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Adjusting to special circumstances helps turn rowers into experts

This is an excerpt from Rowing Faster-2nd Edition by Volker Nolte.

Adjustment to Special Circumstances

Setting the rowing equipment for normal practice is one thing, but adjusting the equipment to special circumstances is the next level that rowers and coaches need to achieve on their way to becoming experts. All alterations follow logical reasons, but the possible combinations available can make decisions difficult. Table 10.4 gives an overview of possible circumstances that call for rigging adjustments. It is assumed that the rowing equipment is set for normal training usage and specific circumstances require intervention. Depending on the crew’s situation, some of the suggested modifications may not work or may work only in conjunction with other adjustments. Therefore, the suggestions are general and need to be tested by the individual crew.

Some of the observed challenges could be fixed with technical interventions. Such interventions are not discussed in this chapter; instead, only equipment adjustments are suggested (see table 10.4). Nonetheless, it is assumed that coaches always check their crews’ rowing technique before equipment changes are made. Also, it is important for the coach to evaluate the possible effects of the circumstances on the crew to identify the most important intervention to be performed first. The proposed modifications are in no particular order. Also, in most cases crews present a variety of technical problems at once, and one of the most challenging tasks for a coach is to decide which problem is the most important and must be addressed first. Ideally, the coach identifies the most pressing problem and chooses the most appropriate intervention.

With all these measurements and interventions, it is important to ask how accurate such measurements can be. The accuracy of the measurement is directly connected to the quality of the measurement equipment and the proficiency of the person using the equipment. However, only a certain level of accuracy is required in some circumstances. For example, some pitch meters can only measure to a full degree, so the coach must be skilled enough to distinguish a difference of 1° pitch. In this case, the accuracy with which the coach is performing the procedure is most likely better than that of the equipment.

A more expensive electronic pitch meter can measure to a tenth of a degree, but it is much more difficult to get the same number to the identical tenth of a degree when the measurement is repeated. In this case, the accuracy of the equipment is better than that of the coach, and much more skill is involved in using such equipment.

Accuracy can be checked by repeating the measurement, including zeroing the meter. Only if the same number is assessed for repeated measurements is the procedure performed accurately.

How accurate does one have to be? A boat is continuously pitching and rolling when rowed, which directly affects the pitch on the blade. For example, research has revealed that even world-class 8+ crews roll their boats up to about 2° with every stroke (Nolte & McLaughlin, 2005). This means that for some parts of the stroke, the lateral pitch would be +2° on one side and −2° on the other side. Less experienced crews and smaller boats tend to roll even more (novices up to a 6°-8° roll). Although such rolling movement is not intended nor seen as positive, it is evidently happening in every crew, so it is clear that rowers can indeed tolerate quite a bit of difference in pitch on the blade. In addition, today’s bigger blades are less sensitive to pitch. Therefore, the accuracy of about 0.5° is sufficient for measuring pitch on the oarlock.

As long as the accuracy of the measurement is better than the desired accuracy, one can be satisfied. Otherwise, one would have to either acquire a better measurement tool or learn to perform the measurement more precisely. The same considerations apply to all other rigging measurements. The desired accuracy of the measurements can be seen in table 10.5.

The presented information is based on many studies and extensive experience, and it can be safely used as standard measurements. Measurements within a boat should generally stay the same. This will help with balance and make it easy to move rowers among various seats and boats. Sometimes individualized adjustments are necessary, but they should be kept to a minimum.

Read more about Rowing Faster 2nd Edition by Volker Nolte.