Rig Up Your Life Lesson 2: THE MYTHS OF RIGGING


Rigging is not difficult.Really, it's not. You may have a hard time believing this, but actually it's easy!

Rigging just appears difficult because there's a lot of confusion and mystery surrounding it.

Some of this confusion may have started with the early coaches who tried to scare people away from working on boats. They would sit around the boathouse, sipping their brews, and start myths about how hard it was to rig. They figured the harder it seemed the less likely people would want to do it, and the more work there would be for them. You see, it was their attempt at job security.

Let's take a look at a few of these myths and maybe help dissolve away some of the confusion.


There IS a lot of magic in the sport of rowing.

It's a sport that can get into a person's bloodstream and change their life, usually for the better. It's a sport where a crew who shouldn't win a race does because of the chemistry between the rowers. It's a sport where friendships develop and last lifetimes. All of that, to me, is magical.

But I've yet to find anything at all magical about rigging. There are no wands coaches pull out of their bags. There are no magic words. No crystal balls. No rigging Tarot cards. Rigging is about as un-magical as you can get.


Although some tasks in rigging can be time-consuming, not knowing how to rig can take up a lot more time. To show you what I mean, let's talk about a friend of mine. His name is Mr. Starr.

Starr had been rowing a pair for the last year with his partner, Mr. Poe. They had been training very religiously and working hard. One day on the hard, after rowing a mega-mile practice, Starr noticed Poe was acting strange.

Poe, what's the matter? Poe wasted no words in his reply, Rigger is bad. (Poe was always to the point.) This prompted Starr to ask a few more questions, which revealed that Poe had been having trouble with his rigger for weeks. Starr, hating to see his friend put out, decided something must be done about Poe's equipment, and quickly.

Although he knew nothing about rigging, Starr spent several days fiddling with Poe's rigger. After each practice Poe would continue to complain, and with each attempt by Starr the rigger would get worse and worse. Finally, one day at the boathouse, Poe complained the rigger made his back ache and that he couldn't take it anymore. Starr, his patience gone with both Poe and the rigger, sat down on the hard in frustration. Poe, obviously in pain, sat down and joined him.

Luckily for our friends, a Rigger named Mortis (yes–Rigger Mortis), who rigged the boats at the local college, was close by and saw their despair. Mort walked down the dock and asked what the problem was. The only reply he could get was,

Poe hurt and Starr bored.

Mort, being rather quick on the uptake, put two and two together and figured it must be a rigging problem. Like the helpful soul he was, he offered to check out the boat. But, alas, Mort was a busy person, and when he finally got to the guys' shell, several days had passed by and they had missed the big race they were training for.

So you see, Starr and Poe wasted valuable time not knowing how to rig. What is sad is that this happens a lot in the world of rowing. Knowing how to recognize a rigging problem, and to fix it right on the first attempt–will save you time and energy and possibly prevent injuries. And you may also be a little faster on the water.


One day, a fellow coach was adjusting the rig on a boat. Knowing he was intently busy, I just passed by without stopping to talk. As I reached the door a spanner came flying through the air and bounced off the wall a few feet from my head, quickly followed by,

What the hell is the secret to rigging this stupid boat?

Now what do you think had turned this nice, meek, friendly fellow into a spanner-heaving monster? Frustration. He was frustrated because he thought there was some secret to rigging and we weren't letting him in on it.

Let's get this straight right now: there are NO secrets to rigging. NONE.

There is no special, ancient knowledge the Druids have hidden in some primeval caves. You don't have to make contact with the spiritual world to rig.

Rigging is all based on numbers, knowledge, and experience. Everything you need to know about rigging you can learn from books, mortal human beings, and practice.

By the way, I had been looking for that spanner for three months; it was nice of him to return it.


To be honest, being a certified mechanic would be helpful. So would having a doctorate in physics, owning every tool known to man, and having ten employees to do your work for you.

All of this would be helpful, but none of it is necessary for you to rig.

If you can open a jar of pickles or pour a glass of water you probably have the mechanical aptitude to begin rigging. Add a dose of common sense and the strong need to get the job done correctly and you have all of the basics.


You can get most the tools you need to do a first-class rigging job for under £200. This includes all the special rigging tools you might ever need. That's not too bad when you figure these tools can come in handy around the house, on the kiddies' swing set, or on the car when it acts up.

And finally . . .


Well, rigging is not a good substitute for many things, like a big bowl of chocolate chip ice cream. I'll let you be the one to decide if it is boring; to me it's not, but to some it may be. If you think you'll get bored when you rig, then try to make it fun. Play some tunes, eat snacks, tell jokes, or pay a sculler to entertain you.

By possessing rowing equipment, you have accepted the responsibility for adjusting it. If you are standing there looking at a broken rigger, or one that needs adjustment, don't freak out. If someone is counting on you to adjust or repair a rigger, relax. If you think your crew might win or lose a race because of the rigging job you did, don't get an ulcer.

There is no need to get nervous. You can do it, and we am going to help you.

Lesson 3, the next lesson, is about Why You Should Rig.


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