The stroke cycle: The stroke needs to be longer, especially on the back end. There’s a 3-to-1 ratio outboard to inboard, so an extra three inches of finish equals nine inches at the end of the oar. That times 225 is a lot.
There needs to be more attention paid to accelerating through the pin and sending the boat. This will improve the start and the finish. In looking at last year’s cycle on the San Diego tape, and I understand that it was the end of the race, you were missing on the front end,shoulder throwing, rowing the oar into the water, and cutting off the back end. Instead of a loop, it was a trapezoid.
Instead of viewing of the cycle as catch, drive, release and recovery, we’ll look at it as disengagement, recovery, engagement, and drive. Why? Because it makes more sense.
The disengagement sequence begins when your legs hit down, through to the finish and the send, proceeding with your hands and body away to when your knees break and the recovery begins. The key is the degree to which you relax after the release.
The engagement sequence begins when you start to square the oar, through a loose, quick catch and into the lock. The whole body absorbs the lock load, led by the legs, connected with abs and lower and middle back, transferred through the shoulders and arms to your fingers on the handle, directing all your force onto the drive plane.
So these are the terms you’ll hear from me:
Send and swing: Accelerate through the pin to a strong, high finish position. Once the oar is released, relax completely and settle onto your seat, balanced over center, swing hands and body away to get set for the next engagement.
Draw the boat underneath: On the recovery, your focus needs to be low in the boat. The swing out of bow is led by the abs, not the shoulders. The upper body is so relaxed that it easily follows the abs. Focusing on your feet and seat, and drawing the boat to you helps control the slide and makes the timing of the hook easier and more consistent.
Hook and lock: The focus of the hook is to engage the water in proportion. If the legs, abs and lower/middle lead the lock, the load is passed through your upper back and shoulders, and onto your arms suspended on the oar. The reason to emphasize this is to eliminate shoulder throwing and to ensure that power is concentrated on the drive plane.
Accelerating through the pin: Cutting the stroke short is giving away speed. Acceleration should start at the hook and continue all the way through to the send. Overemphasizing the front end usually leads to being short at the finish and/or out of position at the send.
Relaxed power: Converting the alert relaxation of the recovery into explosive power begins during the recovery, not at the catch. Your body angle is set as you compress into the hook. You are aggressive, poised to strike and intent on accelerating all the way through the stroke. Important: Relaxed power does not imply passiveness; it implies energy conservation and intense focus on the drive plane.
Boat selection: There won’t be much time for this, and I’ll probably do it by switching pairs within the eight. I have no preconceptions here (I love that about myself), and I’m always open to bribery.
It should be noted that the boating will be determined by the ability to execute the stroke cycle described above. Again, I believe your biggest increase in boat speed will come from improvements in the back end of the cycle.
Individually, you will receive thoughtful, pithy and sensitive coaching about your stroke. And be sure to laugh at your coach’s many humorous comments, intended and unintended.
Starts: Continuing with an earlier theme, your improvement on starts will be on the back end of the stroke cycle, not the front.
Question: When you’ve blown a start in the past—there must have been one or two— where did it happen? My guess is the back end. From the very first stroke, you send the boat. So our focus on starts will be on being relaxed, quick and light, and attending to the complete cycle.
Slow rowing (Tai Chi rowing): You’ll spend as much time as possible slow rowing. Its purpose is control, relaxation, balance, swing and feeling the lock with the entire body. It will be used in getting the stroke rate up by alternating between low rates and high rates. You’ll be surprised how well it works.
Once again–relaxed power, channeled onto the drive plane. Also, no matter how slowly you row—paraphrasing Chubby Checker, “How slow can you row?”—the catches and releases are loose and quick. As the stroke rate increases, so will the quickness of you engagements and disengagements.
Relaxation: Relaxation is a skill. Practice it in your car—a nice diversion from road rage-or at work, or in line at the grocery store, or anywhere.
Relaxation is half of the stroke cycle and its importance shouldn’t be taken lightly. Think of sitting at the starting line, relaxed and breathing deeply, poised to strike, aware and deadly.
You burst off the line, in the cycle, hooking and locking, accelerating through the pin, sending and swinging, and it’s bye bye Beach Badgers. That’s the way I see it.