• LWRC

The Catch


Bill began the August 8th Advanced Sculling Practice by asking Are we done with the finish? Not hardly! Not ever! In fact the ONLY way to have an excellent catch is to have an excellent finish. So review the notes; do the drills; keep practicing. We're just done talking about the finish - now we'll talk about the catch.


The Ready Position Bill shared his thoughts on the ready position for our first practice focused on the catch.


“Since the rowing stroke is cyclical in nature, many think there should be no starting or stopping place, but we believe rowing one stroke at a time to be a far more helpful concept. But where to begin and end the stroke? Certainly not at the finish - starting from the finish implies having stopped there beforehand, and stopping your motion at the finish is definitely bad practice.


Starting at the catch is perhaps a bit arbitrary, but there are numerous good-habit-forming reasons for doing so. In the ready position the rower is sitting erect, reaching with relaxed fingers, the shoulders and back extended - just like it says: reaching and ready. The ready position is the same at any place on the slide - full, half, or none. Note: this is not an exercise in pain tolerance. Letting the knees up a few inches at no slide will allow a more comfortable and longer reach.

Take a look at Ernie Barry - the Prince of Scullers and Bill Tytus (at the top of the page) for good examples of the ready position.


From the ready position, the stroke starts with the catch. IMPORTANT: All motion at the start of the stroke must be toward the bow of the boat. Your seat, your body, your hands, and oar handles move only bow-ward - no last minute reach, bobbing, grabbing - nothing moves toward the stern. If the stroke starts with the catch, it must end just before the catch - and this is a great place to end the stroke - at the ready position. Here you are upright and relaxed; reaching and extending the back tends to open your chest - you can breathe deeply.Your boat is moving at the fastest part of the stroke - be patient - let it run for a small moment, getting every inch you can from this stroke before you begin the next.


Be mindful of these notions as you practice. The finish is actually in the middle of the stroke; it is the transition from drive to recovery. The Catch Bill continued with thoughts on the catch.

You've all heard, been taught, maybe even believe the charming fairy tale that a good catch will avoid checking or slowing the boat. You've no doubt heard, read, u-tubed the almost endless discussions of how to drop the blade in, or which way the splash should go, etc, all with the good intention (but bad science) of trying to alleviate boat check. Unfortunately you can't eliminate check, and the only way to reduce it is to not go very fast in the first place. In fact, as we are able to measure rowing dynamics with ever more sophistication, there is a growing body of data that implies more check is actually faster! To get started on this fascinating topic Bill distributed a variety of resources to help understand what exactly is a good catch. He asked us to study, watch, think: try to focus more on what a good catch is, rather than what it is not; and especially try to find what is common to all these catches rather than how they are different. Drills to Know Catch Drill Catch Drill Plus Legs Legs Down Rowing - lots of it. No matter who you are, you are not rowing enough legs down. Best catch practice there is - you have to be quick, and because you can rate so much higher, you practice many more catches. Resources Video: Frank Cunningham rows and Stan Pocock narrates Video: More Frank & Stan this time with a camera mounted on the oarlock, following the blade, and then the hands. Frank is first, in the red shirt, Stan's shirt is white. Video: This is a video of one of the fastest eights ever, the '99 Dutch men, at the Koninklijke in Amsterdam, just a few weeks before they rowed their world record. Cash Prize Letter The author of this letter-to-the-editor never had to pay. Eight Hearts Must Beat as One George Pocock at his best. A Little Rowing History From Bill If you are interested in a little rowing history, a while ago I was asked to talk about The Conibear stroke and the Sculler's Catch for a rowing convention session. I assumed of course, that steeped in the local tradition and lore, and having had the honor and delight of both George, Stan Pocock's tutelege, I knew all of rowing's old alchemy. But then I got to thinking I should check a few facts before going on record, so I went looking for a good sculler's catch - and couldn't find one. Even the Conibear stroke that we think we know so well proved hard to pin down in all its dimensions. I did the seminar, but I spent alot more time than I had planned on figuring out what to say. As we go along I'll include pieces of this interesting story.

First for some context and perspective. Both George and Stan Pocock pronounced many times, the '36 crew (Boys in the Boat) best I've ever seen. Can we presume then that this is the Conibear/Pocock stroke? Berlin UW Eight: A very nice slow-motion clip from Leni Riefenstahl's classic Olympia films. I also include links to the full 2 part movie. Do take a look if not already familiar.

Olympia - Festival of Nations Olympia - Festival of Beauty


Next time: It all started with the sliding seat ...

© 2019 Lake Washington Rowing Club

Photos kindly donated by Andy Rees.