You often hear your cox or coach say that “every stroke counts” and to race “inch-by-inch”, to flow, and to let the boat run. Put all that you can into making the boat accelerate then do as little to upset it on the recovery!
The margins, the tiny differences, they all add up. Our sport is amazingly competitive and the racing so close.
A great illustration is to look at some result stats from the recent 2011 3 Rivers race, shown here are the top-10 mens crews. And, given a race length of 9600m (about 6 miles), the gap between first and second was 54m **. Over the race time that meant the lead boat was outpacing the second place boat by 2cm every second – less than an inch each second!
Look further and you’ll see places 7 and 8 were separated by 8mm per second! That’s pretty close stuff so everything you can do in your favour will help.
So, what are the areas that you can work on to find those inches?
- Fitness :: ok, sure, be as fit and strong as possible, but make sure it’s all specific to rowing.
- All-up-weight :: the heavier your boat, kit, cox and crew, the more the boat sinks into the water and the slower you’ll go (or the harder you have to work to overcome it). An estimate is in the order of 0.19% penalty per 10kg weight difference (assuming a gig+mens crew+cox+oars = 300kg+480kg+65kg+30kg, IE 875kg.). Over a 9600m race like 3 Rivers, each 10kg could mean 18m (9600 x 0.19%) or just under 2 lengths…you still want that pasty?
- Power-to-weight :: every rower will have a “sweet spot” where their bodyweight and performance are balanced. But, go too light and your performance is likely to suffer.
- A gouge on your keel :: every nick and gouge is drag pure and simple.
- Catching a crab :: it goes without saying that perfect bladework is the aim! At race pace, catching a crab might cost you 3m.
- Picking up weed :: hard to quantify but pick up something big and it’ll have an impact.
- Too much rudder pressure by the cox :: every touch on the rudder puts on the brakes.
- Paint finish :: no “go faster” finishes are allowed under CPGA rules, but the fewer imperfections underwater the better.
- Crew weight trim :: a “bows down” trim is likely to help reduce drag.
We’re planning some GigRower experiments this summer to see if we can quantify some of these factors, we’ll keep you posted!
** Assumptions about finishing distances between boats have been made by using average speed round the course. On-water finishing gaps would have been smaller when viewed from shore as finishing speeds into the tide were less than the course average speed.