an eight moving at full speed, easing away from competition, puddles rounding uniformly astern, hull humming, catches chomping, enclosure erupting and gold glinting on the horizon.
Part 3: Training Programme
Training will take two formats: on land and on water. Rowing requires strength and fitness. Initially, on the water training will be totally focused on developing technique – it will be a while before you really break a sweat in the boat. Ease into land training depending on your capability. However, it is important that you push the development of your fitness as early as possible. At the start you may have to approach stairs with angst, however, aches and pains from the beginning of the season go quickly.
Land training and will comprise of a) running and non-weight circuits, Tuesdays and Thursdays; and b) ergometer training (erging) Mondays and Fridays. Each session will commence with stretching exercises.
Circuit Training Time Table
|Tuesday||7pm-8pm (1/2 of Area 7)
7pm-8pm in the new studio (Studio 3)
|Thursday||6pm-7pm (1/2 of Hall A)
7pm-8pm (Hall C)
Because of the numbers involved and the availability of space, Novices will be broken into two groups on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The session commences at the same time for both groups. Group-one will do a thirty minute run – leaving the campus by the Clonskeagh gate and returning via the Stillorgan Road gate which will then be followed by a thirty minute exercise circuit. Group-two will commence with a warm-up, stretching and the exercise circuit prior to the thirty minute run.
Men: 2 sets of the following: 45 seconds on and 15 seconds off
- Squat hold
- High knee skips
- Squat Jumps
- Plank Right
- Plank Centre
- Plank Left
- Squat jumps or Mountain Climbers
- Roll back and jump
Circuit training with weights will be introduced later in the term.
A coach will demonstrate each exercise.
Women: 2 sets of the following: 45 seconds on and 15 seconds off
- Chin lifts
- Jumping jacks
- Tricep dips
Concept 2 ergometers used by the club simulate the rowing stroke very effectively. They are used to develop fitness as well as technique. To begin with, there will be an emphasis on technique and timing. Groups will train together at times that are convenient on Mondays and Fridays above the squash courts in the sports centre.
We have limited availability of ergs. Erg sessions will be by allocated spots which will be assigned via doodle.com – example: http://doodle.com/poll/rbwyww23t94y6gws
You will be required to fill in your results from each session on-line via Google Forms and post a photo of the screen via WhatsApp Messenger to the cox. All sessions will be summarised on a central spreadsheet.
Erg programmes will be developed and posted weekly and will involve varying degrees of intensity. The following is a chart of terms used and relate to a nineteen year old with a resting heart rate of 55 and a 6 minute 55 second 2,000 meter erg:
|Heart Rate||HR%||Split||% of 2k power|
|UT2 – Aerobic Endurance||150 – 157||65 – 70||2:15 – 2:03||45 – 60|
|UT1 – Intense Aerobic||157 – 172||70 – 80||2:03 – 1:57||60 – 70|
|AT – Anaerobic Threshold||172 – 179||80 – 85||1:57 – 1:52||70 – 80|
|TR – Transport||179 – 194||85 – 95||1:52 – 1:42||80 – 105|
|AN – Max (anaerobic)||194 – 201||95 – 100||1:42 – 1:39||105 – 115|
Novice Erg Competition
A pewter tankard, sponsored by Old Collegians Boat Club, will be presented to the best performance on the erg over the season to the end of May 2017 – one to the best male and one to the best female.
Performance, as determined by the coaches, will be assessed roughly as follows:
- 2K October
- 2K February
- 2K May
- Kilometres completed over period
- Number of sessions
- Improvement between 2K sessions (weighted towards first session)
- Average splits if possible
Please be advised that throughout the semester the club is monitored with respect to our attendance at the gym by College authorities, as there is a high demand for facilities. Please make sure that you are in possession of relevant UCD Student/staff card for identification purposes.
Tee shirt, sports shorts and good running shoes will be required for land training in the gym. As mentioned, it will be a while before one breaks into a sweat in the boat, it is therefore recommended that you wear a warm fleece and tracksuit bottoms for on the water training.
On the Water Training
On the water training takes place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at Broadmeadows in Islandbridge, on the Liffey adjacent to the Phoenix Park. Times will be allocated. Click here for directions to Islandbridge.
It takes approximately 30 minutes to cycle from the campus to the boat club – the ideal method of travelling.
On the water training will concentrate on development of basic technique as set out in Part 2 of this manual. Initially we will focus on orientation with equipment and coaching the basics but will endeavour to get everyone into a routine that takes them out in eights as soon as possible.
When a routine has been established, an on the water session will take just over an hour.