R. C. (Rudolf Chambers) Lehmann.

The complete oarsman online

. (page 7 of 39)
Online LibraryR. C. (Rudolf Chambers) LehmannThe complete oarsman → online text (page 7 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

D is a wedge-shaped wooden tongue, flat on the under side, and sliding freely up

and down on the rule AC.

If you lay the rule AB on the sax-boards with the rule
AC against the sill of the rowlock you can obtain the height
of the sax-boards from the seat by an application of the rule
EF, and the height of the rowlock-sill from the sax-boards
by an application of D to the sill. The sum of these two
gives you the height of the work. Another application of EF
will give you the height of the sax-boards from the heels.


Subtract from this the height of sax-board above the seat
and the remainder gives you the height of seat from heels.

Keep CA against the rowlock-sill, and apply EF to the
centre of the seat, and you will obtain the distance from that
point to the rowing pin, i.e. the " rigger-spread," or leverage,
which, as I have said, should be 2 feet 7 inches.

As you proceed with your measurements they should be
noted down on a measure-card. The most convenient and
comprehensive design is the following, by Mr. C. K.
Philips :












Sill to

to Seat.


aoard to

of Seat


+ or-


of Sill.











By adding together, in each case, the results in columns
I. and II. you obtain the height of the work. By subtracting
column II. from column IV. you obtain the height of seat
above heels.




WORK (Rigger only)


1 I

j !


i j








+ Raise.











On this you note, for your own information and that of
the boatman, the alterations in rig that you may decide to be

You should supervise all alterations yourself, and refuse to
be satisfied with them until they correspond exactly with
your decisions.

Work is altered by the insertion of leather washers at the
point where the rigger-stays are screwed into the boat. To
raise it you insert washers under the lower stays ; to lower it
you insert them under the upper. A seat should be raised
only when you see that, with the existing elevation, a man
cannot clear his knees or swing his body forward with due
freedom. In this case it is better to raise the seat above its
wheels rather than to build up the slide-track.


I may assume now that you have got the rig of the boat
to your taste ; that you have satisfied yourself that the slides
run true ; that the centre-point of every seat is exactly
opposite the point where the heels meet on the stretcher ;
that the tholes are duly erect and otherwise in good order,
that all the nuts are tightly screwed up ; in short, that every-
thing is ship-shape. The boat can now be launched, the men
can take their seats, adjust their stretchers under the coach's
supervision, and insert their oars in the rowlocks. Before we
shove her off, however, we may pause for a moment or two
to discuss a few points which have their importance. For
instance, a coach or a captain will want to know how long the
crew ought to remain in a tub-eight before taking to the light
ship. My answer is that if they are men of some experience
a Leander crew, for example they will not need to use a
tub-eight at all ; and even if they are men of small experience,
like the majority of those who row in College crews at Oxford
or Cambridge, the less time they spend in the tub-eight the
more they are likely to profit in the end. There is a special
kind of natural science known as watermanship which is
essential to the proper management of a light ship, and can
only be acquired in its highest form in that class of boat, and
the sooner you put your crew into the racer the sooner you
make it possible for them to begin on this necessary branch
of aquatic learning. A week should be ample as the period
of tub-eight work for all but the most backward and clumsy


Broadly speaking, the right arrangement is to place your
heaviest and most powerful men at Nos. 4, 5, and 6, to keep
your most stylish and level-headed oars for stroke and No. 7,
to try your less experienced men at Nos. 2 and 3, and your
lightest and quickest men at bow.

I doubt if it be possible to make a good crew with a bad
No. 7 ; but I have often seen a reasonably good crew turned


out, in spite of many faults in the stroke-oar, when No. 7 was
good. No. 7 is the key-stone of the arch ; he keeps the whole
fabric of the crew together, locks into one consistent whole
the stones (if I may so term them) that without him would
fall apart and bring everything to ruin. If supremacy
in importance is to be allotted it must go to No. 7. If
amongst my material for a possible crew I could count on
a T. C. Edwards-Moss, or an R. P. P. Rowe, or a W. E. Crum,
or a W. Dudley Ward for No. 7, I should be fairly confident
of the ultimate excellence of the crew. On the other hand,
even with a Kent or a Pitman at stroke, I should doubt my
prospects if I failed to find a good No. 7 wherewith to back
him. Smoothness and beauty of oarsmanship, a perfect
adaptability, a capacity both for inspiring and for regularising
his stroke-oar, unfailing watermanship (which means a sort of
instinctive power of keeping his balance, of trimming the
boat, and of rowing effectively under the most adverse
circumstances), these are the special qualities that mark out
a man for the position of No. 7. Happy is the coach who
finds or develops such a paragon.

For the stroke-oar, if he is to be a hero at the game, most
of these qualities, too, are necessary. He must have, in
addition, a perfect mastery over his crew, so that he may
steady them or wind them up to a spurt, and that rhythmical
regularity which keeps the beat and music of the stroke even
while it is being quickened. Polish of style he ought to have,
but length and dash and the virtues I have named are more
essential. No stroke better than C. W. Kent has ever, to my
knowledge, existed, but his oarsmanship was often angular
and uncouth. Yet he would have counterweighed faults ten
times as serious as those he showed by his magnificent
length, his splendid generalship, and his inexhaustible power
of organising and carrying through a spurt. Many a time
have I rowed and raced behind him, and many a time have I,
as coach, watched his marvellous efforts as he welded his crew
into one solid machine, or nerved them in the race and
rattled them along to a victory snatched from the very jaws


of defeat. He had a genius for his work, and through that
he triumphed.

A word remains to be said about No. 6. Usually he is a
heavy weight, and his special duty is to back up stroke, to
take pressure off his shoulders by seizing the beginning
accurately with him, and holding his stroke through, body
and legs, to the finish. Of the three customary heavies, he
has, perhaps, the most responsible task.

Beyond such generalities as these I cannot go. Material
for the formation of crews varies in every case, and a coach
or a captain must make the best of what the club can provide
for him. Preliminaries are now over, and the boat can be
shoved out, and we can face our troubles.


Practice for a Race Faults and how to correct them The Perfect Oar in
Prose and Verse

WHAT is the object in gathering eight men together, and
placing them in a light ship on the water ? Why, in
fact, have they come out to row? Incidentally, and quite
apart from any sense which slang has attached to the
expression, they may be said to do it for their health ; but
this is not their only object. Chiefly they desire, so long as
they are in the boat, to cease to be eight individuals, and to
be welded into one whole as a perfect crew in order that they
may be qualified to row for the honour of their club and
have a chance of winning a race. They will do their best
with this in view, and they look to their coach so to instruct
them generally and particularly, and so to plan out their
practice and organise their training, that they may feel sure,
in the end, that nothing has been left undone to promote
their success. It is with the instruction and the planning
of the practice that I am here concerned. I shall discuss
" training " in a later chapter.

In what I am going to say I propose, in accordance with
the method I have generally followed hitherto, to address
myself more to an imaginary coach than to an imaginary
handler of the oar. The boat is on the water. The men are
waiting to begin. " Paddle on, cox," the coach will say ; the
cox will issue the necessary orders, and eight hearty gentle-
men will start on the voyage which is to test their skill, their
strength, and their tempers.

First, then, as to " paddling." What does the term mean ?



Generally, it may be said that, as distinguished from " rowing,"
the word implies that the movements of the stroke are not to
be performed with full strength, though they must neverthe-
less be performed with life and precision. In rowing, a man
has to reach and swing to his full length, and to put all his
power into every stroke. In paddling he takes it easily. He
need not swing to quite the same length, or crash at the
water with the same vicious energy, or cover his blade so
deeply, or drive down his legs with the same force as he
would employ in the harder work of rowing ; nor is it
necessary for him to use so high a rate of stroke. But,
although all this is true, it is only applicable in its fulness
at a later stage of practice, when some progress towards
uniformity has been made by the crew. Then they can
indulge in the alternate rowing and paddling, which, if
smartly performed, adds so much to the pace and pleasure
of the crew, and can make the paddling as easy, as steady,
as light, and as little exhausting as the exercise can be made,
while they reserve their highest efforts of brute force for the
spells of rowing. But during the initial stages of practice
these manoeuvres are beyond them. The practice during the
first few days will be almost entirely composed of paddling.
It will not, however, be the paddling I have described above,
but merely a modified form of hard rowing ; that is to say,
rowing not done at a fast stroke or in a manner so violently
energetic as to exhaust men whose muscles and wind are
not yet in good order, but still rowing in which length and
hardness of beginning and the due proportionate force of the
leg-drive are properly inculcated. Do not allow your men to
start on their practice by doing their work in a slack fashion.
The next point is the rate of stroke for paddling and for
rowing during the early stages of practice. As a rule, this is
set far too low. I have taken up the coaching of a University
crew after they had been at work for a month, and have found
them paddling at the ridiculous rate of twenty-one or twenty-
two to the minute. The inevitable result of this is to make
the performance of the work ponderous and devoid of all life,



to accustom the men, in fact, to radical faults which it will be
extremely difficult to extirpate in the later stages. The
paddling in the initial part of practice (and, indeed, until
quite late in the practice) ought never to drop below a rate of
twenty-eight, while the rowing should always be two or three
points higher. It is infinitely easier to keep the ship on an
even keel at such a rate than at the funereal stroke of twenty-
two. I may add that I have never seen any point in tubbing
men in a gig-pair, as is sometimes done, at a rate of about
fifteen to the minute. It may be urged that the object is to
teach men how to swing forward slowly ; but, on the other
hand, liveliness and elasticity of movement cannot possibly be
taught in this fashion. They will necessarily acquire a dull
and pompous style, and be hopelessly at sea when they begin
to work in a racing ship.

What are the faults which every crew displays to a greater
or a smaller degree when it first sets out ? Of course the
boat is unsteady ; there is a good deal of splashing and
of feathering under water, the oars keep bad time, and there
is a complete absence of rhythm. These faults, however, are
mainly the result of other faults to which the coach must
address himself. It is useless for him to say, for instance,
" Keep the boat steady," or " Don't splash," or " Mind the
rhythm," without endeavouring to remove the shortcomings
by which these misfortunes are produced. If he watches his
crew carefully he will, I am fairly certain, notice

(1) That their movements are dull and slow where they
ought to be quick, and quick where they ought to be slow.
Their hands will be slow off the chest, their bodies will hang
on the recovery, their wrists will turn without any spring, and
their beginnings will be taken indolently. On the other hand,
their bodies will rush forward with the speed of a rocket,
and their slides will rush even faster than their bodies till they
rattle against the front stops.

(2) The swing and the reach will be very short, and the
slightest unsteadiness in the boat will make them even


(3) The hands will be " heavy over the stretcher," that is
to say, their weight will continue to bear upon the handles of
the oars, and the blades will be lifted sky high. Consequently,

(4) The blades will not strike the water even at the short
limit of extension permitted by the defective swing and
reach ; the beginning will therefore be missed, and, as a
necessary consequence, the finish will be clipped. The pro-
pulsive power of such strokes, especially when the eight men
are taking them at different times, will necessarily be small.

The coach having watched this kind of thing for a few
hundred yards must call an easy, and lecture the men collec-
tively and individually. They will be ready enough to listen
to him. They must desire, even'more than he does, to get rid
of their discomforts, and each one of them has probably
realised in his own mind how they are produced and how they
ought to be corrected. The collective lecture, then, will recall
the crew to first principles in some such form as this

" You are all bucketing badly. Sharp away with the
hands, and remember to straighten the arms immediately.
Then take your swing slowly and steadily, and keep the
slides slower than the swing. Hands must be light over the
stretcher, and the bodies must not tumble on the last part of
the swing. Beginnings sharp and hard. Keep the feet on the
stretchers, and use your legs to drive the stroke home. If
the boat rolls help to redress her by the balance of your
hands, and always rally on the finish and recovery. Listen
for the click of the oars in the rowlocks, and lock your stroke
up there."

Then he can take the men individually and impress upon
each of them the correction of some one salient fault which
is chiefly impeding him and preventing the steadiness and
uniformity of the crew, as for example

"Stroke, your slide is slipping away. Mark your begin-
ning well with your body.

" Seven, your hands were heavy. Get the beginning
exactly with stroke, and watch him all the time.

"Six, don't 'ride' forward on your slide. Begin your


swing forward with knees down, and let the swing then carry
slide with it.

" Five, your finish is very short. Swing further, reach as
you swing, and try to get the beginning well behind the
rigger. This will enable you to keep the finish long. Do
your work with straight arms.

" Four, don't pull yourself up to your oar at the finish. Keep
your body back, and stay on the finish.

" Three, you are lying too far back at the finish. Sit up to
your work on your bones, and row your shoulders back. Bring
the oar well home to the chest with the outside hand.

" Two, you're swinging out of the boat at the finish. Use
your legs evenly. Swing inward at the beginning, and lean
against your oar as you finish.

"Bow, you're feathering badly under water. Raise your
inside wrist more in holding the oar, and keep swing and
pressure to the end of the stroke."

I offer the above, by no means as an exhaustive list, but
as a sample of some of the chief individual faults which will
call for a coach's correction in addition to the collective faults
which I have enumerated. When the coach has thus instructed
his men he can set them going again for another short effort.
While they are actually at work his corrections should be
short and precise, and limited in the case of each man to one
fault at a time. Nor should he disdain to encourage as well
as to correct. If he sees that a man is really trying his best,
and is in a fair way to get rid of his fault, he must be told that
he is doing better. Nothing wears an oarsman's spirits out
more than a constant torrent of rebuke unmingled with any
hint at improvement. Equally important is it not to nag at
one man for a long period. Let him be told of his fault,
instructed how to correct it, and then let him be left alone for
a little. If it should be necessary, as it sometimes is, to take
a longer turn at him, the coach can always secure his co-
operation beforehand by saying, e.g., " Three, you mustn't mind
if I say a good deal to you during the next row. I want to
get rid of that fault, and I think it can be managed." Three


will certainly acquiesce and not mind at all ; but this method
must not be overdone.

With steady practice and the general improvement of
conditions which practice brings, many of these faults may be
expected to diminish and disappear almost of themselves but
the coach must help the process by constant reminders. To
do this effectively he must have in his mind a standard of
perfection, and to that he must be for ever levelling up his
men. If he is fortunate, he may find such a standard in one
of the oarsmen in the crew, and then his task will be all the
easier. His chief efforts at first must be directed to getting
the crew together. Want of uniformity, which produces
many discomforts and faults, is itself the result of certain
obvious and glaring faults such as those which have been
enumerated. Before any real progress in pace can be made,
the faults that impede uniformity must be eliminated. What
anybody can see in a newly started and unwelded crew is that
the blades neither strike nor leave the water together, and
that there is a great deal of unsteadiness and splashing. The
coach's business is to discern the ultimate causes of these
manifestations which are only the outward and visible sign
of certain faults of bodily movement. At the outset he must
make no compromises with his rowing conscience. Where
seven men row a short stroke and the eighth alone rows
long I have seen this phenomenon in several crews,
especially in some stroked by C. W. Kent it would, of
course, be easy enough to diminish the length of the one and
to leave the seven as they are. The harder task, but the
necessary one, is to level the seven men up to the eighth,
and even to make the eighth himself a little longer in the
process. No coach, in starting, can be too careful or too
insistent in regard, not only to the great and obvious faults,
but also to those smaller defects of bodily style which often
impede individuals only to a slight extent, but which, in their
cumulative effect, destroy symmetry and largely diminish
pace. The man who slouches at the finish tires more rapidly
than the man who sits up free and erect, because he gives


his breast and lungs less room, and because his recovery is
a greater effort to him. The man who overreaches is not in
a position to get a firm beginning. Hands may be too far
apart or too close together on the handle, chins may drop on
the chests, or knees may be dropped loosely apart ; elbows
may be unduly stuck out, or wrists may be kept at a wrong
elevation. These faults, occurring here and there, may seem
a trivial matter to the careless coach, but if they are allowed
to become a rooted habit he or his successor will find, too,
that the polish and the pace of the crew suffer from them.
Other things being equal, the crew that has all its points
polished ad unguem will defeat the crew less perfectly
polished In rowing, as in other pursuits, it is the small
things that matter, especially at the outset. And for the
proper correction of these small things the tub-pair is an
invaluable, nay, an essential auxiliary. In her the coach can
drill and lecture his men at ease to his heart's content. He
can try all sorts of " tips " and experiments in her, and, best
of all, he can himself take a seat in her and show, by his own
brilliant example, how the thing ought to be done.

All this, as I have sufficiently indicated, is for the early
stages of practice, for the first four weeks in a crew which has
seven weeks before it, for the first ten days in one which can
command only three weeks of practice. Later on the tub-
pair must be abandoned, or must be used only on exceptional
occasions, and all the attention of the coach must be devoted
to the " quickening " of the crew and their final polish m
uniformity and pace. Now comes the moment when real
paddling can be taught and practised, the paddling, I mean,
which not only recruits strength, but also aids enormously in
perfecting the harmony of the crew. The rough edges have
been knocked off, the bodies and limbs have grown
accustomed to their toil, and have been hardened by it, and
lungs and heart have duly taken up the increasing strain.
What seemed impossible at first when the men were at sixes
and sevens (not to mention eights) is being accomplished
with reasonable ease ; the men can row at the rate of 35 or


36 to the minute, and they do it with less exhaustion than
was entailed by 30-32 a fortnight or three weeks ago. Now
you do not want to drive a willing crew to death or to stale-
ness no less perilous than death. Ease them down, therefore,
on their spells of paddling ; let them work lightly and grace-
fully, though with a due elasticity and briskness at the
essential points, and, above all, make them, while they are
paddling, observe the steadiness and balance of their bodies
with the utmost care. As a crew increases the rate of stroke
it always runs a risk of losing balance, of acquiring a rush-
forward, and particularly that " peck " over the front stop
which ruins the beginning of the stroke. I say again, then,
ease them down in their paddling, make the rate of it
slow 25 to the minute is by no means too slow and
pay great attention to the slowness of the swing forward,
especially during the last part of it, when there is the greatest
temptation to turn swing into tumble. So slowly should
the bodies move as almost to give the casual spectator the
impression that they are "hanging" over the beginning.
And now, as, indeed, at all times, you must see to it that the
buttons of the oars are kept duly against the rowing pins
and the sills of the rowlocks. The fault of drawing them
away is a most insidious one and often escapes notice.

Now is the time, too, for practising a crew in long stretches
of work in which paddling is diversified with short spells of
rowing. The coach should tell his men what he wants them
to do, and insist particularly that the rowing, when it comes,
is to be very long and very hard. Then he can start them
paddling. When he sees them paddling easily and har-
moniously together, he can warn them by calling out
" Prepare to row." A stroke or two later he will tell them to
" Reach out and row," making them lengthen out on the
swing with every stroke, grip hold of their beginnings with
their utmost force, drive hard with their legs, and hold out
their strokes in the water to the last fraction of an inch.
Then, after a dozen strokes or so, comes the command
" Paddle again," the rate of stroke drops, the bodies, which


have perhaps been unduly bustled, resume their balanced

Online LibraryR. C. (Rudolf Chambers) LehmannThe complete oarsman → online text (page 7 of 39)