• LWRC

The Catch Part II

We began our second lesson on the catch with some material provided by Coach Bill Tytus for all to review ahead of class.

Rowers met on Lake Union on August 16 ready to apply what they had learned.


Bill outlined three approaches to learning how to do something:

The Scientific Approach Try to figure it out by applying well known scientific principles (in our case little more than Newton's three laws of motion - which you learned in High School) to inform your understanding of what must happen and when, in order to begin an effective drive. Mimic Others: Watch Experts Olympic champions clearly must be doing something right and maybe we can learn something by watching what they do. The blessing of the internet provides lots of video footage of great rowers over many years and we have remarkable tools with which to study these videos. Find a video of anyone you consider to be a great rower and more importantly who has had great success at rowing and watch with a slow motion or frame by frame viewer (the i-phone and i-pad have excellent built in viewers for this). Especially note when the blade stops traveling towards the bow and starts moving sternward. What happens next? If you have thought at all about physics you will know that it's the blade that moves the boat, and when the blade starts pushing the boat a small hump of water appears at the blade face. Count how many frames it takes for your rower to get from the instant that the blade changes direction to the point where you can see that it is fully engaged with the water. Now you try to do what you see these great rowers are doing. Do What You're Told: Listen to “Experts Even more numerous on the internet than Olympic Gold Medalist videos, are the literally countless videos of some “expert telling you what to do at the catch. Here is where we start to get confused because what they say varies so much. Even the great Olympians often describe what they believe they're doing in a way that is clearly at odds with what you can see in their video. Further, what we say often suffers in the interpretation by others. As Frank said: Doing what you are told only works in the Army”. Catch Science 2004 RowBiom News 02 2006 RowBiom News 09 Remember, during the entire time time from when the blade stops moving toward the bow, to when it is actually pushing water, the only force on the boat is your feet pushing it backward - catch quickly! Rowers to Study '99 Dutch Crew One of the fastest eights ever, the '99 Dutch men Stan '88 Redgrave Commentary Steve Redgrave - five Olympic Gold medals and a Knighthood ought to confer a certain authority. Stan Pocock and Kent Mitchel comment.

Jimmy T Master Rower Did I ever mention the value of no-slide (legs down) rowing?? Take a look at the incomparable Jimmy T, World Champion dory oarsman from Gloucester Mass. He rows a fixed seat dory, and still talks about the importance of leg drive at the catch. Also note his Ferryman's finish If his moves seem exaggerated, notice that he is rowing a boat that weighs at least 400 pounds and he has three passengers. Drills Catch Drill Catch Drill Plus Legs Legs Down Rowing Paddle with a Bump

A Little More Rowing History From Bill In pursuit of the Conibear/Pocock stroke, and the Sculler's catch It all started with the sliding seat ... As the Thames watermen (oarsmen for hire who rowed freight and passengers across the London area Thames river) became more busy and competitive, they started letting their seats move a bit in order to fully engage their legs and row a bit longer stroke. The first response to the consequent blisters was to grease the seat of their trousers to reduce friction. By 1869, JC Babcock, an American, had patented a workable sliding seat. At first these seats only moved 4-6", as the most effective role for the legs in rowing was not yet well understood, but rowers soon realized the advantage of a longer stroke and slide length increased to as much as 16-18" As rowing grew from profession to academic sport, a rowing style emerged, which became known as the English Orthodox stroke. This stroke, rigidly adhering to discipline and form, was characterized by a sharp lift of the back to take the catch, then the extension of the legs to lengthen the stroke, then finally a protracted layback into the finish. Interestingly, you can still see elements of this stroke in the 1936 English Olympic crew who are still rowing with thole pins, even though swivel oarlocks had been in general use for forty years (check the Riefenstahl videos from the last posting). Then along came Ned Hanlan (Canadian 1855-1908). Wherever Hanlan raced, he astonished everybody by the ease with which he romped away from much more powerful opponents in a succession of contests for the Championship of England and the Championship of the World. He was literally unbeatable for years; in fact he was usually so far ahead of his competition that he could stop rowing and wave to the crowd and perform all sorts of antics and still finish well ahead of anyone who dared to race him.



In 1880, The Sportsman, covering a race between Hanlan and James Riley, had this to say: “How Hanlan stands the terrific work he cuts out for the men behind him is a question I shall not attempt to solve. That he does endure it and well, too, is a fact everyone who has seen him row will acknowledge. He never appears to labor or to tire and the motion of his body and arms affords no clue to the wonderful pace he gets on his craft. “It is true that he slides some inches longer than any other oarsman ever did – over twenty-six inches, and that his knees go down at the same time that his arms straighten. This no doubt eases the strain in such a manner as to enable the Canadian to keep at his work long after his antagonists quit. After his retirement in 1897, Hanlan wrote and answered questions about his approach to the sport. “The science of sculling is a most difficult one to master and requires a number of years experience, combined with a steady application and constant thought to arrive at any degree of perfection. Those who aspire to prominence and fame in this great branch of sport place too much reliance on their physical strength, allowing the scientific principles to escape them to a large extent. An experience of twenty-four years devoted to the study of rowing has taught me that mere endurance and brute strength do not make the successful oarsman. The man who would lead in this sport must apply himself diligently and assiduously to a study of the finer points of the game. A strong arm and a stout frame are essentials to success, but with the brain work lacking, they are almost worthless. In other words, the man must use his head as well as his physical gifts.” (credit to Peter Mallory)


But no one yet understood the real reason for his amazing speed.

© 2019 Lake Washington Rowing Club

Photos kindly donated by Andy Rees.