Fundamentals of Rowing
- Can you swim? Even so, it is recommended to wear a life vest.
- If you capsize, STAY WITH THE SHELL!! It is equipped with positive floatation. You are more easily seen as a larger object.
- Check all nuts and bolts – be sure everything is tight and secure.
- Carry a life preserver with you at all times – Coast Guard regulations require one per person.
Sound Signaling Devices
This piece of safety equipment may be as inexpensive as a mouth whistle or portable air horn. This simple device can be used to alert other vessels to one’s position while also permitting a vessel to exchange the prescribed whistle signals between watercraft so as to avoid collisions. Coxswains should be educated as to the proper sound signals between vessels especially the signal for danger or imminent collision.
Personal Flotation Devices (PFD) or Life Jackets
All recreational watercraft today, whether power, sail, or rowed need to have one US Coast Guard Approved PFD on board for each person. Maine State law further requires children less than 12 years of age to wear a PFD at all times when on the water. It is important to understand that PFDs can be extremely crucial in ultimately determining if one survives an unexpected immersion into cold water. Last year nearly 80% of those who died in recreational boating accidents might have survived had they been wearing a PFD. None of those unexpectedly entering the water ever planned on it, unfortunately it happens too frequently. Even a good swimmer can run into difficulty when suddenly capsized or immersed into cold water.
The recommendation would be to wear a PFD if under age 12 and to have one aboard for each person in the shell. Obviously it may be impractical, if not impossible, to carry a life jacket in the crew shell. In competition, there should be a “Chase Boat” that carries safety equipment for the athletes. This Chase Boat will have the PFDs, throw-able floatation devices, as well as other equipment.
For New Equipment
- Left over right rigging height. Due to left hand overlapping the right, the left rigger should be higher off the water than the right. Check with a rigger stick. Left should be ¼” – ¾” higher than the right.
- Setting the buttons on the oars – to be sure the hands overlap, one directly on top of the other – check with the oar in the rigger; grip over bottom keel.
For Each Individual
- Rigger height off the water – hands should feather just above your navel – set by the wedges between rigger and shell and the space washers on the oarlock pin.
- Foot assembly adjustment – for length of each rower's legs -set so each rower does not hit the end of the seat track when fully extended and thumb grazes stomach when feathering.
Four Basic Techniques
GETTING IN AND OUT OF THE SHELL:
- Be sure oarlocks point towards shell when placing oar in lock.
- Be sure oar spins freely.
- Have oars in ready position before entering (grip over grip)
- Get down in shell quickly, don't stand up.
- Before strapping in the feet, check foot assembly adjustment.
BALANCING THE SHELL:
- Put a hand around each grip; thumb over end of grip.
- Split oars one up, one down (with blades floating on water) to feel the “tippiness” of the shell.
- Lock oar grips – as if wrists were tied behind your back – with blades on water – then try to rock the shell. This will demonstrate the speed of controlling the stability of the shell and how effectively it works. (Important step in gaining confidence and the attention of your student!)
- This is the safety or panic button – Use the phrase “tie your wrists”.
THE ROWING STROKE:
We must first instill two new habits:
- A straight, level stroke vs. roly-poly leave the blades on the water's surface, and let them float.
- Pushing with legs instead of pulling with arms; leave the elbows locked, and drive with the legs.
Go through the sequence of events.
- Square or Catch – Knees together, arms straight, blades perpendicular, wrists flat, thumbs over end, blades 3/4 under surface of the water. RELAX!
- Drive – Begin with the legs, keep elbows locked, drop shoulders, finish with arms – straight level stroke. HINT: Use a 4 count – first three – legs, last one – arms.
- Feather – At the end of the drive (hands in front of stomach, not beyond in “No Man's Land”, you turn your wrists down or “knuckles up”. Blades should exit water and immediately float on the surface. HINT: Relax the grip and upper body. Simply turn the wrists – use the phrase “flick and float”.
- Return/Recover – Glide the blades. “ski on the water”, back away from the body, hands lead the way, lock elbows with arms straight before sliding the body, return to square position. HINT: Keep the return slow and relaxed giving the shell more time to glide without checking, body moving In opposite direction of the shell.
TURNING THE SHELL:
- Sit stationary with knees slightly bent.
- Lay or lock one oar grip against one knee to stabilize the shell.
- Use a tiny stroke with the other oar to turn the shell. Do not slide on the seat. You are to use an arm pull only. HINT: Use tiny strokes with a relaxed grip. Don't worry about sliding – this method turns the shell in an arc and it requires more time and space to maneuver.
- Sit stationary with knees slightly bent.
- Go to square position as in a normal stroke.
- Turn one blade flat on the water and re-grip that blade so both wrists are flat.
- Begin a normal stroke sequence pulling both oars towards the body. Notice one blade is pulling water while the other is floating.
- Feather both blades wrist down and knuckles up. Notice the pulling blade is now flat, and the flat blade is now cupped in reverse.
- Return the blades to a stiff arm position. Notice the blade cupped in reverse will now push water while the other blade will float or stabilize the shell. HINT: Use tiny strokes, arms only, do not worry about sliding on seat.
** RELAX the grips, allow them to float on surface,
** This method will turn the shell “on a dime”, and it is very effective in cramped quarters or windy conditions.
- Feel the water, sensing the blades as if they were your hands floating and driving.
- Relax the grip and drop the shoulders during the drive. Let the legs do the work especially during the start of the drive.
- Look over your shoulders when the grips overlap during the drive – safest time to navigate.
- In case of trouble, “tie your wrists”, stop for a moment, take a deep breath, then start over from the square position.
- Never drive hard when the shell is in a stationary position. This could damage the shell or the rower's lower back; ease into the momentum..
- Give yourself time to understand and acclimate to rowing. You are learning something new for the first time. When rushed, the “mind vs. body” can frustrate or instill poor habits in any beginner. You will learn better by the sense of feeling rather than theory.
Example: Many beginners think that the shell is moved by pulling the oars rather than pushing the body. To break this mental habit, one should concentrate on dragging the oars at the beginning of each drive… locking only the elbow joint not the shoulder. The sensation one should feel is as if the arms are being pulled out of the shoulder sockets. Practice this habit slowly to give the body time to make this sensation a habit.
- RELAX! RELAX! RELAX!
The lead drag turn is used when turning the shell while continuing to keep up the stroke, to follow the allotted course, or to work out in a confined area.
- Decide which way to turn as the opposite side oar will control the turn.
- In the drive position, rather than both wrists overlapping, one hand will lead ahead of the other. That hand is prematurely breaking the elbow lock and pulling the shell to one side while the other hand is continuing to drag.
- Depending on the degree of turn required, the leading hand will break early or late along with pulling hard or soft. HINT: Slow down the pace. Keep the hands on the level plane because the shell has a tendency to lean towards the dragging oar. Do not let the oars split apart.
Rowing in Reverse is used when backing out of trouble or coming to shore or dock.
- Turn the shell so that the stern is facing in the direction of where you need to go.
- Reverse both blades so they are cupped towards the bow
- Reverse the action of a normal stroke so you will push, water on the return. Turn the wrists up and knuckles down at the catch and float the blades on the drive. HINT: Keep the strokes small, relax the grip, and allow the blades to float.
Drills Used to Correct Problems
PROBLEM: Rower wants to pull rather than push the shell.
DRILL: “Stiff Arm” Drill
- Go to the catch position.
- Lock the elbows and prepare to keep them locked
- Drive the shell with the legs
- When the legs are fully extended, stop the drive, feather the oars, and return
- Do not allow the elbows to unlock.
- Concentrate on driving with the legs.
PROBLEM: Rower can't keep the oars level through the drive.
DRILL: “Stiff Leg” Drill
- Keep the 'body in a stationary position with legs slightly bent.
- Send the arms to the catch position.
- Row a normal stroke with the arms only, and do not slide the seat.
- Work on relaxing the grips and keeping the hands level with the water.
- Although this is using an incorrect habit of a pull vs. push drive, it does help to correct the problem.
If you are a novice at rowing a shell, here are a few tips to keep you dry and to help you develop a professional style.
- Remember to hang on to your oars at all times, and you will greatly reduce the probability of getting wet!
- You can achieve improved performance as you learn with shorter slower strokes Remember to 'RELAX'
- Check all 'adjustments, and 'tighten all bolts before leaving the shore. You will be glad you did.
- If by some freak of nature you happen to flip the boat, here are some tips:
- Don't fight it! Roll out of the shell quickly. This will keep your craft afloat whilst taking in only a small amount of water.
- If possible, paddle the craft to the shoreline before attempting to climb back in. If you are too far out, bring the oars to the ready position (grip to grip); and tie the grips together with a foot strap. By doing this, you will stabilize the shell.
- Staying low, begin to slide your legs into the craft towards the foot assembly.
- Be sure to keep your weight distributed evenly and only on the sections of the shell that can handle your weight.
- Once you are in the shell, grab the oars and return to your proper rowing position.
HINT: Keep an elastic tennis wristband on one of the oar shafts at all times. It works as a great “wrap around” for the grips should you flip the shell because you'll need both hands free to stabilize the shell.
LAUNCHING FROM A DOCK
- Slide the shell off the well-padded end of the dock, stern first. To save time, attach the oars in the oarlocks and lay the blades on the bow decking, one over the other.
IMPORTANT: Carpet or pad the edge of' the dock 3″ to 4' wide to prevent damage to the hull.
- Bring the shell along side until the corner of the dock comes up to the corner of where the rigger is attached to the shell.
- Reach out and kick both oar blades back into the water, gliding them around until both oar grips overlap.
- With one hand grabbing the grips together and the other holding the dock, slowly climb down into the shell. Notice the blades are providing stability while entering the shell because they are both locked on the surface.
- Once you are in the shell, gently push the craft away fun, the dock until you float far enough away to work the oars.
- Be sure you allow your shell to breathe when it is not in use. The sealed craft emits fumes when going through temperature changes and the like.
IMPORTANT: Loosen the drain plugs and porthole after each use and when storing the craft. For your protection, the PRO AM and the OLYMPUS have a breather hole located in each top foot track should you forget to loosen the drain plug.
Your shell is a precision craft and it should be handled with personal care at all times. It can fine tuned to your exact height, weight, and rowing ability. Please use care in handling, storing, and transporting your shell. It should be washed down after each use and properly stored. The sculling oars should also be handled as delicate instruments and cleaned after each use. Start a routine clean up and maintenance check after each row. This will ensure a lifetime of pleasure from your shell.