Race Watching

  • Race times can vary considerably depending on the course and weather conditions. Tailwinds will improve times, while headwinds and crosswinds will hamper them.
  • If a crew catches a crab, it means the oar blade has entered the water at an angle instead of perpendicularly. The oar blade gets caught under the surface of the water and will slow down or even stop a shell. Every now and then, a particularly powerful crab will throw the rower out of the shell.
  • A Power 10 is a call by the coxswain for 10 of the crew’s best, most powerful strokes. Good coxswains read the course to know how many strokes remain for their crew to count down to the finish.
  • Crews are identified by their oar blade design — their colors. The USA blades, only to be used by current members of the National Team, are red on the top, blue on the bottom, with a white triangle on the tip.
  • It doesn’t matter whether you win an Olympic medal or don’t make it to the finals — each crew still carries their boat back to the rack.
  • Coxswains don’t now (and probably never did) yell “Stroke, Stroke!” Similar to a jockey, their job is to implement the coach’s strategy during the race while steering and letting the rowers know where they stand in the race and what they need to do to win.

The crew that is making it look easy is most likely the one doing the best job. While you are watching, look for:

  • Continuous, fluid motion of the rowers. The rowing motion should not have a discernible end or beginning.
  • Synchronization. Rowers strive for perfect synchronization in the boat.
  • Clean catches of the oar blade If you see a lot of splash, the oar blades aren’t entering the water correctly. The catch should happen at the end of the recovery, when the hands are as far ahead of the rower as possible. Rowers who uncoil before they drop the oar blade are sacrificing speed and not getting a complete drive.
  • Even oar blade feathering. When the blades are brought out of the water, they should all move horizontally close to the water and at the same height. It is not easy, especially if the water is rough.
  • The most consistent speed. Shells don’t move like a car – they are slowest at the catch, quickest at the finish. The good crews time the catch as just the right moment to maintain the speed of the shell.
  • Rowing looks graceful, elegant, and sometimes effortless when it’s done well. Don’t be fooled! Rowers haven’t been called the world’s most physically-fit athletes for nothing. A 2,000-meter rowing race demands virtually everything a human being can physically bring to an athletic competition – aerobic ability, technical talent, exceptional mental discipline, ability to utilize oxygen efficiently and in huge amounts, balance, pain tolerance, and the ability to continue to work when the body is demanding that you stop.