The Placement & Catch
The back of inside hand / wrist should be flat (no bend at joint) and perpendicular to the oar blade, facing upwards. The outside hand should be underneath the handle with the fingers ‘hooked’ around the oar and no bend in the wrist and at the very end of the oar (some people have their thumb on at the end of the oar to ensure this). The hands should be a minimum of one fist width apart but a maximum of two fist widths (this increases with oars build with a greater inboard length). The arms should be locked straight through the elbow joint, no bend or flex. The oars should be held lightly with the hands acting as a hook around the handle rather than gripping the handle tight. The body trunk should be rocked forward from the hips, keeping a straight lower back. The shoulders should be back -not hunched, stretching forward, or up by the ears. The core muscles of the back, stomach and bottom should be tensed, and the legs should be bent close to 45 deg with the balls of the feet firmly placed on the stretcher and heels on the boards (inside foot close to the centre post), and the rowers bottom should be perched on the front edge of the seat.
The catch is affected by lifting the hands and arms from the shoulder with no forward or backward movement of the shoulder. This allows the blade to drop into the water. The blade should be just covered with water and by keeping the hand and wrist positions fixed, it should be square in the water. Note. The blade when unsupported in the water finds and floats at the correct depth for the catch.
Once the blade is fully covered and at the correct depth, the legs should engage (push) and resistance should be felt on the blade, the legs are then driven from flexed towards straight. There should be a distinct feeling of ‘hanging off the oar’ as the legs are driven, and the rowers bottom should feel ‘light’ or ‘unweighted’ on the seat as it slides towards the centre of the seat. The core muscles of the back, stomach and bottom should still be tensed and the back straight.
The blade should accelerate through the stroke from the catch to the finish. There should be distinct phases to the stroke, the legs drive first with no movement of the back or arms so that all the momentum from the straightening of the legs is transferred to the oar handle. As the legs are approaching straight, the back is released and the shoulders forced backwards using the body weight. Again, there should be no change of position in the arms or hands. Finally, as the trunk is swung back dynamically and over the hips to near straight. The arms enter the stroke to affect the finish.
The blade should remain at the same depth throughout the stroke and the feeling should be of the oar pulling round the pin, (rather than over the pin) with the outside hand. The hands will rise slightly through the stroke to ensure that the blade remains buried at the same depth and does not start to ‘wash out’ or lift clear of the water towards the end of the stroke.
Throughout the stroke the trunk should be square to the seat with any rotation being through the shoulders. This can be encouraged by rowing facing straight ahead for alternate strokes.
The outside hand is used to transfer the majority of the force to the oar and should act as a ‘hook’ through which the force is transferred to the handle.
The Finish (extraction of the blade)
Use of the arms at the end of the stroke, allows the handle to be pulled in towards, and across the body, accelerating the blade in the water, and creating a vortex behind the blade from which the blade can then be extracted easily and without disrupting the flow of the boat. The handle should be no lower than the nipples and as high as possible without disrupting the hand or body position in order to gain as long a stroke as possible (Note: the oars should never lock across the pins). The blade should exit and clear the water whilst still being square, to again, prevent disrupting the flow of the boat.
The body should be leaning back as far as possible (approx 5-10 deg off straight), core muscles engaged throughout so as not to bend at the waist or put weight on the rear of the bottom (ie slumping onto the base of the spine), or restricting the ability to ‘tap ’ the blade down vertically. The top / back of the inside hand should still face upwards and be perpendicular to the blade. In order to maintain this hand position, the wrist of the inside hand will have to bend close to 90 deg and the elbow should be kept pointing down into the bottom of the boat. The ‘hook’ of the outside hand will slide round the blade to finish with the back of the hand facing forwards rather than being underneath the handle. The blade is extracted by tapping down with the inside hand to lift the blade just clear of the water. The inside hand controls the depth / height of the blade and affects the feather once the blade is fully clear of the water
The recovery is affected in two separate parts.
Initially the blade is ‘feathered’ by rotating the inside hand so that the wrist bends back from its straight / flat position, and the arms are ‘pushed out’ to straight, with the elbows locked. (Note: at no time during the stroke does the inside hand relax or move its grip on the handle – it should remain fixed ‘as nailed to the oar’ throughout the stroke to ensure a square blade position through the water). The hands should ‘flow’ away from the body at the same speed that they were brought in and across at the finish of the stroke, and there should be no pause between the finish of the stroke and the start of the recovery. The finish of the stroke and start of the recovery should be ‘snappy’ with the hands moving relatively quickly.
Once the arms are away from the body, at a height where the blade is just above the water (sea conditions dictate the actual hand height) the shoulders can start to lift slowly from their position by bending the trunk from the hips. Finally, after the upper body has swung over the hips, the legs can begin to bend and the rowers bottom slides forward on the seat. The body position is then slowly approaching that of the catch and is ready and anticipating the drop of the blade and change of direction of body movement. The recovery should be controlled and slow to allow the body to arrive at the correct posture for the catch. It should take approx twice to three times as long to affect the recovery as it does to affect the stroke. The feeling should be of the boat moving under the body as it changes position rather than the body using force to affect the recovery. The feet should stay positively engaged on the stretcher throughout all phases of the stroke.
The blade should start to ‘square’ from the feathered position slowly as it passes perpendicular to the boat and in line with the pins. It should be fully square with the hands and wrists in the correct position, and the arms locked straight, before arriving at the catch.