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EPISODE . 6 . The Avoidance of Boat Stopping PART 1

PART 1 of 2

Written by Martin Kay

Whenever we want to run a nice hot bath, the first thing we do is put the stopper firmly in the plug-hole. No point in turning the tap on full blast if the water is trickling away unseen.

Applying full power in the boat in the race is everyone’s aim. What might we be doing to slow the boat and dissipate our hard-earned power gained in training? Consider each item, and a suggested approach to improving efficiency is shown in italics.


Everything we do to improve the stroke effectiveness requires concentration, particularly when introducing a new focus, because the default position is to revert to our old habit. This will continue until we get the habit change, which is signalled when we start getting the alert that a previous substandard stroke was an exception. Sometimes this habit change may take months of repetitions to get implemented, so do not be surprised if it takes a while! The aim is…Perfect Every Time.

Any hint of dirty water around the spoon at the finish tells us that the pressure has come off at the final part of the draw, allowing the water to catch up behind the spoon, which backs the boat down momentarily, after the boat has accelerated away in response to your power applied.

Modify the hand speed, the shape of the release movement and the final pressure until this effect disappears. Perhaps consider how the javelin thrower moves, with the final whip coming through the forearm, wrist and fingers to send the javelin faster on its way.

Every coach will have their own arsenal of exercises to address these points.

One signal of inefficiency is a knock or clunk at the turn, telling you that the sleeve is coming away from the pin just at the extraction, i.e. that the pressure at the pin has come off too early, indicating weak draw at the finish. Aim for “silent running”.

The depth of the spoon in the water during the drive is key to getting efficiency and the right “feel” of each stroke. Too deep and its hard work. Too shallow or bouncing out and you tear the puddle, losing rhythm and balance.

Set up your fore and aft pitch correctly at every position, also decide what lateral is needed and check it is the same both sides. C- Cups can move, so this is an essential item of regular maintenance.

Is the spoon clean and correctly painted? Too shiny and it may not grip the water well, so an eggshell finish, similar to manufacturers’ standard, may benefit you. Try this out to compare the feel of alternative paint finishes.

Every time your blade touches the water on the way forward will slow the boat a little. In a 2000M race this insidious effect is multiplied by 250.

Does the handle touch your knees as they rise? When are you feathering? Are you rolling the boat?

Do you love a tailwind? Many people do, but why…do they think it should feel easier? Because the boat might be moving 15%, even perhaps 20% faster than in a strong headwind, all these bladework perfections become more difficult to carry out properly, if you are actually going to achieve going “faster enough”.

Think “quickness” at the turns in the tailwind. For example a 6:40 time over 2000M means a boat speed of 5m/sec. The boat therefore travels 5cm (2 inches) in every 1/100 sec that passes.