After returning to the top of the podium at Nationals this year, our great friend Emma Twigg sat down with SL Racing to chat about rowing, life, and why she is getting back in the boat for Tokyo 2020.
What got you into rowing?
My brother started rowing after watching Rob Waddell win a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics. Dad coached him and after a year of watching the fun that he had at the Hawkes Bay Rowing Club, I decided with some encouragement from both of them that I would give it a go. I have always been very competitive, so I found it hard when I was an average novice. I was convinced to carry on because of my build, and eventually my competitiveness became an advantage.
What's your favourite session?
I love a long U2 row, when the boat is feeling light and the water is pristine. Nothing beats the feeling of the boat and your body working hard in a session like this.
How do you prepare for a race?
My preparation for a race is done month's in advance. The training that we do daily prepares us the best, but on race day I have a very specific routine that involves a pre-row, breakfast, packing my bag to race, chilling to music and getting on my bike to get to the course to warm up. This is something that I have done for many years now. I like to work backwards from the start of the race to plan exactly what time I will start to warm up, eat, chill etc.
Whose been your favourite person to race against?
Kim Brennan would have to be my favourite competitor. Our rivalry in 2013/14 was a memorable time in my career. She is a phenomenal athlete and set a very high standard.
What do you look for in a boat?
I like a boat that is responsive, feels light, sits up well, is balanced and looks slick.
What's your favourite part about racing an SLR?
Simon has done a great job of building a boat specific to my needs. His eye for how any boat travels through the water is one of the best in the business. What I like about the SLR is my ability to keep my rating up, and be efficient throughout the whole race. I feel like I am sitting up on top of the boat rather than down inside it, and the quality of the product is awesome. SLR has come a long way since the first single I rowed in, and I now feel like this single is of a quality that would be competitive internationally.
Do you have a favourite/most memorable race? What is it?
Most memorable race would have to be competing in front of a home crowd and winning a bronze medal at the Karapiro World Champs in 2010. I will never forget the thunder of the crowd stomping on the temporary grandstand in the last 250m.
Why did you make a comeback this year?
After time away from the sport, and a little bit of perspective, I realised that it is a real privilege to be able to be working towards being the best in the world at something. This is a gift that I would like to make the most of while my body and mind is still willing. I hope that my return to rowing will inspire others and I will be able to make the most of my profile in sport positively while I can.
What's the secret to happiness?
Enjoying what you do every day, enjoying the process and surrounding yourself by people that make you laugh, inspire you and exude positivity.
Any advice for a young person sitting in high school (other than row an SLR!)?
Don’t be in a hurry to be at the top of your game. Good things take time, the people you meet, friends you make and experiences you have along the way are far more rewarding than any medal or prize at the end of it.
From humble beginnings
Our little sport goes a long way back. Forgetting the ancient greek and romans slogging it across oceans, the first 'modern' rowing races were still raced three centuries ago. As far back as 1715 ferry and taxi boat rowers competed for wager races offered by the London Guilds and LIvery Companies or wealthy owners of riverside houses.
Ox-bridge - a tradition is born
In 1829 two former schoolfriends studying at Oxford and Cambridge started the Oxford and Cambridge race with the first challenge letter reading:
"The University of Cambridge hereby challenge the University of Oxford to row a match at or near London each in an eight-oar boat during the Easter vacation. W Snow, St John's College."
It's a star studded sport
A few 'celebrities' have picked up an oar in their time including: Anderson Cooper (Yale), Stephen Hawking (Oxford), Edward Norton (Yale), Gregory Peck (Cal Berkeley), Teddy Roosevelt (Harvard), Bradley Cooper (Georgetown) and Hugh Laurie (Cambridge).
Ducks cross here
At the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam Henry Pearce won gold in the single sculls while stopping to allowin a family of ducks to cross his lane.
One lucky lad
We've all had a cox who loved a big breaky - but the 1900 Holland’s coxed pair cox should've skipped a few weetbix - being too heavy to race the final. Without many other options, the pair convinced a 12-year-old local boy to step in. Amazingly, they went on to win gold.
Maybe a little elitist
In 1919 an American (JB Kelly) wasn't allowed to compete because he was once a bricklayer and manual labourers were barred from racing. Kelly had the last laugh though, going on to win two gold medals at the next year's Antwerp Olympics.
With World Champs quite late in the year in 2018, it seems like we’ve just finished watching the international season and it’s already time to start gearing up for the domestic season in New Zealand and Australia. As the temperatures rise and daylight hours start to kick in – here are our top tips for getting back into the swing of things this rowing season.
It’s easier together
If you’ve had a winter of hibernation, it’s always a hard ask getting motivated for early starts or multiple training sessions. There aren’t many of us out there who jump at the chance to punish their body at five am, so for most of us, having someone else sharing in that transition will make it a lot easier. Find yourself a training partner, or even better get your whole squad back together and make sure you hold each other accountable! A crew that trains together, wins together.
You don’t have to be winning on day one
If you’ve ever watched some of our top rowers like Mahe Drysdale progress through the season, you’ll see that they know that it’s not about winning every race – it’s about winning the one that counts. When you first hop on the erg this year, don’t expect to be doing PB numbers, and don’t punish yourself for not doing them. Ease into the season. Those first few rows don’t have to be the longest you’ve ever done, and you don’t have to jump straight into your best form either. Think about that National’s medal, and build up to that end result.
Look after yourself
Early season injuries are definitely a thing, so make sure you are looking after your body from day one. If you haven’t been in the boat a while you might have tight hamstrings or a bit of a weak core, so getting out and slamming yourself on day one could lead to injuries later in the season. Stretch, do some core work, and be sure to focus on your eating and recovery for those first few weeks. A rowing career without injury is a rowing career that let’s you get closer to the top – so look after your engine.
Lastly, if you follow those first few tips, then hopefully this final one will come naturally. Have fun! It’s been a cold winter and you haven’t touched an oar for a while so on those first few rows be mindful and take it all in. We’ve got a sport that gets us outdoors in some beautiful places, so appreciate every minute of it. Listen to the water run under the boat, take the time to look at that sunrise, and have a laugh with your crew. You’re not just getting fitter and racing hard, you’re creating friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.
With Robbie Manson locking in the single scull spot for New Zealand at the most recent Rowing World Cup, the rowing world’s attention has turned to Mahe Drysdale and what his next move will be. Straight after the World Cup final, Mahe made it clear that he was keen to move into another boat for the upcoming World Champs, before contesting the single again next year. With that the hot topic of conversation at the moment, we thought we’d take a quick look at boat specialisation, what it means, and whether jumping into a new boat combo close to an event is something that can be done easily.
For most Club and School rowers, boat specialisation is something of a luxury. During the season you’ll end up jumping from boat to boat, combination to combination, and racing multiple events in a day or in a regatta. Even at Nationals it’s pretty normal to race two or three events. At our local pinnacle events, you won’t see too many people specialising in just one boat or combination. However, when you hit the international scene, where rowers have to perform at their peak and race results can come down to millimetres (can you remember that Rio men’s single?!)…boat specialisation is the norm. The top rowers tend to be the most skillful and able to switch between boats, but at that elite level it’s rare to see anyone doubling up in any combination, and most countries like to have their boats selected months in advance of the big races.
The benefits to specialisation in one boat class are pretty clear. For a single sculler it’s pretty crucial – races are won and lost on how well a sculler can move their boat, and how well they can push without any other motivation around them. For crew boats, the longer you row with someone, the more likely it is you are to get in sync – particularly when the pressure comes on. So the question is – why don’t we all specialise in one boat to hit the top of our game at Nationals? The answer to that is probably that as a Club or School rower, you really don’t want to become a one trick pony. If you want to hit the top of your rowing game, at some point you’ll need to row with someone else, and you’ll need to make that new combination work. An eight gives you different boat feel to a pair, just like a quad can help your speed in a single. Behind the scenes even those rowers with the highest level of specialisation will still hop into other boats to help them with their own feel and technique – the big difference is, they tend to have one shot every four years to pull off the biggest race of their lives…so the more time they can get in their target boat, the better.
Which brings us back to a last minute crew change or boat change. It’s fair to say, that’s not an ideal scenario. Changing boats or combinations the day or week before a big race is probably going to have a detrimental effect in that the boat isn’t likely to come together as well as it could with more time under it’s belt. That said, what Mahe is looking at doing has a much longer lead in time than that – and he is a seasoned campaigner who will be able to slot into a combination in a month and make it hum. Rowing New Zealand will likely look at two things – will putting him in a boat have a positive long term result for that boat, and/or will putting him in a boat increase it’s chances of doing well (and ultimately securing more funding for the sport). That’s not a decision we’re equipped to make, but watch this space as there are sure to be some ding dong battles as rowers fight to keep their seat from the old campaigner wanting to slot in for this World Champs!
It’s World Cup time now in Europe and the New Zealand crews are getting into the action. We’re huge fans of the sport as well as boat builders, so that means when it comes time for these big international races, we’re not just watching for the love of rowing, we’re also keeping a keen eye on how the boats and crews are racing. Here’s what we are looking at when any boat is coming down the course.
Is that a bounce?
One of the most obvious things to pick up from the river bank or on the TV is how a hull moves through the water. Is the bow pushing much too deep into the water line? Does it surge up high out of the water at the catch? Can you see the stern ‘stopping’ each stroke as the blades enter the water. To us, these are big indicators of how well a crew is suited to a boat and how well that boat is flowing through the race. Ideally we want to see the boat moving reasonably smooth and level through the water. There will always be a bit of ‘bounce’ to a stroke, but any big movement up, down or backwards is all energy that isn’t moving forwards.
Where is the waterline?
Again, this can be pretty easy to spot, and it’s a sure fire way to tell if a boat is too big or too small for a rower. At the top level you’re unlikely to see someone getting it completely wrong, but at regional level you’ll see plenty of boats with the water line almost slopping into the boat, or the hull sitting so high out of the water it may as well be a hovercraft!
How’s that stroke rate?
A lot can be told by a rower and their stroke rate. A light gearing can see a rower spinning the wheels down the course, while a heavy gearing might see them drop the rating a few strokes. The key here tends to be how that gearing relates to their race speed at the start, in the middle, and at the end of the race. If there is a noticeable drop-off in speed towards the end of the race, maybe that gearing could be a little heavy.
These are just a few of the things we keep an eye on in the boat. There are a ton of aspects we haven’t got to in this blog – like whether a rower is setup too far forward or back in the boat, what their boat looks like compared to the conditions, or how their blades enter and exit the water. In such a simple sport there are a huge amount of little technicalities that you can zoom in on to see what’s happening in a rower’s race. That’s why we love that racing time of year!
When it comes time to hire a new employee, business owners will scour CV’s and make gut decisions on who they are hiring based on how good someone looks on paper. In this month’s blog post we let every HR person out there in on a little shortcut to choosing a great employee – if you see rowing on that CV, you’re onto a winner. Sure, there are exceptions to every rule, but here are a few reasons why hiring a rower is a fantastic idea:
They know commitment
Rowers are a different breed when it comes to sticking things through. While some sports will have you down for a midweek training and a weekend game, rowers slog it out 6 days a week no matter what level they race at. As a top level rower, 12+ sessions a week is a pretty normal thing… so they know what it takes to work their ass off and remain committed to an end goal.
Teamwork makes the dreamwork
There is nothing quite like joining a rowing crew to really understand teamwork and putting it all on the line for the person next to you. A fast boat is one that literally moves together in one motion, and the best crews tend to be the ones that spend the most time in each other’s pockets. You get to know your crewmates through thick and thin – understanding teamwork more than any workplace will teach you.
Healthy people are productive people
A fit body leads to a fit mind and rowers are some of the fittest people you’ll ever meet. They’re usually pretty conscious of what is going into their bodies as well, so you’ll have a sharp worker that gets sick less.
Rowers know how to push
Anyone whose been in a rowing boat and trained properly knows exactly what hard work is. They understand that to get a result, you need to put in the hours. A slack rower doesn’t last the distance, so if you’re after someone whose done 5am starts and knows how to grind – look no further than a rower.
Time is of the essence
Sometimes working smarter can be more important than working harder, and time management skills are definitely something rowers bring to the table. Whether they’ve been studying or working through their rowing careers, they’ve had to not only do the work/study and socialising of their peers, but also fit in a couple of training sessions and recovery each day. They are masters of time management and doing things the smart way.
We’re sure every rower out there could add to that list, but the above traits certainly make the basis for a great employee. What do you reckon? Do rowers make the best employees out there, or are we looking at this through carbon tinted glasses?!
With the news today that Dick Tonks is heading to coach in Canada, it's going to be a really interesting period to see just how influential a coach can be on a rowing program. We're confident that the New Zealand elite squad is absolutely stacked with coaching smarts that will mean our crews continue to lead the pack, but what will be most interesting to see will be Tonks' influence in Canada. Will the New Zealand approach work with a different nationality? Will his renowned 'tough' training programs help the Canadians? All those questions will be answered in the next few years, but one thing is for sure - a coach can have a huge influence on a rower's progression.
Getting it right early
The first few years a rower picks up an oar can be hugely important. It's those years that you learn those initial movements and habits that end up forming the base of your stroke. You'll also often find the love (or loathing!) of the sport, as well as pick up the training instincts you'll take forward for years and years. For that reason, in some ways we actually think the coach of the novices can be as important to a club as the senior coaches. The benefit of instilling a knowledgeable and likeable coach in that role in a club can be hugely beneficial in later years.
Technique, fitness, technique, strength, technique, nutrition, technique
There are alot of factors that go into making a good rower, and the coach needs to be across all of them. Along with creating a training program that gets your athletes fit and strong, you need to be sure they recover well, eat well...even wear the correct clothing to help with performance. But the one thing that must be at the top of the list of every coach is technique. What sets apart a rowing coach and a personal trainer is their knowledge of rowing. If a coach can improve your rower's technique and ability to move the boat, then they've ticked the first box on the coaching checklist.
Knowing your athletes & injury prevention
Teaching athletes the correct rowing technique isn't just about making the boat go faster. Coaches have a huge responsibility in keeping their rowers injury free. That means understanding what movements in the boat are causing stresses on the body and what changes in technique, stretching and land based training can counteract those stresses to keep your athletes fit and healthy. Because rowing isn't a high impact sport, we tend not to see injuries as regularly as some other team sports, but the repetitive nature of our training means that any injury that does come about can be pretty nasty and long lasting. Coaches must understand that and realise that if they do the right thing, they can save their athletes from serious long term pain.
Get the rigging right
Every coach in the boatpark should understand how their boat is rigged, and why they have set it up that way. How the boat is rigged has a big impact on the final result of any race, so along with making sure the rowers have the absolute best technique, it only makes sense a coach should make sure the equipment is in the best possible shape.
A school or rowing club coach in New Zealand is likely to fill a number of roles. They'll be a nutritionist, a personal trainer, a sports psychologist, a boat master and a technical guru. They'll see rowers at their best and at their worst. Their crews might win, or they might lose, but the important thing is that a good coach is there to help an athlete improve. A good coach will give their athletes the best tools possible, keep them injury free and will help them grow the love and enjoyment of our sport.
In our last Rowing New Zealand article and blog piece, we took a basic look at pitch and what it actually is. Theory is great, but we’re all about putting those good theories into practice, so in this blog we are going to run through a nice simple way to set up and check your pitch.
First things first – grab that pin
Before you do absolutely anything with your pitch, you’re going to need to check what your pin is doing. Secure your boat (make sure it can’t move), and make sure it is absolutely dead level both side to side and bow to stern. Do this by grabbing a level and lifting or dropping the bow, stern or side which needs to change to get that little bubble in the centre of the level. Once you’ve found level…make sure the boat can’t move from that position! Remove the gate so just the pin is exposed and get yourself a smaller level, running it vertically up the pin. You’ll want to check two spots – is the pin dead straight (zero degrees) relative to the bow/stern of the boat, and what is the pitch of the pin relative to the centre of the boat. If ALL the pins on your boat are at zero relative to the bow/stern, and THE SAME (between 0 and 1 degree) side to side relative to the centre of the boat…then you are pretty good to move onto the next step. If not…you’re going to have to manipulate that pin! Always hesitate before doing this, as you’ll often find a pin can be stronger than the rigger it is attached to, so heaving around to change the angle of a pin may damage the welds on your rigger. Do it carefully…and only if the juice is worth the squeeze. We’d suggest finding an experienced coach or rower around the club and ask them to assist you – as it can be a brutal job and you don’t want to damage the boat.
Hooray – the pin is perfect!
Once you’ve got the pin exactly where you want it, you can move onto setting up the pitch of the actual gate. This is a much…much simpler task. Grab yourself a pitch meter (or if you are old school and want to be super accurate a plumb bob…again…find an older rower or coach to ask what we’re talking about there), place it against the face of the gate where your blade rests and take a degree reading. Make sure the gate is either facing parallel to the boat, or directly away from it, and take each measurement you make on each gate at the exact same spot (particularly if you’ve put pitch into the actual pin). You’re probably looking for about 4 degrees pitch….if it’s lower than 3 degrees, you’ll want to add more. To do that, remove the gate and check the little (usually blue) inserts in the gate itself. You’ll see they have numbers (7 and 1, 6 and 2, 5 and 3, 4 and 4). The difference between the numbers is the important part (7-1 = 6, 5-3 = 2), to increase your pitch, go for a difference in numbers that is higher than what you’ve currently got in the gate. And remember – this is IMPORTANT – the top insert needs to be put in the opposite way to the bottom insert (so if you have 7-1’s, you’ll want to make sure the 1 is closest to the top of the pin at the top, and the 7 is closest to the pin at the bottom). This subtle difference in sizing at the top and the bottom of the pin either pushes the face of the gate forward, or back, giving more or less pitch.
Check it and check it again
It’s really easy to get these small changes wrong, so just be sure to check and double check every gate – with it both parallel to the boat and facing away from it. You can of course rig each seat slightly differently, but it’s always a good bet to at least start with everyone’s pitch the same.
So there you have it. Pitch…simplified…sort of! Definitely ask around for lessons from people at the club, and have a think how pitch might be affecting your stroke.
Pitch. It’s a funny little word that you’ll hear rowers and coaches throw around at the boat park. Some will complain that their whole rowing stroke is being ruined by the pitch of the boat, while once we were lucky enough to hear a coach indicate to his crew that “pitch is a simple adjustment of the wrists”! But what is pitch, and is it having a huge effect on how you are rowing? In this article we try to dig a little deeper so next time you hear a ‘pitched argument’ in the boatpark you’ll know what’s being discussed.
First up, let’s get back to basics. Pitch can be measured at a couple points – it’s either the angle of the face of the blade as it runs through the water, or the angle of the pin. What most of us know as ‘the pitch’ is really the ‘stern pitch’ – the angle of the blade as it runs through the water. Most of us measure this pitch at the gate these days, but taking a pitchmeter and placing it flat against the back of the gate to figure out what angle it is on. You’ll see pitch ranging between 3 and 7 degrees (more pitch – means the top of the blade is tilted more to the stern than the bottom of the blade). All things being equal, the more pitch you put on the blade, the easier it will lock into the water at the catch, but the harder it will be to pull out. If in doubt, 4 degrees is a reasonable bet. Depending on the gates you are using, you’ll usually be able to set this pitch with the inserts that come with the gate. You’ll find little numbers written on the top of each insert, one number on the front and one on the back – we’ll talk about those a little bit later.
The second type of pitch, which is the type that is easily forgotten, is the lateral pitch. That is the angle of the pin – basically how much it is leaning away from the centre of the boat. You’ll always want your pin at zero degrees (straight up and down) when looking down the boat towards the bow or the stern, however, if you want to get a little bit tricky, you can put a small amount of sideways pitch on (push the top of the pin away from the centre of the boat). Usually you wouldn’t push this more than a degree, as adding that one degree of lateral pitch will increase the angle of your blade at the catch, and decrease it at the finish – meaning better lock at the catch, and an easier extraction (wash out!) at the finish.
So that’s pitch in a nutshell. The angle of your pin and your blade can definitely have a dramatic effect on your boat feel and performance. If you’ve a pin leaning towards the bow, you’ll be bound to washout, if you’ve got it leaning to the stern, you’ll be catching a bad case of the crabs! So next time you’re in the boat park you’ll be able to shake your head at the thought of ‘changing pitch with your wrists’, and maybe join in on the conversation. If you want to take it one step further, head to our next blog, where we take a look at putting the above theories into practice.
The most obvious (and quickest) place to start when rigging for athletes of different heights and sizes is the gate. In fact, a lot of crews will now set their boats up with spacers that can pop in and out to make a quick height change between rows or on the water. As always, before making a change to the gate it’s important to understand what the change will mean for both the rower and the crew.
There are really two levels to think of when you change the gate height. We’ll call them the drop out and the catch. The drop out is the lowest point the handle drops in the boat. That point needs to have the blade clearly out of the water, while the handle is in a comfortable position for the athlete (not digging into their quads for example). The catch on the other hand is the ‘high’ point the handle reaches. It’s a bit more variable because there aren’t body parts to stop it like the drop out, but it’s equally important to the balance of the boat.
When you change the gate height, you’re effectively moving both the drop out and the catch height up or down. That’s really important to remember – if you raise the height to make your drop out more comfortable, that will also have an effect on how high your catch, drive and finish height will be. For that reason, a bit of a balancing act will be had – and for some athletes you may need to look to other parts of the rigging setup to help out.
Let’s take three different athletes as case examples. The proportioned rower, the tall lean rower, and the short stocky rower:
Overall the gate height is a great place to start for different body shapes. Whether it’s giving more clearance for a rounder stomach, making an athlete more comfortable at either end of the stroke, or aiming to help the boats balance issues in general, it’s a good, simple place to start with rigging. Next up we’ll look at stroke length – so check back soon.
We are always trying to make our boats faster, smoother and easier to use for you as customers and for us as manufacturers.
Here at SL Racing we build all our own componentry, from the seat chassis to the pin and backstay. We use our local machine shops to produce items that aren't only cost effective but also work extremely well. These are not stock items and we pride ourselves on continuously thinking outside the box so that no else builds a boat like we do.
Foot steers are a component that is sometimes overlooked but is very important. After a few years of trial and error, in September of 2016 we developed and released something that not only looked great but works perfectly as well.
Our foot steer is made fully of stainless steel so fatigue and corrosion isn't a problem as it is with aluminum.
A packer on the non steering foot ensures that the rowers legs are driving off a level platform.
The locking hole let's you lock the steering in place when you don't require steering.
Importantly, our foot steer uses a 10mm bolt to lock the wire in place so you can use your 10mm spanner.
For the rowers out there - you'll be really happy to feel a very smooth steering motion.
It is a separate component so the steering system is bolted to the foot plate. This can be brought separately to fit any shoe plate.
We're constantly looking for new ways to make our boats faster and more enjoyable to row, and today we're please to announce the full launch of our latest piece of innovation.When we first created SL Racing one of our big focuses was making fast boats that rowers really enjoy rowing. We put a big focus on the little things that would make a difference to us as rowers, and as we move into a busy winter of boat building, we are pleased to announce that every new shell from 1st May 2017 will be fitted with our new, innovative, Carbon Fibre foot stretcher.
The key lies in the leg drive. The foot stretcher has a 10 degree angle change in the lower half of the footplate, allowing the heels of the feet to push down earlier in the drive, increasing your athlete's power output by activating the larger rowing muscles sooner through the leg drive. We have also made the shoes wider apart to give a better platform for boat stability. Like everything in our boats, it's about combining comfort with performance, and already St Peters U-17 8+ has shown that you can get great results with the new stretcher - taking out gold at National Secondary School Champs.
Orders are coming thick and fast into our workshop, so make sure you don't get left behind over the winter and get in touch with us soon about improving your fleet with an SLR.
If you've just finished your last year of Secondary School Rowing you'll be in a really exciting time of your life - the world will be your oyster. But that raises the question about what happens next with your rowing? Globally there tends to be a real drop off in participation in most sports after High School, and that definitely applies to rowing in New Zealand. We think that's a shame, and really want to encourage every high school athlete to stay involved in rowing in some way post Maadi. Right now Maadi Cup no doubt seems like the biggest event in your rowing life, but there is so much more to be gained if you stay in the boat in some way...it doesn't need to be hardcore or elite, but try to keep your rowing ticking over for a couple more years and we guarantee you won't regret it. Here are a few ways to do that...and a few reasons why you should!
You want to make a New Zealand squad
This is the most obvious reason to keep rowing - but too many athletes just think it's out of their reach. What you'll quickly learn is that no matter how many races you won (or didn't win!) at High School...that doesn't mean a whole lot once you move into Club rowing. They say it takes 10 years to row properly, and for some of you, you won't get your strength, your endurance, or your boat feel until post High School. In fact, if you look at the top rowers globally - people like Mahe Drysdale - a huge amount of them didn't necessarily do amazing things at High School. We are lucky to compete in a sport where results come from hardwork...so stick with your goals for a few more years - Maadi is just the first step on the ladder.
If you're already at the top of the pile and in the selectors' gaze, then that's even better! Our big piece of advice would be to seriously consider a move to Karapiro over winter. You can still break into the system if you study and work elsewhere in the country, but you'll give yourself the best opportunity if you can be in front of the NZ coaches and athletes regularly up north. If you are at that top level now, then strike while the iron is hot - you've got your whole life to explore the world, but a limited window to be a professional athlete and row for New Zealand.
You want to get your University degree
After High School, often the first thing to tick off the list is your University degree. It's a great time - you'll meet new people, no doubt party hard, and come out the other end with a tertiary qualification. It's also somewhere that alot of people stop their rowing...as socialising and study takes priority. Well...don't let it. University Rowing is incredibly fun. Even if you are just in it for the social side of things, it's a fantastic way to meet new people in a new place, and the training can be as easy or as intense as you make it. Throw in the fact that alot of the Universities send crews all over the world, and it makes for some of the best memories at uni. Plus...it's a great way to stave off the fresher five kg that every new uni student seems to stack on!
You want to do an OE
More and more our first step post high school is to do an OE or work abroad for a year. Hat's off to you if you are thinking of doing that - it's a brilliant life experience. But again, there is no need to ditch the rowing, and in fact it's an easy way to make local friends that will show you around your new town as only locals can. Let's be honest, rowers tend to be good sorts, and that goes worldwide! Along with keeping fit and having a blast, you also might get to race in regatta's like Royal Henley in the UK... and if you thought Maadi was fun - wait until you see how awesome racing at some of those regattas can be. Be sure to use your rowing to your advantage. Lot's of places around the world will pay for kiwi coaches - from Camp America, to London, to Australia, our rowing pedigree is known, so keep rowing, and you might end up earning a dollar from coaching as well.
You've got a trade and want to stay in your hometown
Congratulations - you've just become the life blood of New Zealand club rowing! If you've set up shop in your home town, you've now got a great opportunity to become a leader in your club. While the uni students are off boozing, you can up your strength and get on the water every now and then over winter and get ahead for next summer. You'll make some great contacts at rowing clubs that will set you up for anything from jobs, to a place to live, so if you've only rowed for a school, don't be shy in heading to your local club now.
The bottom line
The bottom line is that no matter what your next step in life, continuing to row is a great way to enhance that step. Some of the closest friends you make in life will be made in a rowing boat, and one day they'll be the people who you visit all over the world. They'll help you in your career, make your travels more exciting and generally just add to your life. If you keep rowing you'll be one of the fittest people wherever you are, and you'll continue to have that great satisfaction that comes with a beautiful row. You'll also learn that there is something called social rowing out there in the world - so you can be as intense or as cruisy as you like in our brilliant sport.
Throughout our lives we have met lots of people that have rowed at school and not continued. They always look back at rowing with the biggest fondness and most say they want to get back in a boat now...but if you stop, it's that much harder to get back. So we like to think that you'll never regret continuing to row...you'll never regret a training session, but one day you'll definitely regret not continuing on for at least a few years post high school.
So from those of us who have been there and done that - wait until you are at least twenty before you decide to pull the pin on rowing - at least then you would have gained some mates, stayed fit, and found out what rowing post high school is all about. It's only two more years right?!
Over the years our team has sat at the start line of many a 2km race, plenty of 5kms and even the odd 20km one! Some are one day regattas while some are held over a whole week, so along the way we've found out just how important diet can be to the final results. Just like a car, if we get our fuelling wrong, we can run out of gas at the most crucial times - so it's important to at least have a basic understanding of how the food you eat affects your energy systems. Below are some of the little snippets of advice that we have picked up along the way - we certainly aren't dietitians or nutritionists though, so if you are serious about knowing how YOUR body can perform better with nutrition, it would definitely be worth contacting a local expert in the field.
Carbs - the conventional thought
For as long as we can remember, we've been told that the important thing to do before race day is to 'carbo-load'. The logic behind this is that by eating carbohydrates you maximise the storage of glycogen (energy) in your muscles, ready to explode into use on race day. A true carbo-load would see you increasing the amount of carbs (foods like pasta, fruit juice, potatoes, vegetables and the like) over a 2-7 day period while reducing the amount of protein you're eating. This comes with a bit of a proviso though, in that as rowers we are only racing for 2km, so never really get into the true endurance zone that a full blown carb loading approach is designed for. Knowledge is power though, so make sure you have a read of some articles about the science behind carbo loading so you understand what you are doing before you do it. Below is a wikipedia article just to get you started, as well as a little extract from the BBC:
When you do start reading, you'll definitely gain an understanding that given the length of our races, rowers don't need to be super extreme in our approach. The rule of thumb we used at club and school level rowing was to not change what we ate too much in race week. Having a healthy diet the rest of the season was important, and so by maintaining that good quality diet that our body was used to (and slightly increasing the carbohydrate elements of that diet), we avoided any stomach surprises! Everybody is different - for some people a high fat diet is currently in vogue, while others are all about paleo living...so again, we'd just remind you that this isn't our area of expertise and a dietitian or nutritionist should be able to give you an insight into how your body operates.
Recovery and hydration
Regardless of what diet you do end up going for on race week, two hugely important factors (particularly in a full week regatta) are keeping hydrated and eating for recovery. From a hydration point of view, just keep an eye on your urine - make sure it's not dark and murky - but again, don't go overboard and drown yourself in fluids to the point of making you feel off! Just keep a drink bottle in your hand, be sensible, and aim not to get to the point of being super thirsty.
From a recovery perspective, a good rule of thumb is to have something with a hi GI factor (white bread, jellybeans...basically something sweet) - at hand as soon as you get off the water. You've got a 20 minute window to really benefit from that energy input. If you can't rush that food in, just make sure you eat something in the 2 hours after your race.
What about caffeine and supplements?
When you hit the top level of rowing you'll start to notice some of the athletes will use things like caffeine, sodium bi-carbonate and other supplements to boost their race day performance. For a club or school rower, taking these supplements is a risky business. Even the veteran rowers who have used those supplements for a few years still run the risk of not getting the dosage, timing, or method of consumption right. Get any of those things wrong and the supplement goes from giving a slight boost, to leaving you possibly needing bowel movements in the boat, or completely zonked out and crashing. We've included them in this blog because we know that they get discussed around the boat park and athletes might decide they want the boost they give - but we just want to emphasise that there are definite downsides involved and certainly at club or school level the juice may not be worth the squeeze. If you do look to use any type of supplement, consult a dietitian or nutritionist, and be sure to have done a dummy test of using it well before your big race day. Personally - we never went near them!
Know your own body
The bottom line for us with food and drink on race day is it's something you have to figure out for yourself over time. The top athletes in New Zealand have had years of experimenting with what works for them and even they are constantly tweaking what they do to get it perfect. As a club or school level rower, just be sensible come race week. Hopefully you will have had a high quality diet all season, so when race week comes around don't change it too much. Keep your fluids up, eat a few hours before your race, and top up with something straight after and you should be on track to keeping your body fueled through a race week. Again, these are just things we have picked up along the way, and your local dietitian or nutritionist will be able to give you far more specific expertise for what will help you in particular.
We reckon one of the best things about rowing is that no matter where you go in the world you have an amazing community of like minded people to show you around and help you out whenever you're in need. Yesterday at our workshop we were proud to be able to help out our friend and double Olympic Champion, Hamish Bond, when he came in need of some carbon repairs. If you haven't seen some of the headlines in New Zealand, Hamish has shifted focus since the Olympics - trying his legs at cycling. He's been in Hawkes Bay making his last preparations for the New Zealand National Road Cycling Champs - which happens to have a time trial running straight past our workshop. Unfortunately, with just a few days to go before the race Hamish hit the deck while practicing on that time trial course, not only fracturing a few bones in his body, but also doing a bit of damage to his bike. Luckily, rowers are made of tough stuff, and Hamish hopped back on his bike, finished out the ride and brought it our way for a little bit of patch up work.
We certainly don't get many bike repairs come through our workshop, but as far as we're concerned, once a rower, always a rower - so there was never any doubt we'd get to work on that cycle. Helping out rowers wherever we go and wherever we can is a big focus of SL Racing - it's why we always have a repair tent at regattas...fixing any type of boat that comes our way. While we won't be setting up a bike shop any time soon, it was awesome having Hamish through the shed, and our money is on him doing extremely well in that Time Trial tomorrow. You can't keep a good rower down!
As an extra bonus Steve from Rowing Celebration just happened to be floating around our sheds when Hamish brought the media along with him. He took a few photos that we've shared on our Facebook page - and has an amazing knack for being in the right place at the right time when it comes to getting incredible photos of the rowing world! A few of those pics are shown below.
Who are SL Racing?
We’re a rowing boat manufacturer that set up shop in Hawkes Bay in 2010. It’s a family business, owned by myself and my brother Hamish. We built our own workshop at the bottom of our family section.
Why did you set up in Hawkes Bay?
We love Hawkes Bay. It’s a beautiful part of the world and it seemed the natural choice when starting SL Racing. Boats are coming into New Zealand from all over the world now, and there isn’t that same need to be based in Cambridge as there used to be. By being in Hawkes Bay we can keep our overheads lower (which means more affordable boats), have access to a port for exporting, and utilise some of the forward thinking and smart manufacturing companies that are in the Bay. It’s also a lifestyle choice – with friends and family based here, we have an incredible support network that lets us focus on making a top quality product.
Why did you start SLRacing?
A lot of the rowing community knows that my boatbuilding career started with KIRS, but what they might not realise is that in 2009 I was looking to purchase that company. After 18 months of discussions, my offer was turned down, and in retrospect, that was the best thing that could have possibly happened. I realised that I wanted to start my own company and start producing boats that I could be proud of. I thought I could produce a better NZ made product than what was available, and do it for a lower price.
SL Racing boats are now seen throughout NZ and Australia, how have you got to this point?
Hard work. We have built and paid for every part of SL Racing including moulds, machinery and infrastructure from boats we have either sold or repaired. When SL Racing opened it was just myself and Hamish working through very long hours to make sure the boats went out. Over the years we’ve been able to hire 3 full time employees, along with a few part timers and a great group of contractors who have specialties that assist us from mould making to engineering and RnD. With our current growth rate it looks like we will need another two employees per year.
What makes SL Racing different to your competition?
Because of the attention to detail and performance of our hulls.
We invest in keeping our production consistent, taking steps like building laminating rooms which are climate controlled, so every boat is built in exactly the same conditions no matter the season. Because of our lower overheads, the smarter way we make our boats and the way we have grown the company, we are able to offer boats at the most competitive prices. We then combine that low price with a commitment to quality that we stand behind (every hull that leaves our shed has a 5 year warranty).
Finally, Hamish and I are both rowers, so that means we understand all the little details – what feels good, and what doesn’t, as a rower in a boat. We’re constantly investing in research and development to make both the little details and the overall boat better and faster. We will never rest on our laurels.
What is SL Racing’s approach to business?
It all starts with not being ‘showy’. The ‘head down, bum up’ approach is one that rowers throughout New Zealand bring to their training every day and we’ve brought that attitude into our business. We won’t post a photo of every boat we make because we have our focus on getting the next boat out, not patting ourselves on the back.
We like all our staff to ‘think smart’ about any issue they tackle in the workshop and have a very hard working ethic. We push them to be client focused because we take pride in the fact that every boat that comes out of our sheds is a boat we would love to row ourselves. From day one we’ve always made sure we have a forward thinking approach to what we are doing. Along with constantly developing our boats, that also means we have made a huge investment in holding stock. Ultimately that comes at a big cost to us, but it means that we can build any boat at any time without waiting on suppliers.
So where to next for SL Racing?
Right now we’re focussed on two things – improving our service to our current clients, while expanding our sales both in New Zealand and overseas. We’ve just hired travelling reps in both the North and South Island to make sure that if a client has something that needs attention, we have someone that can come to them and provide that one on one support we think is so important. On a global scale, our Australian and American sales reps are just getting into the swing of things and over time we will slowly look to expand into overseas markets. We’ve adopted a slow and managed approach to expansion, and whenever we do grow we always want to make sure the service to our current clients is a priority. A recent goal we have set ourselves is to make sure we have SL Racing boats being rowed by top international athletes at the next Olympics. We know our boats are quick, so we’re now just in the process of identifying the right talent to represent SLR on the international stage.
Any more words for the rowing community reading this?
Yes, two big ones – thank you. Starting any business is a risk, and without the rowing community getting in behind us we wouldn’t be where we are today. We’ll always be hugely grateful for every new client we get, and every smile we see when someone hops into our boats. When it comes down to it, we started SL Racing because we love this sport. It gives us so much pride seeing an athlete grinning when they get out of one of our boats, and that’s what makes this company tick. So, to everyone that has been involved in our journey, THANK YOU…and to any that are yet to experience the SL Racing difference, we look forward to meeting you!
Over the weekend we saw some amazing racing from some incredible athletes. At the same time, George Bridgewater was reflecting on his past few years pursuing his Rio Olympic dream and reality of not quite making that regatta. It's a tough transition, and the reality is more rowers experience the hard grind than that ultimate glory, so upon reading George's words we had to ask if he would let us share them on our website. Below are George's musings, they are poignant, insightful and incredibly relevant to anyone who is currently rowing and who will ultimately find themselves on another path in the future. George, we can't thank you enough for letting us share this very personal post of yours, it's a fantastic reflection of you as both a rower and a person.
"Well, I said that in time I would write more...
Sport can be very black and white. At least in contrast to many other things in life where there is a lot in between. Often we are encouraged early in life to get as much sport in as possible. Perhaps parents feel it teaches their kids things that theory cannot and how to deal with situations or how to deal with people. But often this stops as the teenage years roll on and school finishes – organized sport is no longer as easy stepping out of class and onto the field. Work takes up more time and if we’re lucky exercise becomes something that is squeezed in between nights at the pub to resemble a human being that’s healthy enough. Not many experience sport as an all-consuming roller coaster ride that most full-time athletes will.
Functioning in this world that is so black & white, so immediate in its feedback every day, has been exhilarating. Can you imagine four years of work coming down to one six minute performance, where you need to be physically, mentally, emotionally en pointe to measure your effort for the last four years? What if just one member of your team got injured or sick? For something that is so physical, the contrasting delicacy of the situation is so stark that it’s almost comical. In training, you can win a session in the AM and feel confidence is sky high, and then come back later that day and lose a session to the same opponent. Your body and mind sharpens to being in a competitive environment and you begin to be ready for anything because that’s what you are practicing for.
For me, after I left rowing competitively, I initially embraced the life of an office worker. Sitting in a chair for 12 hours a day on the 36th floor in Hong Kong, gym after work two weekdays plus Saturday mornings, weekends free to do what I wanted, bars, restaurants, holidays etc. The novelty lasted for a bit, it was great to be getting an income and have a ‘job’. But after a few months, I realized I wasn’t near to being world class at this new job and it became disappointing to deal with the fact that ‘you’re not good at what you do’ (of course I am not so unrealistic to think that I would, it’s the contrast between the two worlds and everything that goes with that which was a sea-change). I don’t think this was specific to the job or industry I was working in, just when you try something new and worthwhile, you’re most likely not to be good at it to begin with. After a couple of years I figured out how to get by, but also realize how people change according to your standing in the hierarchy – which obviously changes significantly from organization to organization. The learning was ongoing every day, which was one of the big upsides, but after two years I had learnt enough to not say stupid things and which people were to be avoided. From that point on, as I came up for air and took a look around, my confidence grew but satisfaction did not come with it. As a cog in a machine, any member of our team could take a day off or be on holiday and the rest of the team functioned perfectly well. This didn’t sit particularly well with me and I sought something else, something more lucid.
It’s my belief that, for many spectators, sport is craved on a primal level because of its physically, emotionally charged unpredictability. And it’s very clear who is the best at the end of the day. Humans are outcome-oriented creatures; watch a movie and there is always a sense of closure at the end – and if there is not, we will usually lament the fact. Sport offers the ultimate non-fatal short timeframe outcome – and we like to believe it is played fairly and to the best of individual ability. With corruption, or doping, sports become infected – outcomes become scripted and predictable, and sport will gradually become less and less competitive. Our international governing bodies and committees hold so much responsibility in keeping things on the right track, and in these times its just so difficult to have faith across the board that sport and sport management is pure.
To me, one of the beautiful things about rowing is that money hasn’t quite corrupted (although the wolf is never far from the gates when the sport is brought into the Olympic fold). International rowers race maybe twice a year and those races are generally dead-beat boring-to-watch – even ever-supportive parents usually only fly to the destinations that have the better holiday bolt-ons. It’s not a spectator sport so therefore it is not a sport that generates a lot of money. Like many things, the presence of money determines the size, shape and direction of the sphere. And with higher cash stakes involved, the more likely doping lurks beneath the surface.
The people involved in rowing generally aren’t naturally gifted athletes, often large people with limited coordination which has ruled them out from other more popular sports. They don’t play for money, they play to challenge what is possible from minds and bodies that otherwise would have gone out and got an office job somewhere. They’ve put starting a career, or a family, substantially on hold to follow a passion in which ability peaks only too early in life. What else could you be the best in the world at age 25?
Its been a hell of a journey returning to rowing after five years away – and after the first step of making the decision to return, not a day has been daunting.
So despite my failing to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio, which will be held in a couple of months' time, there are no regrets about putting career on hold. The journey has been rewarding and most days have been exciting, rather than arduous.
It’s hard to explain a lot of the learning’s, particularly the minutiae, but understanding what makes me feel happy has been particularly practical. I’ve realized that I am a person who needs to understand what my role in the big picture or mission is, and while this sounds obvious, in some settings it’s not really apparent. Learning can be from both positive and negative situations, enhancing the arsenal which we can complete tasks with, but to be around passionate and courageous people who are clear in purpose is especially endearing and something I will continue to prioritize wherever it is a possibility." - George Bridgewater
The final aspect of foot stretcher setup is the one piece of the puzzle that seems to be often overlooked or put in the too hard basket – stretcher angle. Every stroke a rower takes they need to be connected to the boat to generate power. They push against the foot stretcher just like you would push against a leg press or how you would perform a squat. Next time you do a squat, change the angle of your feet and you'll get an impression of how important the stretcher angle setup is to the rowing stroke and generating power. If the angle is too sharp (close to vertical), then the rower is going to shorten up at the front stop. If it is too shallow, they'll get plenty of length, but won't be able to convert that length into any meaningful power. Again, there are plenty of scientific methods of checking stretcher angle, and a lot of studies that identify “optimum angles”, but the rule of thumb should be to adjust the angle to a point where the athlete can comfortably get their shins vertical, but only just. That should put the stretcher in a position that lets the athlete obtain length while still generating power.
Hopefully those few hints will at least help you start to think about how you set your athletes footstretcher up. All our SLRacing boats have adjustable stretchers, but if you need a hand, swing by our tent at a regatta sometime. Most importantly always remember that while there is tonnes of research, statistics and numbers out there that will tell you the 'optimum' placement and angle for a footstretcher, what those numbers don't take into account is the individual. Every body is different, and a foot-stretcher setup should acknowledge that – aiming for that perfect compromise between comfort and speed.
In our last SLRigging article we took at a very broad look at the elements that make up a rowing boat and why you should put thought towards them (if you haven't read that article, you'll find it at http://www.slracing.co.nz/blog/rigging-the-basics and the follow up to it at http://www.slracing.co.nz/blog/rigging-for-rowing-part-2). In the next few articles, we'll drill down on those individual elements, discussing in more detail how they can affect your comfort and boat speed. First up, we want to look at your feet.
The foot-stretcher is one of those parts of the rowing boat that can often be forgotten about in an athletes setup. Most of us are guilty of simply moving the foot-stretcher to a place where we 'fit' in the boat, then leaving it. When you look at the physics of a rowing stroke, you begin to understand why that sort of approach leaves a whole lot of untapped potential out on the water. Just like a sprinter will set his launch block angle at just the right measurement, so too should a rower have their foot stretcher angle, height and positioning correct.
The most basic change that can be made to a stretcher is its positioning within the boat. As an athlete and a coach, you need to understand that moving your foot position, will change the arc of your stroke significantly. Due to the limitations of our body, we are only able to use a certain percentage of the arc created by an oar moving around the pin. Practically, that will mean a more front end (legs) or back end (body) dominated stroke depending on foot position. There is no firm answer on what is “right” in terms of setup. For years the Canadian mens 8+ focused on a back-end dominated stroke with a big lean back, while not that long ago in Waikato, there was huge success with a front-end, leg dominated stroke. The key focus should be that the entire crew starts and finishes their stroke at a similar position. That may mean different foot stretcher positions for each crew member. We are of the view that the bigger the boat gets, the more important a quick leg drive is, so the further forward a crew should be set. Each crew will find their own sweet spot, but as we've stated in our previous article, a really simple place to start is placing your feet in a position that has your oar handle about a fist width overlapping your chest at the finish for sweep oar, or a fist width between your sculls at the finish for sculling.
The next two factors in getting your foot-stretcher in the right position are foot height and foot angle, two things that are often forgotten in the setup process. To find out more about those elements of setup, visit the link below.
In an earlier blog piece that was also included in Rowing NZ's Oarsport magazine we started a look at the rowing boat in general. Below is the half of the article that didn't fit on that page!
The feet & the seat:
We often overlook just how much impact the position of someone's feet in the boat will have on their comfort and technique. Move your feet towards the stern or bow and you'll give the rower an increased or decreased arc at the start of their stroke and vice versa at the end. At the extreme, that could mean feet near the stern with a punchy leg based rhythm, or feet to the bow with a more languid lay-back style. Again, it's all about compromise. OUR QUICK TIP: If you are getting in a new boat for the first time and want everyone to set up together and feel comfortable, move your feet so that you are sitting in the finish position with a fist outside your chest on your outside hand for sweep oar...and for sculling a safe bet is about a fist gap between your handles.
There is also plenty to be said about seat and feet height, but we will cover that off in more detail later in the year!
This is where you'll end up making a lot of your rigging changes. We'll look into those changes in more detail next time around, but suffice it to say that changing the angle of your pin, the height of your gate, and the distance from you to the gate all have a big impact on your boat feel and exhaustion levels! The gate and your oar are like the cogs and chain on a bike and little changes can make a huge difference to what gear you are in. Keep your riggers clean and if you have a backstay...use it...we've definitely heard horror stories of backstays not being used and the whole structure of the boat being torn apart! A really simple handy hint is if your backstay is an adjustable length, make sure you loosen it off when rigging up a boat, then tighten it up last. Squeezing a tight backstay on might push your pitch out a few degrees and completely ruin your connection with the water.
The best of the rest:
Every boat will be a little bit different in the other pieces that make it up. The bow ball – that's for safety purposes, so we don't go skewering each other in an accident. The bow and stern deck – in the past that was literally covered with canvas, but now we use moulds to precision seal the ends of the boat in carbon and honey comb. Some of you will find drink holders to stop drink bottles slamming around the bottom of the boat. Others will have grip tape or rubber to help you place your feet without slipping out the side of the boat. All in all though, everything that goes into a rowing boat falls into one of two categories – comfort, or speed. Personally, we think the two go hand in hand, as a comfortable rower has the best chance of being a fast rower!
So next time you hop into your boat have a look around at all the bits that make it up and try to understand why they are there and what they do. If you understand your boat, you'll inevitably figure out how to make it go faster and surge ahead when it counts.
Welcome to our first look into the world of boats, rigging and everything you use to get yourself down the rowing course quicker. In this regular article we'll try to get you thinking about the tools of your trade, providing a little bit of insight from the brains of a boat builder. In this first edition we'll start with the basics, covering off all the little bits of the boat and how they make up the whole. Here's our anatomy of a rowing boat from stern to bow and everything in between.
We all know it steers the boat, but have you thought about it any further than that? Do you put it at the extreme back of the boat to give yourself more leverage in turning? Do you sneak it right behind the fin for less drag? Do you cross your wires, or keep them straight? This little tool for turning often doesn't get much thought, but it plays a huge part in your race. We tend to cross our wires to give a tighter steering rope, and keep our rudders streamlined in behind the fin. As a rower and coxswain, just remember your boat will turn from where your rudder is – the back of the boat will turn before the bow, so you almost have to turn before you need to. Are you river racing? Think about putting on a bigger rudder to take your turns easier!
If the rudder is all about you turning, the fin keeps you on the straight and narrow. The larger the fin, the more surface area you have holding the boat against sideways movement. If you had no fin, you'd slip and slide around with every imbalanced stroke, puff of wind or slight change in current. If you have too much fin, you'll slow the boat down by creating more drag under the water. Carbon is a great lightweight option, but tricky to replace if your fin gets damaged, so stainless steel provides a much more durable solution. Boat not going straight? Check your fin for kinks and bends.
Back in the day hulls were lovingly crafted from wood, but nowadays we use carbon fibre and a honey comb core to create a tough, lightweight and consistent shape. With so many outside variables on a rowing course – wind, the rower, waves – choosing a hull shape is a compromise between comfort and speed. The wider the boat, the easier it is to balance, and therefore the easier it is to row. The narrower the boat, the less surface area it will have in contact with the water, making it theoretically quicker. However, a shaky, unbalanced boat is a slow boat, so we have to find our perfect middle ground. Very basically, a shorter boat will be easier to get up to speed, but a longer boat will have a higher possible max speed. 2km's is the golden number for racing, so most boats are designed to get a rower of a certain weight average across 2km's the quickest. Know your boat length and how it runs and you'll be able to craft your raceplan to suit it.
We love a good rowing read in between boat builds here at SLRacing, and earlier this week World Rowing published a fantastic article about a recent study into back issues in rowing. Whether you are a rower, coach, or administrator it is a must read - providing some insight into what is causing huge percentages of the rowing population to have a back injury.
We haven't had a chance to delve into the full article (you can find that by googling Dr Fiona Wilson and back injury in rowing, in the British Journal of Sports Medicine), but we did flick through the World Rowing report and Dr Wilson's full slide deck. The major takeaways for us were:
The hours of training and months of effort all came to a head last week at the New Zealand Secondary School Rowing Championships. We were lucky enough to be lakeside and loved every minute of the regatta. Between some amazing rowing, a brilliant vibe and catching up with some friendly faces, it was a great week in Twizel.
On the water it was a fantastic week for SLRacing as well. We take a huge amount of pride in seeing any of our boats in action, and a great deal of satisfaction when they cross the line to pick up a medal. So to every rower, coach, parent and school that shared in the SLRacing buzz last week, thank you and congratulations. We've put together a few pictures of the SLR medalists below so please feel free to share this email around and pat these great young rowers on the back. If you have any rowers heading to trials, make sure you check out our blog on doing well at a trial week.
As ex rowers, the SLRacing team has been through just about every New Zealand trial there is. From hungover seat racing after Uni Games, to the ruthless torture of an elite trial, we know what you are all about to go through. With U-23 and Junior trials coming up, below are some little tips we picked up along the way to make sure you put your best foot forward – no matter what the trial.
Your trial starts a weeks before you get in front of selectors. Obviously you need to get good results during the season to have a chance of selection, but it's that last week before the trial that can be crucial. Gear up like you would for Nationals – taper into the trial, start getting your sleeping patterns the same as the trial week, and eat well. You need to enter day 1 like it's a Nationals final.
The erg. It's the first, lethal, part of trials week. It will pretty much set the tone for how you will be looked at for the rest of the week – and while you don't need to PB, you definitely need to perform well. So our advice – erg smart. Know your realistic target number, head out in the first 1500 slightly slower than that target and if you've got gas in the tank absolutely slam it home. In fact, slam it home no matter what – the selectors like to see you leave it all out there. But most of all...do not fly and die. There is no point going out for a crazy good time and blowing up, that is the cardinal sin of an erg trial.
So you've made it through the erg pain and get to seat race? Perfect. Now it's time to get your diet right. Eat a few hours before you seat race (good food!), and make sure you take plenty of water, electrolytes and food/gels down to the trial with you to have between seat races. This is a big one and something we learned the hard way. Winning race after race at the start of day one will mean nothing if you run out of energy and steam throughout the trial.
Seat race smart. Remember, even if you have the best technique in the world, if you aren't trialing for a single you'll have someone else in the boat with you. The fastest boats sometimes aren't the prettiest, but are the crews that row together the best. So if you're in stroke seat – feel out what's happening behind you and be dead consistent. If you are following, analyze the rhythm on your way to the start line. Are the rest of the crew finishing earlier than you? Move your feet forward, or get through the water quicker. Are their hands moving slower? Encourage theirs faster, but think about slowing yours down. Sometimes it's not the best rower that gets picked, it's the rower that adapts the best.
Encourage your crew. This may make you cringe, but you are only one person of two or four in a seat race. That means that if you can extract more out of the rowers around you than your competitors, you'll do better. We aren't saying do a big rev up speech if that's not your style, but do what you can. That might mean calling a clear race plan, getting the crew to move together or to focus on individual technique aspects. In other words, think about what a cox might do. Never underestimate the power of a 'yep' in response to another crew mates call. If the rest of the crew hears you respond – they do to.
Lastly, and this one might be a bit cycnical – record your results as best you can at the end of the day. Try to take note of how you do each seat race and in the erg, as on very rare occasions you might want to fight back. Generally speaking you want to say 'yes sir, very good sir' all trials. Be compliant, smile and do exactly what you are told (if they put you on the wrong side, point it out, but say happy to try!). At the end of the day, if something highly unfair happens you need a record of that to take to appeals. A certain Olympic medallist wouldn't have made his Junior crew if he hadn't used the appeals process, so while it is a last resort and should be avoided, a little note taking never hurt anyone.
Those are our quick tips – if you've got any, drop them in the comments below so other rowers can benefit from our collective opinions and wisdom! Good luck to anyone at trials, and let us know if any of these little hints helped.