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R. C. (Rudolf Chambers) Lehmann.

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they will have freedom for their swing, and it will be far
easier for them to get the remaining portions of the stroke
together. Let them study, too, to keep the forward movement
of their bodies slow, and their slides even slower. "Don't
throw your bodies about, don't jerk, don't hammer at it, get a
firm and solid beginning, and keep applying leg pressure to
your stroke. Make it smooth and even, and lock her up on
finish and recovery." These should be the main instructions
to a four-oared crew.

It is not possible for an eight to dispense with a coach,
but for a four I think it is possible indeed, I have often seen
it done, and most of the fours in which I have myself rowed
were unable to command the services of a coach, and suffered
but little damage through this lack. Four good watermen
ought to be able, without any difficulty, to note and to correct
their own faults, and to attain for themselves to the necessary
harmony. I must not be understood as recommending an
ordinary College four at Oxford or Cambridge to practise
without a coach. There the men are still, for the most part,
in their novitiate, and coaching is necessary for them. For a
Leander four, however, and for any four similarly composed
of good watermen an occasional word or two from some
trusted mentor, who may happen to be at hand, is all that is
required. The rest they can do for themselves. With regard
to the steering of a coxswainless four I may, perhaps, quote
what I said in my Isthmian Book on Rowing: "Besides
skill in oarsmanship, another element, which adds greatly
both to the difficulties and pleasures of a four, has to be
considered. This is the necessity that one of the oarsmen
should not only row, but also guide the course of the boat by
steering with his foot.*

* There are innumerable devices for steering a four-oar. The simplest kind
of steerage is that which is attached to a clog, the lower part of which is so



FOURS AND PAIRS 137

" It is evident that watermanship of a very high order is
needed for this feat. The steerer must know the course and
all its points perfectly. The ordinary oar often finds it
difficult to keep time when his eyes are glued on the back of
the man in front of him, but the steerer in a four has to keep
time and regularity, even though he may be forced to look
round in order to ascertain the true direction of his boat. An
oarsman in an eight has both his feet firmly fixed ; a steerer
of a four must keep one foot constantly ready for movement.
And all this he has to do without making the boat roll, or
upsetting the harmony of his crew. These difficulties, no
doubt, are great ; but when once they have been overcome,
and the crew has shaken absolutely together, there can be
few pleasures in the world of exercise comparable to that of
rowing in a four."

Bow is, perhaps, the best place to steer from, for when he
looks round he has an uninterrupted view of the course.
Many men, however, prefer to steer from stroke, so that they
may judge their course by the track of the boat's stern. No
general rule can be laid down except this, that he who is the
best waterman and has the coolest head should steer. If a
steerer knows his course well he will not require to look
round very often, for he will be able to judge the direction of
his boat by familiar landmarks behind him and on either
side. A slavish adherence to " points " is not to be recom-
mended. Most men steer more comfortably with the outside
foot than with the inside. If the steerer finds that he must
look round he should do so just as he is finishing his stroke.

For the practice and training of a four when the men

screwed in as to enable the foot to pivot freely on the heel to one side and the
other. Attachments of picture wire, or strong cord, running on grooved wheels
fixed into the sax-boards of the boat communicate with the cross-bar of the
rudder. When the rudder is straight, the foot should be in the ordinary rowing
position, and this position should be clearly indicated by marks on the wooden
cross-brace which serves in plaCe of a stretcher and over which the clog moves.
When the steerer sees that his foot is within the marks on either side he will
know that his rudder is straight without having to peer over the shoulders of the
men in front of him. If he steers from stroke he will, of course, always have his
rudder in sight, and this, no doubt, gives a stroke steerer some advantage.



138 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

composing it are rowing in no other race, the same rules
apply as have already been laid down for an eight. When,
however, the men rowing in a four are part of an eight, as
is often the case at Henley, they can do the chief part of their
work in the eight, and confine themselves in the four to
such an amount of practice as may be necessary for getting
them together. Light and watermanlike paddling of the
genuine kind, with occasional bursts of rowing, and perhaps
one full course, will be sufficient for their work in the four.

PAIRS
MEASUREMENT OF A RACING PAIR

ft. ins.

Length over all 37 I

Greatest breadth ^ . . .13^

Length of slide play 14

Distance from sill of rowlock to centre of seat . . . 2 8

Height of seat above heels 08

(The clogs are assumed to be fixed so that the heels

of them touch a rib of the boat.)
Height of rowlock-sill above seat (i.e. " work ") . . . o 5|to6

The measurements of oars are the same as for a four.
What I have already said with regard to four-oared rowing
applies, with even greater force, to pairs. The two men
should set themselves to row absolutely together, each of
them compromising a little to meet the necessities of the
other, but without sacrificing such essentials as length and
steadiness of swing. Their object ought to be, at all times,
to row with exactly even power. To " row jealous," that is
to show your greater strength by rowing your colleague round,
is disastrous in a pair, for it not only diminishes pace, but
destroys that harmony of temper on which to a considerable
degree the excellence of a pair depends. As a test and a
school of watermanship no boat is superior to a pair. In
such a boat all faults produce their results directly in un-
steadiness and slowness of progression. In an eight, and to
some extent in a four, a man is helped by his fellows, but
in a pair he is thrown back on to his own bare resources, and
if he is worth anything at all he soon learns his lesson. Let



FOURS AND PAIRS 139

a man in a pair swing short or take his beginning slackly or
finish too soon, and the result is immediately apparent, for
the boat will move round against him and lose pace and
direction. The necessity of correcting his fault is therefore
impressed upon his mind in the most direct and forcible
manner.

For pleasure rowing no craft is superior to a racing pair,
when the two men composing the crew have practised together
and are good friends. I have rowed close upon fifty miles in
a day in such a boat, and can honestly say I enjoyed every
single stroke.

One question remains, namely, whether a steerage ought
or ought not to be fitted to a pair. For earlier practice,
before the two oarsmen are duly welded together, a rudder is
no doubt a great advantage, and in a side wind something is
gained by being able to prevent the boat from running up
into the wind, without throwing undue labour upon one or
other of the oarsmen. At the same time, it must be re-
membered that the mere presence of a rudder acts to some
extent as a drag and that its use in one direction or the
other inevitably stops the way of the boat. When two men
are really well together in a pair, they should be able, by
slight concessions to one another, or by a small amount of
extra exertion, to keep their boat straight under all circum-
stances. My own personal preference is for rowing without
a rudder.



CHAPTER XV
ROWING STYLE IN OTHER COUNTRIES

Belgium New South Wales Other Continental Countries The Harvard
Crew of 1906

AFTER I had written the foregoing chapters there came
into my hands two important documents which explain
theories of style that prevail in two other countries. The
first was an article in the Yachting and Boating Monthly on
the "Theory and Practice of Belgian Rowing," by Raphael
Van Der Waerden, " trainer of the Belgian crew " that is, I
suppose, of the Belgian crew which won the Grand Challenge
Cup at Henley. The second was a pamphlet entitled " Style
of Rowing adopted by the New South Wales Rowing Asso-
ciation." I propose to examine these with a view to seeing
how far the theories expounded in them coincide with or
differ from our own.

THE BELGIAN STYLE

Mr. Van Der Waerden begins by defining style " as the
simultaneous combination of suppleness, strength, elegance,
and precision which distinguishes a first-class oarsman from
a good average rowing man." And he goes on to say that
"the primordial principle from which all the movements
executed by the rower spring, from the moment the blade
of the oar is dipped into the water until the time it is
feathered, is the manner in which the contact with the water
is effected by the oar in establishing the necessary fulcrum for
propelling the boat." In other words, the beginning, or, as
Mr. Van Der Waerden afterwards calls it, " the attack," is the

140




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ROWING STYLE IN OTHER COUNTRIES 141

most important part of the stroke. After explaining that
the oar is a lever of the second order, and that the fulcrum
provided by the water is not a fixed but a yielding one, the
writer shows that, in order to produce a good movement of
the boat, the swing and reach and the consequent movements
which go to make up the stroke in the water must be
lengthened as much as possible, and these movements must
be carried out with the greatest rapidity. " By bending the
body forward," he says, " with arms outstretched, the progress
to be made by the action of the oar will be considerably
increased, and consequently the movement of the boat also.
In the same way, in order to obtain a fulcrum in the water,
it is necessary to strike it with a maximum of neatness and
in a clean, exact movement." This is precisely our own
theory of the clean, hard, swift beginning. Mr. Van Der
Waerden proceeds to show how a beginner may be taught
to acquire this movement and put it into execution. " When
dipping the blade into the water," he says, " a sharp move-
ment of the loins takes place, with the head upright, without
moving the slide, which would throw the shoulders backward
and fix the oar in the water." He insists that these move-
ments must be performed without contraction of the arms,
and he goes on to show that they "cannot be performed
regularly, usefully, and to advantage except by a free attack
or hard beginning." According to him, after the beginning
has thus been seized, and while the backward movement of
the body is continuing, the slide comes into play. "The
sliding movement being simply a continuation of the stroke,
it is indispensable not to make any change in the position
taken when the pushing movement in the slide is commenced ;
consequently, this sliding movement must be executed with
arms outstretched, the chest rigid and slightly thrown back.
This movement must be executed without any contraction of
the arms, which is an easy matter if the stroke has been
started powerfully. At the same time the stroke in the
water is not yet ended ; the rower has brought his slide to
the end of the thwart, and cannot go any further, but he



THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

has his arms outstretched and can utilise their length for still
further increasing the travel of his oar. In order to do this,
remaining steady on his slide, he will bring his arms back to
his chest to the height of his breast, elbows lowered and close
to the body."

The chief comment I have to make on the above instruc-
tions is that the three movements of the backward swing,
the slide and the finish are too sharply divided from one
another, but this, no doubt, may be explained by the fact that
Mr. Van Der Waerden was addressing himself to beginners.
For them it is of the highest importance to realise that the
body movements which execute the beginning must precede
the sliding movement, and that the contraction of the arms
which finishes the stroke must be postponed as late as
possible. In a good crew all the three movements should be
so well blended into one stroke that it becomes impossible
for the eye definitely to separate them. I do not myself
think that the contraction of the arms should be postponed
until the backward swing of the body is finished and the slide
is at its back stop, nor as a matter of fact do the Belgian
crews that I have seen so postpone it, but with this caution
I am prepared to accept what Mr. Van Der Waerden says.

For the rest he instructs his beginner that the oar must
be taken out by a clean and rapid movement. "In order to
do this the rower slightly lowers his forearm, which causes
the oar-blade to come out of the water. At the same time
he executes a twisting movement with his wrists, the result
being to bring the blade in a position horizontal to the surface
of the water. To lighten the boat forward and to give her
the remaining impetus the arms are thrust quickly forward ;
then the slide is brought slowly forward, the rower remaining
erect on his loins with shoulders low, profiting by this respite
to take a deep breath. If, when the legs are shortened, it is
found impossible to slide farther forward, there is nothing to
do but to prepare for the next stroke."

Here it should be noted that no mention whatever is made
of body-swing. All the instruction is directed to the slide



ROWING STYLE IN OTHER COUNTRIES 143

forward, and on this point there is certainly a considerable
difference between the Belgian theory and our own. I submit,
however, that a body-swing, though it is not expressly insisted
on, is implied, for at the outset of his instructions Mr. Van Der
Waerden had spoken of " bending the body forward with arms
outstretched."

I have very carefully observed the Belgian crews that
have rowed at Henley, including those which won the Grand
Challenge Cup in 1906 and 1907. The first point that struck
me about them was their admirable uniformity. They had
evidently been coached according to a definite system equally
well understood both by the instructor and by his pupils.
They had mastered to perfection and applied with consummate
ability the great theory which inculcates extreme steadiness
and good balance of the body-movement forward, and of the
sliding that accompanies it. To lead up to this they were
very quick and springy with their hands off the chest. Then
they moved forward very slowly, so slowly towards the last
part that their blades seemed to hang over the water. Their
bodies did not swing so far forward as ours, but they took
their beginnings firm and clean and with a hearty good will.
During the stroke they kept the leg-power strongly and
consistently applied, but the bodies swung back less than
ours. The finish was hard and the blades came out very
clean. The bodies were erect, and all the movements were
graceful and easy. No awkward plunging rush checked the
even speed of the ship. She kept travelling beautifully.
When I compare this style with that of a first-class English
crew (for example, with the Leander crew of 1905, which
defeated a Belgian crew in the final heat by a length and
three-quarters), I note only one serious fault, and that is the
comparative shortness of swing fore and aft. All other
essentials are there. A genuine swing might entail greater
exhaustion, but it would also increase pace, as it did in the
Leander crew I have mentioned, by no small amount.



144 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

THE NEW SOUTH WALES STYLE

In order to adopt a uniform style of rowing the New
South Wales Rowing Association in May, 1907, convened
a meeting of the coaches of the various clubs, the Inter-
State Eight crew, and other qualified oarsmen. Various
meetings were held, and finally, on August 13, the following
motion was passed : " That the principles laid down in
Woodgate's Shilling Book, c Rowing and Sculling ' (All
England Series), read in conjunction with Mr. McFarlane's
letter to Mr. Fitzhardinge, be adopted by the clubs as the
uniform style, and that where Woodgate and Mr. McFarlane
differ, Mr. McFarlane's ideas be adopted." Here are the
essential parts of Mr. McFarlane's letter.

" Nothing need be said about the selection of a crew, but
assuming that a crew has been carefully chosen and the men
allotted their seats in the boat, we start them to work in a
roomy practice boat always a clinker. Care should be taken,
even in the practice boat, that the work is properly laid out
for the men riggers the proper height and stretchers the
proper length. In regard to the latter point it is always a
sine qua non that the man must be able easily to touch his
slide forward every time. If he is not able to do this the
stretcher must be let out far enough to enable him to bring
the slide up.* Should he then be unable to touch the slide
back at the finish of the stroke, it is a usual thing with us to
block a piece of the slide at the back. This is necessary*
because in our style of rowing a man cannot do his best work
at the finish of the stroke unless he has some leg support, and
he can only get this support if the slide is right back against
the chocks and the knees not quite flattened down.

" If the crew is composed of experienced oarsmen who

* This concession is dangerous. Men become more supple as practice pro-
gresses and end by being able with comfort to touch a front stop that seemed
impossible of attainment at the outset. The method indicated in the text shortens
a slide before it is proved that the oarsman cannot use its whole length. All men
in a crew ought to slide the same distance [R. C. L.].



ROWING STYLE IN OTHER COUNTRIES 145

have rowed together before, we do not usually find it
necessary to keep them in the practice boat for more than
two or three weeks, but if we have to break maiden or junior
men, it is necessary to extend the time to four or five weeks.
For the first part of the time a very slow rate of stroke is
rowed to enable the coach to correct faults. Personally, I
first of all devote most attention to the blade work seeing
that the fellows all enter the water together and leave it
together, which is just as important. Then the blades should
be all turned off the feather together ; as to when they should
be turned off is a debatable point, but I believe that if the
feathering is worth doing at all, it is worth while sustaining
it right through the swing forward and only turn it off at the
last moment. Care must be taken that it is not held too
long, as an oar on the feather will ' chock ' much sooner than
one on the square. The blades should be all an even height
from the water on the swing forward, and especial care must
be taken to see that when the blades are turned off the
feather, preparatory to the catch, they are only an inch or two
off the water. A bad beginning of a stroke is often caused
by the hands being ducked down over the stretcher and the
blade consequently lifted high off the water. This necessi-
tates a sharp raising of the hands and consequent, what we
call, ' sop ' into the water. We say that if the hands are
brought to the proper spot and the blades right close to the
water, no sharp lift of the hands is necessary, but the act of
lifting the shoulders on the catch will enter the blade properly.
The blades should be driven clean through, never sinking
more than the blade, and lifted square out at the finish, then
turned oh to the feather again. So much for the blades, most
of which you already know, no doubt, better than I do.

" I spoke just now of the lift of the shoulders entering the
blade into the water, that is if the blade is in the proper
position for the catch. You will infer from this that the
lifting of the shoulders and the entering of the blade into the
water are simultaneous actions. This is so. There is no
necessity to drop (or 'throw,' as I have heard coaches say)'



146 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

the blade in and then set the shoulders going. Make one
action of it, and the drive with the legs follows so quickly as
to be almost simultaneous with the other. The shoulders
must be driven very quickly up over the slide and carried
back in one clean drive, without any pause whatever, right to
the finish. Two points which we emphasise in regard to the
shoulder swings are : (i) At the catch there must be no over-
reaching or lunging down over the stretcher the backs must
be braced up and the shoulders squared (taking care not to
let the outside shoulder drop round) ; keeping a strain on the
footstraps will assist this action ; and (2) at the finish the
bodies must not be allowed to drop away they must be
swung back past the perpendicular, of course, but should
be held up in such a position that when the last part of the
stroke is rowed home with the arms, the handle of the oar is
moving in an upward direction to the chest. This keeps the
weight of the body on the oar. If the body is allowed to fall
away at the finish the weight is inevitably thrown in the boat
and not on the oar. The recovery is also more difficult and
not nearly so smart as when the body is held well up. The
hands should be rowed smartly in to the chest at the finish.
The finish must necessarily be with the arms, and the quicker
the hands can be brought in, the harder one is finishing in
the water. Then the drop of the hands to bring the blade
square out of the water is a thing one very frequently sees
overdone. It stands to reason that with so much more of the
length of the oar out-board than in-board, a two-inch drop at
the handle means a very much greater lift at the blade, so
that the knuckles should be dropped just sufficiently low to
bring the blade out clean. A drop of the hands right down
into the lap only makes the boat roll and sends the blade flying'
into the air. Of course the actions of dropping the knuckles
down and shooting the hands away must be blended, as all the
different parts of the stroke should. The hands should be
sent out smartly over the knees, and the body then brought
quickly -to the perpendicular, or, if anything, to a shade beyond
the perpendicular, i.e. the shoulders should be brought to a






ROWING STYLE IN OTHER COUNTRIES 147

point slightly in advance of the slide before the slide begins
to move forward. It will assist the smart recovery with the
body if the toes are pulled away from the stretcher, against
the straps. The object, of course, of the smart recovery is to
relieve the pressure on the boat and allow her to gather way
between the strokes ; it also enables a man to get quickly
out of what is his weakest position in the stroke. The
shoulders having been brought into the right position the
slide is started. Too much emphasis cannot be laid on
the * steady forward.' A light pressure should be kept with
the inside hand against the button to steady the body forward.
Our practice is to take the last part of the slide forward very
slowly. It is during the last part of the slide forward that
we brace up the shoulders and stiffen the bodies preparatory
to the hard catch and drive. You wiU easily understand that
if the last part of the slide forward is taken steadily and the
bodies braced up a good hard catch is possible, but this
cannot be said if the bodies are tumbling over the stretchers.
It is this very steady last part which gives many people the
impression that the Park crews hang over the catch, but there
is really no hang. This, in my opinion, is one of the strong
points of our rowing, and will bear repetition the very
steady last part of the slide forward, the bracing up of the
shoulders and stiffening of the back, then the quick drive
back of the shoulders with a simultaneous start of the blade
and an almost simultaneous leg drive. Regarding the leg
drive, it should be carried out vigorously. Too often we see
the legs just pushed gently against the stretcher, but I like to
see them driven hard. A crew when being drilled in the
practice boat should be constantly reminded about their legs
by the coach, and they would then get into the habit of using
them properly. When on this subject, the position of the
legs at the catch is important. One sees some fellows let one
or both legs drop right down almost on the gunwale of the
boat, and in this position it is impossible to get a quick leg-
drive. Others again keep their knees close together, but it



Online LibraryR. C. (Rudolf Chambers) LehmannThe complete oarsman → online text (page 12 of 39)