Racing Starts -- one view

Get Off to a Great Start

USRowing Masters E-Newsletter (US Rowing News Letter -- May 2005) By Mayrene T. Earle, M.Ed.

hallu-motion.euAre your racing starts effective or do you tear through the water, moving backwards as you rush at a 42 into the catch? The main goal of a start is to pry the boat away from the stake boat one stroke at a time, while ALSO building speed throughout the first five strokes. Imagine you are pushing an SUV (similar in weight to an eight full of rowers) from a dead stop. You begin with small steps, slowly overcoming inertia and lengthening your stride and speed, feeling increasing power in your feet. You do the same thing in a boat.

Last summer at a Masters Coaching camp, I had an “aha!” moment while talking with a camper about how she coaches racing starts. Sarah Marty from Wisconsin told me she uses this start: ¾ slide, ½ slide, ¾ slide, full slide, full slide, then 5 strokes to build and lengthen Sarah explained her 10-stroke sequence this way: The ¾- and ½- slide strokes are designed to get the boat moving, with rowers in a more upright position, so they’re not just slamming back and forth. The point of the first ¾ stroke is to get more leverage from your legs. The ½ stroke helps rowers move their arms away quickly and locks everyone in mentally. The following three strokes -- the ¾ and two fulls -- get the boat moving. During the following five lengthening strokes (when you should add in the back), you begin shifting the drive-recovery ratio while building up to full strokes.

When I introduced this start at camp, I discovered that the sequence of lengthening from ¾ to full and then to five lengthening strokes helps everyone in the boat focus on ratio and rhythm. This counteracts the tendency during starts to shorten up, rush and be overly concerned about reaching a certain stroke rate, which creates an inappropriate focus on rating rather than the more important hull speed. When we applied this new (to me) starting strategy, our starts were not as high, but the boat moved faster. Another benefit is that the shift down to racing cadence was smoother and more rhythmical. This is partly because the shift is not as dramatic, which practically eliminates the need to find a new rhythm required by a rapid rate drop.

After the start, the firmest stroke of the race should be the first stroke of the shift (you may call it the settle). The tone of the race is determined in this stroke. You must have a SOLID catch, pry with the legs and LENGTHEN your stroke. Everyone in the boat has to be committed to this and be PRECISE.

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One last bit of advice: It’s a good idea to practice starts early in your practice sessions when you are rested. Why? Because this replicates your experience on race days, when you are fully rested with adrenaline rushing through your body. Practicing racing starts when you are fresh teaches you how to deal with feeling strong and powerful. I wish you well in your upcoming races! Mayrene T. Earle, M.Ed., founder of MastersCoaching, conducts masters rowing camps and clinics around the world and has a private life coaching practice .

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