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Can a fit novice beat an experienced rower?

A reader asked us the question “Do you have any rough formula for how much speed bad technique can … read more

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A reader asked us the question

“Do you have any rough formula for how much speed bad technique can take from an otherwise strong boat? I think a lot about how much good technique can compensate for if an experienced crew with good technique races against a very fit novice boat who might not have great ratio and no control on the recovery, for example.”

I don’t have a formula but I know that a very fit novice will be easily beaten by an unfit experienced crew – every time. Every. Single. Time.

The trouble with rowing and sculling is that fitness for rowing (as opposed to general fitness) only provides around 35% of the total boat speed.  That percentage is a guess. The skill of moving a boat forwards and not retarding its progress far outpaces fitness in terms of creating speed for your crew.

In my view, the fittest novice (or one-year or two-year rower) just does not stand a chance of beating someone who is skilled at using their body weight and strength to propel the shell. Plus the skilled person’s ability to handle the oars and their body mass on the recovery part of the stroke means they slow the boat down far less (like 10x less) than the novice crew.

I’m sorry if that isn’t an answer you want to hear – I know it sounds like the deck is stacked against the novice.
What do other readers think?

About Rebecca Caroe
Rebecca is the host of RowingChat podcast and is a masters athlete and coach. Passionate about helping others enjoy the sport as much as she does. View all posts from Rebecca Caroe

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