Inch by inch :: looking at the margins

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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.

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No Comments on "Inch by inch :: looking at the margins"

  1. JJ

    Whats the ideal drive/recovery time ratio in a gig ?
    Sliding seat rowers aim for 1:2, ie recovery twice as long as drive.
    A gig will slow down quicker than a shell, so should it be about 1:1.5 ?
    What do you think ?

    • Musto

      We did some ratio testing a year or two back and came in at about 1:1.6 @ r27 4 mins into a piece and 1:1.4 @ r28 13 mins into same piece. Will do so more digging and see what I can uncover.

      • Steve

        I would have thought the ratio is probably less than 1:1 during a race. Throughout the 3 rivers, both Falmouth and Caradon were stroking at between 33/34 which would make it almost impossible to get a ratio where the time on the return is greater than that in the water. During the first leg when the rates where higher still, I would expect this to be even more true. Thought?

        • Musto

          Just went over some data from a ladies A crew training session, ratio was 1:1.08 at r35. I’ll see if I can get a data logger put into other boats and see what the readings come out like for a variety of stroke rates.

          Ratio tending towards 1:1 as rate climbs higher is what you’d expect to see, but the perception from in the boat is likely to always feel like there’s more recovery than drive?

    • Matt P

      I’ve rowed at several sliding seat clubs, and have heard this 1:2 cadence quoted by all levels of coach. This has always puzzled me since I’ve never yet seen it done in racing conditions.
      Even in the world championship regatta races shown on TV I’ve yet to see ANY crew using this 1:2 power stroke:return ratio. In fact, if anything, the more successful crews employ a rate whereby the return is acctually quicker than the power part of the stroke.
      Obviously the general stroke rate would vary somewhat at different points in the race, and perhaps the stroke cadence might also do so,but I’ve yet to see anything remotely approaching 1:2.

  2. JJ

    Food for thought ….
    I’m using the Rowing Rating and Ratio Watch android app to time a few vids on youtube, and all so far have longer recoveries.
    If recovery is shorter than drive, is the boat being given time to run ?
    I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that your return shouldn’t be faster than the speed of the water moving past the boat, so letting the boat run. Is this correct ?
    Come on coaches, whats the answer ?

  3. JJ

    In theory its possible to get a longer return even at 34 strokes/min
    34 strokes/min with ratio of 1:1.6
    drive time 0.6787 secs
    recovery time 1.0859 secs
    pub time 7200 secs recovering from all those drives 🙂

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