Rowing Detective…. 1920s rower

This picture was sent to the St Georges R C web site with the question ….. “Is this a St Georges rower, and what can you tell me about this person”. The photo was a copy of the original which was made at a family funeral over 30 years ago. Sometimes a random enquiry can get lucky and this is what followed.

The rowing detective investigates a rower’s photo

Yes it is a St Georges rower and this version of the uniform was in use between 1909 and about 1923. I recognised the large trophy at the back which was first presented in 1895 and is still in existence. It was presented for fours races so I could send the lady over 50 names to try and get a match.

The 1910 crew was the only match from the 6 family names that were a possibility, so my contact had a branch of the family to focus in on. She is now tracking the original, and has some people digging for a box of mementoes. So with more luck we could get a good quality original to copy for the club.

Like other clubs the first World War devastated the membership. In our case 26 were killed from 106 who went. As a consequence we don’t have much information from this period. The 1912 team photo is the last until the early 1920s.

St George Rowing Club crew from 1912 with the same shirt

The H eight adventure

Auckland & St George H mens eight

As we get older and the age group ranks in our clubs gets smaller there needs to be a bit of inovation. St Georges R C and Auckland R C have put together a composite average 70 years old,  crew.

Not just put together for a regatta but for regular outings/training sessions.

The crew, based on 4 from each club with a few reserves entered the Whanganui Bridge to Bridge 10k race at the end of last year and enjoyed the experience. We all found the experience of doing something a bit different and with a new group of friends, we’ll worth the effort. The plan is to continue getting the crew together every 3 or 4 weeks and look for a few other events to enter. We still do our own club doubles and fours but now have a viable 8 to work with.

Heading to the start of the Bridge to Bridge race

H eight boating in Whanganui

H eight boating in Whanganui

Rewarding coaching masters

I spend a lot of my time coaching. During the school season that’s mostly school crews but off season and when time allows I like

Wakatipu Masters rowing

coaching masters.  What do Masters bring that makes coaching them so rewarding?

Increasingly the masters I coach are taking it up after their own children have taken up the sport. Nevertheless they bring a youthful enthusiasm and have a real desire to row well. Add in to that the social aspect of masters rowing and a simple desire to get fitter, plus the fact that as coach you can have a coffee or other refreshment after training with the crew and masters crews are a lot of fun.

So how is it different?

There are some difference in the stroke pattern.

  • Flexibility is generally not quite what it was so the arc of the stroke is smaller.
  • For those who are newer to the sport the catch tends to be slower. That means that lots of focus needs to go on making sure the blade goes into the water at the point point the blade is out at its full arc – I describe that as when their knees reach the top. Strangely I have sometimes found that as the balance in the boat improves a slight pause at the front starts to develop as in a balanced boat there is less urgency to get the blade in the water.
  • Then the focus moves to ensuring that the drive does not start until the blade is buried – you might hear coaches going on about rowers missing water. There are drills for addressing that but one that sometimes works [there are no silver bullets] is having half the boat rowing square blade and every second stroke place the blade but don’t push at all and simply let the momentum of the boat move the boat under you and the handle come through to the finish.

Masters rowers are also much more likely to be on the water without a coach. That can mean that every session is much the same and that the session involves rowing to a point, turning round and rowing back. A suggestion is to have a coach set up some training sessions that include a warm up, a drill or two for the session [with an explanation of what the drill is wanting to achieve] and some set work. If those are typed up and laminated crews can chose the session they will follow and take that out on the water. From experience it makes the sessions more useful, more fun and actually seem shorter.

If it is possible, get someone to video parts of a session and share that with the crew Rowers can compare what they are doing with a video clip of what they aspire to look like. You may also inadvertently capture some moments of hilarity which can be a great addition on the big screen at your next masters social event.

For those masters who have rowed through the club ranks you can take comfort from that great saying –  “The older I get, the better I was.”

Allan Vester, Legion Committee Member

St George Rowing Club

Advice to the new sculler

Missing buoys, steering off course, falling out of your boat, being late to the start, rushing the slide, or stopping too soon before the finish line are only a few of those rookie mistakes common to the new competitive sculler. 

The skills of racing a single scull take time to develop because it is a delicate combination of fitness, technique, mental preparation, tactics, and navigation. If you are new to competitive sculling it is reasonable to expect that it will take three seasons to start having consistent performances. Patience is a requirement. The peaks and valleys of your learning curve are normal. Although you may want to win right away, an internal focus on self-improvement will translate into greater external results in both the short and medium term. 

3 Recommendations for you to try

Here are some suggestions to help you stay on track as you pursue your career in the single scull. woman 1x, masters rowing regatta,

Fitness forms the base of the pyramid to build your technique and mental skills. 

  1. If your sculling technique is not at a level that you can apply power effectively you should use land exercise to get and stay fit while you are in the early learning stages. Progress towards more time in the boat but continue to supplement your sculling with cross-training until you can get a good solid workout in the single.
  2. Technique will develop in stages and the experience of one season in the boat contributes to the next. First, establish your stability, then bladework, followed by power application, and racing skills at varied stroke rates. Consider full pressure as the best pressure you can row while maintaining good technique. Make drills a regular part of your warm-up and get as much coaching as you can during the early stages of your career by taking lessons, getting videoed or going to a camp.
  3. Competition is where you have to synthesise the skills you have accumulated to date. A prerequisite for a good race is steering. Learn to steer. Concentrate on one stroke at a time and aim for efficiency each stroke rather than watching your split. After your event, spend some time evaluating it. Write down 10 points you need to work on and 10 points that you did better than last time.

Progress may not feel linear – but remember as you learn new things you will be constantly pushing yourself to new achievements. It’s like walking up stairs, if you find you have gone a step too far and cannot sustain your pace or your technique falters, go back down one step, re-establish your technique and then try again.

Self coaching drills

A coach’s eye on your blade keeps technical crabs at bay during a practice. But if you’re out
alone you need a way to self-coach. As a part of your daily warm-up choose a drill that gives you
clear feedback and sets the tone for your row.

Two essential drills

Here are a couple of suggestions.
Feet-out rowing focuses on a clean release of the blade using the support of the water to assist
the exit. The drill helps you row tall, preventing your weight from falling into the bow. Remove
your feet from the shoes and place them on top of the stretcher. During the drive hold steady
pressure against the foot stretcher and as you draw the oar handle. Tap down on the oar handle to
release the blade in sync with legs down; just before you lose the pressure on the blade. Keep
your weight over the handle as you then feather as the hands move away from your body. If the
release is late, your feet will come off the shoes, and going in the water is likely. If you nail it,
it’s crisp and feels easy. Practice rowing slowly for 10 minutes feet-out.

masters rowing NZ, single scull masters man,

Rowing with a pause at one-quarter slide helps you practice rowing with a quiet upper body on
the recovery. Transition smoothly from the drive to the follow-through position of arms-body
away. When your knees rise slightly at one-quarter slide, pause. Let the boat glide for a count of
one-one thousand, two-one thousand, then row on. Keep your upper body quiet and steady as
you compress on the slide. Let the knees come up to your chest versus the chest dropping to the
knees as you get ready to place the blade. Practice sets of 10 strokes.

If it helps you to focus, give yourself a score out of 10 for each set of the drill you do. Mark your
improvement. If you don’t get better, it may be time to head in to the pontoon and practice again
another time. Practicing rowing wrongly will not be helpful in the long term and a tired body and
mind finds challenging drills very hard to do successfully.