Friday, May 11, 2007

How To Run Seat Races

How To Run Seat Races
By Ted Nash from the 2000-2001 American Rower's Almanac:
Found at Rec.Sport.Rowing Newsgroup
Pre-Race Planning
The coach, coxswains and rowers should meet beforehand to discuss the specific logistical details including length of warm-up, where the boats and launches will meet on the water, and when seat racing will commence.

The coach should make a chart for the meeting showing the directions the races will be run, the lanes for each shell, the warm-up and rest times, and other matters that may influence readiness. Planned switches should not be shown on the chart.

In the planning of these races, allow some time for switched athletes in the boat to become used to a different seat, and allow them to change their foot stretchers as they desire. If taping the lock is allowed, give the athlete a chance to readjust to the pitch. These changes can be done very quickly.

The coach must not reveal to anyone how many races are planned as weather, accidents, close races and a myriad other factors can influence how many matches are needed to make seating decisions. Tie races must be rerun with the rowers in the same seats.

Coach/Coxswain Preparedness for the Seat racing
Coxswains should carry a bag containing an adjustable wrench, 10mm wrench, black electrical tape for the boat, and/or pitching and a small roll of white athletic tape for hand, calf or heel blisters. Coxswains should be provided with weights so that all coxswains are the same weight.
Coaches should carry water in the launch boat, and offer it to all rowers at the same time. Bathroom stops should only be allowed at pre-arranged times, preferably when the seat racing is completed.

Coaches should take a standard sized seat, spare lock, spare set of 12-13 size shoes, tools, a skeg for 8+ or 4+, depending on race boats, and a tool box with extra pins.

Seat Racing Protocol
No athlete who has recently received a long rest period that others have not had should be allowed to seat-race in that session.
Seat Racing distances should not exceed five minutes which is considered a long enough period to determine strength, rhythm, blend and endurance.
Speed coaches/stroke coaches should be either used by all boats, or by none. Coxswains should be allowed to use cox-box set-ups as they do in regattas.
Accidentally broken equipment should nullify that race only. After replacing broken parts, racing should re-commence.
Coaches should not reveal to the rowers how many races are planned.
A "fair witness" should be riding in the launch to record exact distances of each race in the log book (i.e.- start-variances and margins).
Starts are three to build with margins on fourth catch are noted. Viable stroke rates are 31 to 32.5. Crews are given one free warning for false starts. Subsequent violations result in a one seat penalty. (Later in the season rates of 33-34 are more useful.)
After each piece, crews should paddle one full minute before stopping. Changes are then made. Row about one minute after changing. Major adjustments are made on the dock. Minor items can be changed on the water or by launch assistance. Paddle another four minutes after making the adjustments.
Some coaches want coxswains not to talk during the seat race. That is a choice to make beforehand. Youthful oarsmen generally prefer coxswains who can inspire and fire up. (Keep in mind a special seat race is always going on between coxswains.) There are many views on this point, but I prefer real race conditions which include a high level of enthusiasm and noise - traits found in all good regatta races.
Coaches will do well not to tip their hands by always racing #3s or #2s, or leaving the strokes until last. Athletes will pick-up on such habits and perhaps miss their own peak performance. Such coaching, if repeated, can cause weaker athletes who doubt they can produce all the time to save themselves for later races.
Close races should be re-raced. My definition of a close race is less than 1/2 deck in rough water, or strong headwinds.
Tie-races are always re-run with a "lid". A "lid" means the athletes return to their seats of the prior race and re-race.
Coaches must never "judge" seat racing results. If the athletes expected to win do not, so be it. Coaches who commit to seat racing cannot, under any circumstances, question the results. Second-guessing is a betrayal of the athletes and will destroy their morale as well as their confidence in the coach.
Integrity of seat racing is assumed, observed, expected, recorded and demanded by all - peers, coaches, and the sport. Athletes do not forget the “blade with the fade” (explained below). The coach must also be aware of this should it happen and react properly albeit respectfully.
"Blade with the fade" is referring to an athlete who, once realizes he or she is not being seat raced, will ease off in power. This issue must be stated openly to the athletes at least once each year so that every athlete is clear on the importance and integrity of the seat racing.
Athletes may seek redress if done under coach-control and in a timely manner. (I encourage challenge races.)

Post Seat Racing
After the races are over the "fair witness" (launch observer) should report findings to the coaches. Then coaches, coxswains, and perhaps the captain or respected veteran athletes will help record the results. All questions should calmly be answered and explained and verdicts validated.

After each session coxswains must meet with the coach at the dock to discuss margins and fairness. If a question cannot be solved, the strokes and certain other athletes should be called upon for their views as to fairness.

Seat racing results should be posted in specific team room only by name and margin. Do not post in a general area, as the results are privy only to those who participated.

Checklist for Coaches
A week prior to the first seat race, assign a coxswain to assist your boatman or rigging coach in checking out the seat-race shells. Here are the key things to pass or fail:
Check oar pitch. Because all oars change their pitch over time, a negative 1° oar or scull that replaces a +1° blade can upset a boat if not corrected. The best idea is to measure all oars and use only 0° degree blades. The next best option is to put three wraps of PVC tape tightly around the top of the face of the lock to shallow it, or on the bottom to deepen it.
Seats have no groves or burned out bearings to destroy the rhythm or flow.
All skegs are straight, not just close to okay.
No bent riggers. Pins are at zero degrees.
No cracked back braces or goose necks.
All blades at zero degrees.
All inboards pre-set and tight.
Steering must be attached in the same fashion (reflex direction) from boat to boat.
Yoke turns the rudder directly and does not have slippage.
All coxbox types and speakers work clearly and are not muffled.
All pins are tight to the main braces.

Many excellent coaches over time have created oarsmen swapping plans for their seat races. Call a few of them and ask for tips of their own.

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