Friday, May 11, 2007

Good Blade Depth at Your Fingertips

Good Blade Depth at Your Fingertips
By Marlene Royle.
From Rowing News, July 2003

Blade depth is one of the aspects of technique that needs careful attention. Rowing too deep causes a myriad of problems such as getting caught at the release or increasing the amount of vertical motion in the stroke. I recently did a group lesson with some intermediate scullers and here is how we worked on blade depth to help move the boat better.

First, to get a sense of where the blade will sit naturally, I had the scullers sit at the release and hold the scull only using their thumb on the end of the handle. By keeping pressure against the oarlock, they had control of the handle but also allowed the blade to sit at its natural depth in the water. They then lightly placed their fingers on the blade without disturbing the height in the water.

Next, we did a drill where we rowed in circles. With one blade feathered flat on the water and the boat balanced, I had them row with one oar. The boat moved in a circle, but the advantage of this drill was they were able to watch what the blade was doing during the stroke. I explained that by accomplishing the right action in the water your inboard handle levels would also be at the right heights. I asked the scullers to keep the top edge of the blade level with the surface of the water; this way had a concrete reference point for where the blade level should be while in the water.

Allowing the blade to sit in the water requires light hands while making sure you don’t overpower the stroke and lift with the upper body during the drive. I like to use two finger rowing as a way to demonstrate how little effort is required to control the oar. I instructed the group to use regular hand placements while on the recovery; place the blades at the catch and once their in the water lift the middle, ring and small fingers off the handle so they are drawing the handles with the thumb and index fingers only. In this drill you can’t actually pull hard so you automatically can feel where the blade wants to sit. Another variation we did with this was to row with only the middle fingers, where after the entry, they used only the middle fingers to draw the handles through the stroke.

The final drill we did during the session was half blade rowing. The goal of this drill was to feel how to control the blade keeping only the lower half of the blade in the water. This requires focusing on the point of contact between the lower edge of the blade and the waters surface. Learning when this happens helps you to understand the sense of the blades size and action. It will also help you learn an important frame of reference for developing good catch timing and for improving your racing starts this season.

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