As the clock ticks ever closer to that first race at the Olympics, we continue our attempt at predictions with the heavyweight doubles and pairs.
Mens Pair (M2-)
New Zealand..............................Great Britain, Australia
The Men's Pair has been absolutely dominated this Olympic cycle by the Kiwi Pair. We can't see anyone heading them off for the gold, but the really interesting racing will take place for the minor medals. Our pick is that the Great British pair will come closest, but watch for Australia, South Africa and the Netherlands fighting it out for silver and bronze as Murray and Bond defend their Olympic title.
Womens Pair (W2-)
Great Britain, New Zealand, USA
This is shaping up to be an absolute humdinger of a three horse race. Yes, the Brits have dominated the last few years, but the Yanks and Kiwi's have been rapidly staking their claim for a possible gold medal spot. We have picked the British to take this one out, but this could easily be an upset.
Mens Double (M2x)
Croatia, New Zealand, Lithunia
The Men's Double is another event that has had a dominant crew leading the way the last couple of seasons, but a determined chasing pack have been getting closer and closer. The Croatian's have been the pacesetters, with the New Zealand crew of Harris and Manson taking out the last World Cup while the Croatian's rested up. Our NZ leanings tell us the kiwi's might get up to threaten the Croatians, but no matter how it unfolds you can be sure this event will be hotly contested, with Lithunia and Germany not to be written off as gold medal prospects.
Womens Double (W2x)
Lithunia, New Zealand, Greece
Of all the picking we've done so far, the women's double was definitely the trickiest to pick a top three for. The Lithuanians and Greeks have been strong this season, as have Poland and Australia...then creeping their way up regatta after regatta have been the New Zealanders. The Dick Tonks coached crew will have done some serious kilometres this Olympic cycle, it remains to be seen if that will lead to broken bodies, or a legendary last race like the Ever-Swindells in Beijing.
Those are our quick picks. Comment below or on our Facebook page and let us know where we have got it wrong...and where we have nailed it.
The SLRacing crew has now touched back down in New Zealand after a phenomenal time over in Rio supporting every rower and athlete competing. As always, there was a real mixture of jubilation and heartache this time around, particularly on the rowing course, as New Zealand Rowing did incredibly well, but didn’t quite hit the targets they had set themselves.
We threw our picks into the mix before the regatta and it's only fair we go back and give a recap on how we did. Below are what we picked, and what actually happened – with 1 point for putting a crew as an ‘outside chance’ in our picks, 2 points given for correctly choosing a crew in the medals, and 3 points for correctly choosing the right medal.
LWM2x (5 points)
Final result: France, Ireland, Norway
Our picks: France, Norway, South Africa
We got the winner, but the big surprise here was Ireland. They rowed a fantastic regatta, and an inside word we heard on the course was that their last training block had them rowing phenomenal km's and pushing their bodies far harder than most athletes would be able to.
LWM4- (5 points)
Final result: Switzerland, Denmark, France
Our picks: NZ, Switzerland, Denmark
New Zealand dropping down the placings cost our picks here. The entire order shuffled up and the Swiss (coached by kiwi Ian Wright) showed their class.
M1x (5 points)
Final result: NZ, Croatia, Czech Republic
Our picks: NZ, Czech Republic, Cuba
A bold pick by us to choose Cuba over the strong Croatian meant we didn’t quite nail this podium. How about that finish though?!
M2- (3 points)
NZL, South Africa, Italy
NZ, GB, Australia
Well we got the winner right, but who didn’t?! A dominant display yet again from Bond and Murray. Italy and South Africa held off the chasing pack for the minor medals.
M2x (5 points)
Croatia, Lithunia, Norway
Croatia, NZ, Lithunia
Another NZ crew not making the podium meant our picks were off for the men's double. Croatia were typically dominant, although for a few strokes there we thought the Lithunian’s might take them. If the kiwis had made the final, who knows how it could have gone.
M4- (7 points)
Great Britain, Australia, Italy
GB, Australia, (Italy/Netherlands)
Our best result – picking all the winners but being too cautious with the bronze medal pick to take home all the points!
M4x (3 points)
Germany, Australia, Estonia
Australia, Canada, (GB, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, NZ)
The tightness of the M4x field really shows in that we picked 7 different boats we thought might make the podium and still didn’t get it right with Estonia taking home bronze.
M8+ (5 points)
Great Britain, Germany, Nederlands
Germany, Netherlands, USA (GB)
What can we say here – Great Britain showed some class and completely debunked our fourth place pick for them. The Germans and the Dutch pulled through though, so we at least get a few points.
LW2x (5 points)
Nederlands, Canada, China
NZ, Canada, Netherlands
The Nathan Cohen coached Chinese crew zipped up to take bronze, keeping the kiwi lighty double out of the mix, but other than that we weren’t far off. The smart money was probably on the Netherlands after they qualified, but sometimes you just have to make that risky pick!
W1x (2 points)
Australia, USA, China
NZ, Australia, Czech
Being over in Rio with Emma Twigg’s support crew, this was one of the hardest results to stomach. A strong tailwind meant the shorter race (time wise) suited China, the USA and Australia, and ET just ran out of water to reel them in. The class of Mirka Knapkova didn’t even make the A-final, so only a lowly 2 points for us in the women's single.
W2- (6 points)
Great Britain, NZ, Denmark
GB, NZ, USA
The womens pair almost went to script with the dominant GB crew taking out gold and the NZ crew chasing them hard. We hadn’t even noticed Denmark going into the regatta, but right from the heats they proved to be a hot contender and took out the bronze over the more favoured American crew.
W2x (2 points)
Poland, Great Britain, Lithunia
Lithunia, NZ, Greece
Unlike the women's single, the women's double results were helped out by the first decent headwind in a final all season. The strength of Great Britain really showed, while the Greek crew with an ex-lightweight in it struggled into the breeze. Again, if NZ had made the final, it could have been all on.
W4x (5 points)
Germany, Nederlands, Poland
Germany, Poland, Austria
Not far off getting these picks right, we were amazed at the tightness of the racing. Germany were really pushed and the Netherlands raced a fantastic race.
W8+ (3 points)
USA, Germany, Romania
NZ, USA, Canada
A little bit of over-patriotism in our camp had us pick the kiwi girls for gold in the women's 8. That wasn’t to be, as they struggled to fight for the podium and perhaps a condensed schedule hurt their chances with two top rowers doubling up in the pair.
Overall, that left us with a score of 61 out of a possible 126. If this was an exam, we would have failed with only 48% of our picks correct! It really does go to show just how tough the Olympics are, and how close all the top crews in the world can be on any given day. In 2020 we might have to create a picking game and extend it out to the public so you can see just how much better than us you are at predictions.
For now, we’ll stick to boat building!
The eights have become such a popular event at this year’s Olympics that you’ll struggle to find a ticket to the packed out grandstand anywhere…trust us, we’ve tried! Full of excitement, and with some young New Zealand crews staking their claim, here are our picks for the big boats.
Germany, Netherlands, USA (GB)
The men’s eight turned seriously interesting this year. For most of the Olympic cycle the German’s held dominance…punishing the rest of the field in race after race. Slowly the British crew started to creep up closer to them, stacking more of their top rowers into the boat to make a difference. Then, this year, the Dutch struck. The Netherlands have popped to the front of the field this year, but our gut tells us that the clinical Germans will be back as the ones to beat come Rio. The USA, always strong in the eights, will move up to attack that third spot…and our pick is for the Brits to be in that close but no cigar fourth spot!
NZ, USA, Canada, (Great Britain)
We’re going to throw this out there…New Zealand will win an eight. Even better, a New Zealand women’s crew will win the eight! It would have been odd to be writing those words four years ago in London, but the kiwi womens 8+ has stormed into contention this time around. If they can stay close to the States and Canada we are backing them to come through in those crucial last couple of hundred metres and take all the glory. The Brits will be in the mix as well, but like the men, we are picking that they’ll have to settle for fourth.
That’s it folks! All of our picks for the Rio Olympics done. Post Olympics we’ll have a look at how well we picked or how far off we were.
We've narrowed down our picks for the fours and quads, but we have one big bolter to watch that we haven't mentioned below - the Russian four. With the majority of their rowers being sidelined due to the country's drug infringements, the remaining rowers have all been put together into a four. We're expecting that four to go pretty well...logic dictates that combining four of the countries better rowers should result in a powerful unit - so it will all come down to how well those four guys gel together in this short timeframe. You watch...there may be some raised eyebrows if that Russian four competes for the podium.
Great Britain, Australia, (Italy, Netherlands)
We love the men’s four. Combining the finesse of the pairs with the power of the eights, it’s one of those events that you see different styles and sizes of crews battling it out and doing well. This year looks like it is coming down to another classic Australia v Great Britain face off. The smooth, flowing style of a slightly smaller Australian crew, versus the raw horsepower of the Brits. So far the GB crew has had the better results this season, but if the Aussies can get a lead and hold onto it until the last few hundreds…it’s anyone’s game. Fighting for the bronze, look out for the Netherlands and fast finishing Italians. Extremely good crews in their own right, we don’t think they’ll quite manage to knock off the commonwealth duo.
Australia, Canada, (GB, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, New Zealand?!)
This Olympic cycle the Men’s Quad has been an absolute nail-biter of a field. Every crew in the field could make the final, and every crew in the final could take out the top spot. We’re picking Australia to take out the Gold and Canada to go close, but our heart lies with the plucky New Zealand crew that got given last minute qualification a few weeks ago. There’s something telling us that their experience in not making the cut will have driven them even further in training these last few weeks, and that they perhaps freshened up a bit post World Cup. Either way, let’s cross our fingers for a fairy tale story.
Germany, Poland, Australia
A constantly reshuffled German crew are the ones to pick in the women’s quad. With such a strong squad in general, the German’s seemed to have focused their sculling power into the quad in the last few regattas and that has made them almost untouchable. Poland will be there, and Australia should threaten, but look for a little bit of German dominance.
This week we put a spotlight on the lightweight events. By restricting the weight average in the crew, the max power output of each crew is kept remarkably similar – creating events with some of the tightest and most exciting racing at any regatta. Get ready to throw a blanket over all of these fields…
Lightweight Men's Four
New Zealand, Switzerland, Denmark
With a proposal floating around to axe the lightweight men’s four from the next Olympic Games, there is an added significance in taking out Rio’s title. Year after year this event produces spectacular times and neck and neck racing, with this year set to be no exception. Our NZ lightweight four took home a couple of gold medals from the World Cups this year, all with a reserve filling in for injured Pete Taylor. We’re eager to see if adding the stalwart back in propels the boat even further forward in the field, or if the Ian Wright coached Swiss crew can pin the kiwis back. Denmark’s always a favourite for this event as well, and China presents a huge ‘watch out’ factor.
Lightweight Men's Double
France, Norway, South Africa
With no kiwi crew racing in the lightweight double this year, the racing has nonetheless kept us riveted. The French have been dominant and looked good while winning races, but the Norwegians and South African’s definitely shouldn’t be written off. We wouldn’t be surprised to see another storming run from the South African’s, emulating their lightweight four victory in London.
Lightweight Women's Double
New Zealand, Canada, Netherlands
Several years ago in the Beijing Olympics, a Dutch lightweight women's double snuck through in the last chance qualifying regatta before storming home to win gold. This year the stage is set for them to repeat those same heroics – qualifying earlier this year, and dominating proceedings in the following World Cups. Our money though is going to go on the gritty New Zealanders. They’ve risen to the occasion before and will be hungry to be back on the top of the podium. Watch out for Canada to be coming back into the racing scene and asserting their dominance, and for Great Britain to turn around a woeful season by their standards and get back to the top. All in all though, this is one of those Olympic events that could go anyway on the day.
With the Rio Olympics looming on the horizon and international crews in the last stages of their training, we thought we'd lay it on the line and put our picks for each event out there. Here we go...
Mahe Drysdale (New Zealand), Ondrej Synek (Czech Republic), Angel Fournier Rodriguez (Cuba)
Our patriotic leanings put Mahe at the head of the mens single pack, but this is going to be a ding dong battle. With Synek not racing at the last world cup, Drysdale had a real fight against Damir Martin from Croatia, he just snuck through, but looked controlled and focused in doing so. Rodriguez might be the wild card here, if any of the top scullers can be said to have a home field advantage it might be the Cuban. Top level racing rarely heads to South and Central America, so we're keen to see if this gives the powerful Rodriguez a boost. Our pick - Mahe by a canvas.
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.
Over the last year, along with our boats moving to the front of the field in New Zealand, SLRacing has begun to increase it's exports to Australia and beyond. In the past few weeks, our sales arm in Australia, Predator, has happily reported that the aussie market is starting to realise what we've known in NZ for a while - SLR boats are quick. Winning quick. So from all of at SLR we have to put out a big congratulations to Fleur Spriggs in particular who rowed her SLR single scull to victory in every race she took part in at the Queensland Masters Rowing Championships on May 21st & 22nd.
With more and more of these type winning results happening every weekend in SLRacing boats, we'll continue to provide the best customer service and quality in rowing to all our customers. If you have any Australian or American friends and colleagues who could do with an SLR boat in their sheds, be sure to forward them this email and they can get in touch with Predator Racing at the contact details in this email.
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.
After a great summer of racing just past, it's now time for clubs and schools in the Southern Hemisphere to start thinking about replenishing the boat shed for next season. With the instability that was felt throughout our boat building community last season, SLRacing have decided to give our customers real confidence in ordering their boats, so are making a great winter payment offer:
We will only require a 40% deposit to confirm your order.
The final payment will only be required when you receive your boat.
Most importantly, we are sticking by our tried and tested 5 year hull warranty offer.
What this means is less risk up front and a gaurantee that the boat you receive will last the test of time. Quality, affordability and confidence.
NZ WINTER PRICES (available until 1 August 2016)
Single: $8,500.00 (plus GST)
Pair/Double: $14,050.00 (plus GST)
Coxed or Coxless Four/Quad: $23,400.00 (plus GST)
Eight: $33,000 (plus GST)
All of the above prices and payment options will only be available until 1 August 2016.
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.
As we near the end of the New Zealand rowing season, everyone here at SLRacing would like to send out a huge congratulations and good luck to the full spectrum of our awesome rowing community.
To everyone selected in a Rowing New Zealand squad - and particularly those that will be heading to the Olympics - congratulations. We've been in those trials before and absolutely respect the pain and strength required to crack the top squads.
To school crews, coaches and administrators gearing up for Maadi - good luck! Some of those young rowers, whether they win, medal or just participate at this Maadi, will go on to wear the silver fern one day and every step along the way helps them get there. Twizel will be sure to turn it on, so most importantly, enjoy the week.
And lastly to the University squads... who are balancing O-Week with training and are out to bring home the glory on and off the water - have a blast. Some of our best years were had in those uni rowing squads, we'll always admire someone that balances education with elite level training. Make the most of it.
As always - if you need a boat to help with your rowing journey - you know who to call.
What a Nationals. Not only did we manage to touch base with alot of rowers, coaches and supporters, but SLRacing's boats continued to impress in race after race.
We were even lucky enough to put Emma Twigg (2014 World Rowing Female Athlete of the Year and World Champion) out in one of our singles. Getting feedback from rowers of all levels is hugely important for us, and we asked Emma to hit us with her honest feedback. She let us know that the boat was both 'stable and responsive' - a huge compliment from someone who spends the better part of her life in a single scull.
So thanks to Emma for giving the boat a spin, thanks to everyone who came and said hi last week, and good luck for anyone starting to prep for Secondary School Nationals. As always, we're available to help out with repairs, or start helping you out with boat orders for next season.
New Zealand National Champs are fast approaching and as your crews start to taper down their training, the SLRacing workshop has ramped up a few gears. We're flat tack pushing out new boats all over the country and to Australia, so if you've got a boat due from us...you'll be seeing it soon.
We better not give away too many of our top tips for winning at Nationals (we might need them ourselves at the Masters Games) but plenty of sleep, waking up three hours before racing and getting in that pre-row all seem to be high up the list. No matter what your secret sauce is, we certainly wish you and your crews all the best.
IMPORTANT: If you have any breakages, or need any spare parts at Nationals, SLRacing will be onsite to help. You'll find our tent emblazoned with the new logo, so don't be shy - come and say hello. We'll be there taking boat orders, REPAIRING ANY BOATS and just generally helping out where we can.
GOOD LUCK FROM SLR.
Our home of rowing news!
It's fair to say that there are plenty of exciting times ahead for SL Racing as we roll into 2016. Entering our sixth year of providing top quality rowing boats to the rowing community, we've really begun to understand what brand 'SLR' is all about.
We are New Zealand owned an operated, and proud of it, we take a huge amount of pride in the quality of our products and we always have an eye to the future with innovation a key to our success. So, in 2016, it's time for our brand and logo to reflect those principles. Deep down we haven't changed, so it's only a little face lift, but it's an important one - a New Zealand map and kiwi into the logo, a modern font to keep us moving forward, and a splash of colour to light it all up!
We're hoping you enjoy the new branding and website as much as we do, and on this blog we'll make sure we give you some great tips on rowing, rigging and maintaining our boats. Join the conversation here or on Facebook and get know the crew at SL Racing that little bit better.
Here's to a stunning 2016!