Peak Your Technique

Converting those erg watts to more boat meters per second demands a plan. Get more out of your stroke without more time on the water. 

Today we are going to show you how to sync your technical focus with your fitness and mental training. 

south Island rowing, nz rowing, masters rowing,

Dana Cawte rowing in South Island NZ

One Year Rowing Plan

Based on one peak per year, divide the year into these three training phases each with its own focus and demands.

The general preparation phase is approximately seven months in duration. Work on creating a solid foundation of stroke elements. The core stroke elements are drive initiation, mid-drive power and recovery. Use drill work to kick off each workout by choosing one exercise as your focus. Then incorporate the drill learnings into steady rows. Emphasise improving weak elements, defining new movements, and solidifying these movement patterns.

The specific preparation pre-competitive phase is two months long. Hold gains made thus far. This is the period of highest physical stress. Your goal here is to maintain your movement pattern or “form” while training with high levels of lactic acid present in your blood while in a fatigued state. You need high levels of mental concentration to complete each workout. 

When specific preparation shifts to the competitive months of the season, turn your attention back to technique in order to sharpen your racing skills. Clean up your movement patterns on the erg or bladework in the boat at high tempos. Focus on refining your start sequences and practice stroke transitions from the start to the mid-race pace regularly. Polish the best aspects of your stroke and build your crew’s confidence. This is not a good time to make major technical changes because of the lengthy time it takes to neurologically ingrain a new movement pattern. 

Once your season has ended, a one-month transition period is the time to address physical limitations that affect your technique. Then the cycle starts again.

This article first published on Faster Masters Rowing.


Inaugural Auckland Corporate Regatta





3 crews comprising: –

  • training from St George’s RC,
  • training from North Shore RC and
  • Women’s Novvies from North Shore RC

Racing comprised: –

A 2km erg relay race, where each crew member raced 200m each in relay format

2 approximately 500m races – where the first race all crews went off together and the second race was a handicapped start based on the first race results

Erg Race

There was blood sweat and competitive spirit. Who would have thought that 2 months ago, that we would have 3 groups of people racing off against one another in an erg race! There was a high level of interest from supporters – it was fantastic to see and the noise levels were high.

The results were:-

  1. First – Cognizant
  2. Second – Arvida
  3. Third – Womens Novvies

On water races

True to form, Lake Pupuke started to blow up with a north easterly coming in over the top and across the planned race course from the Pumphouse to the Clubrooms.

Undeterred the amateur race officials consulted and decided after some intense discussions with our three experienced coxswains, and the “Weather Gods” that a diagonal course from the NIWA buoy to a finish line between the tree at the Clubhouse and chimney of the Pumphouse was around 500m. Boats were launched, with the North Shore 63” coxswains sitting proud and in one case crouching ready to for action. The 6hp safety boat powered down to the start line to marshal the boats into a free start lineup with a few unruly seagulls hanging about.

After a quick start the boats all powered away with Arvida making sure they had passed the finish line by taking an extra 3 strokes that got them pretty close to the edge of the lake.

The second race start was staggered, with the Novvies going off first, then 3 seconds later Cognizant and then another 3 seconds later Arvida. This meant for the first 200-250m the racing was very close and evenly matched, however Arvida powered through into the last 200m of the race, with Cognizant following not far behind. An ecstatic Callum was slapping the water and managed to thoroughly drench Justin sitting in stroke seat! 

The on water race series winners here were:-

  1. First – Arvida
  2. Second – Cognizant
  3. Third – Womens Novvie

Arvida Crew at the Business Regatta –   Callum (cox) Justin, Antonio, Patrick, Stephen, Kerry, Jamie, Sarah and Shirley

Business Rowing regatta eights

Crew in the background is   Lewis (cox) Jodie, Adelia, Wendy, Winnie, Tanya, Jane, Morven and Jackie Crew in the foreground  Carolyn (cox) Jane, Toni, Craig, Dale, Stephen, Nathan, Jas and Lorraine

Prize Giving

St George President, Mike Harrison told us about the background to the Thomson Memorial Trophy – first awarded in 1930s for a “Business Houses” regatta. During the Second World War years it became an inter-services trophy before being revived as a business regatta trophy in 1960s to 1980s when the event fell into abeyance.

The gold-plated trophy was donated by John Thomson’s widow – he was a very successful single sculler. Interestingly, in the club history book which Mike brought along was a 1965 newspaper clipping about the regatta which quoted Chris Blomfield – then rowing for Air New Zealand and now at North Shore.

All crews were presented with certificates by Annabel Grierson, President of North Shore Masters Rowing Club and Mike Harrison gave the winning Arvida crew the trophy and a bottle of bubbles.North Shore helpers and supporters were all thanked.

Business rowing regatta prize giving

Prizegiving with Mike Harrison (in red) and the Arvida crew.

Helpers Jane and Tony

Feather Away

Quiet refined bladework is the signature of a skilled oarsman. Turbulence and splashing at the tip of your oar sends a big hit of drag to your boat speed. The standard of your feathering motion may not be at the top of your technical to-do list but, how you change the position of the blade from square in the water during the drive to the horizontal, flat position when the oar is out of the water on the recovery, makes or breaks the release. If your blade exits the water cleanly, without catching its lower edge or throwing a lip of water, your hull is going to carry the power of your drive into the recovery. Any interruption as it attempts to exit will steal the speed you have built up through the drive. 

Mark Eller’s crew showing a “quiet” finish

Improve your feathering and squaring

Common flaws in feathering are turning the blade while it’s still under the water before the blade has exited the water and feathering as the hands are continuing towards your body at the end of the drive. At this point, the blade is no longer working in the water but the handles continue moving towards the body as if on the drive. 

Perfecting your feathering is a function of correct sequencing

First, complete your release by pressing down on the handle, take the blade out of the water until you clear the lower edge of the blade. If the blade is still loaded it will facilitate coming out square. Once clear, feather the oar as your hands move away from your body. Once the blade is released, aim for the feathering motion to happen on the recovery as the blade tip is moving towards the bow. 

Practicing a new pattern is best done stationary at first, so watch your blade to check and reinforce that you are releasing completely then changing the direction of the blade after the oar has exited. If you are sculling you can practice rowing circles with one oar and focusing on the sequencing. When you row continuously, exit with the blade square and delay the feather until your hands start to move away from your body and lead into the follow-through motion.

Auckland Beach Sprints Regatta 2023

The inaugural Auckland Beach Sprints regatta for coxed quads and doubles was held on 29th April at St Helier’s Beach.

Here are some photos.

St George crew check their steering

St George’s Rowing Club mixed quad start their heat

Beach sprints, masters North Shore

North Shore’s Gordon Williams and Chris Brake happy with their race

West End and North Shore sprint down the beach to their boat.

St George’s mixed quad get prepared

Taupo RC ladies crew at the Auckland Beach Sprints

Taupo RC ladies crew at the Auckland Beach Sprints

Build up to race pace

Looking for the right training recipe to boost your results this year? Race pace workouts are a key ingredient for boat speed. Your conditioning is going to improve through the season. In the early weeks develop a solid base of fitness and technique where you stick to lower intensity workouts until you feel your technique will tolerate nudging up the rates. For practical purposes, let’s define race effort as the best pace you can row while maintaining your technique, efficiency, and boat feel. 

The key to rowing race simulation workouts is to focus on the race effort versus the pace (rate). Trying to push the rate too high too quickly at the beginning of the season can cause overtraining, fatigue, and be deadly to your technique efficiency. Plus, early in the season, it may be difficult to know exactly what your race pace will be for your peak regatta. So row according to how your body and boat feels. Keep it “comfortably hard” with good rhythm, bladework, and run. If your slide catches on fire and your stroke gets ragged you need to gather your technique back together and pay attention to moving the boat well before trying those higher rates again a few days later.

How to learn race rate

Begin by adding “speed play” sessions into your weekly programme. Speed play includes short bursts of 10 to 20 strokes at race intensity interspersed within a lower stroke rate row. 

For example, row three 20-minute pieces at a base stroke rate of 18; every four to five minutes include an acceleration of 10 to 20 strokes at the best pace you can row while maintaining good technique. 

Next, you can include a session with more structured high-rate strokes such as three 20-minute pieces with the first 10 minutes rowed at a base stroke rate of 20-22 and the second 10 minutes rowed alternating 10 strokes at race effort then 10 strokes at your base rate. Pay attention to keeping a sharp rhythm and bladework when you make the rate transitions. 

The next stage is to include longer segments so build up to three 20-minute pieces that alternate four minutes at a base stroke rate 18 to 22 with one minute at your best rating. When you feel you are ready for longer intervals start to progress the length and rates of your race pace sessions. Your body will naturally adapt over time as will your rating and boat speed.

Tell us what ratings work best for your crew and share on our Facebook page


Marlene Royle