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Why we don’t row in lightning storms

Did you know that it’s dangerous to row during a thunder storm? We read a great discussion about … read more

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Did you know that it’s dangerous to row during a thunder storm?

We read a great discussion about it with this awesome photo.

Helpful advice about what to do if you’re on water and a lightning storm starts.
When thunderstorms are nearby, there are three main factors determining what gets struck, the objects: 1) height relative to other objects, 2) isolation, and 3) pointiness. But the path of least resistance (technically, impedance) from the cloud to the ground can be very convoluted, so lightning is more likely to strike tall isolated pointy objects, but there are no guarantees.
Rowers are often higher than water, isolated and sometimes pointy…. and coach boats are often metal.

When Lightning roars – go indoors!

Carl Douglas nicely reinforces this with his reasoning:
You’re out on water – a fine, flat, conductive, earthing surface.

There’s a vertical electrostatic gradient of who knows how many thousand volts per metre.

You’re the only thing projecting locally above that surface, so the charge concentration at your head can be huge.

You also hold 2 conductive carbon sculls, have conductive aluminiun riggers every surface is damp, so you really are well connected.

Bottom line: lightning and water related activities are a bad combination. Please learn more about lightning safety and avoid becoming a statistic.

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

4 thoughts on “Why we don’t row in lightning storms

  1. Hi Rebecca. Read your piece on lightning. Are there any documented incidents of a rower actually being struck by lightning ?
    All the best. Merry Christmas.

  2. I went to South Africa in 2001 with a Tiffin School party of schoolboys to row in the South African Schools Championship at Ruderplaat. The previous year Jeppe School, Johannesburg felt the effect of a lightening strike. When lightening hits a boat on the water, it disperses through the boat to the extremities. That lightening strike hit the Jeppe first eight on the water and killed the bow man, stroke man and coxswain. Lightning is very violent in Africa but it can have the same effect anywhere. So if you can see a storm coming, or there is a sudden change in conditions or sudden increase in wind strength, get off the water as quickly as you can. It could happen to you or your crew!

    1. Thank you Colin for this comment. It is very sad what happened. And lightning is not only strong in Africa. Let’s hope those who are in doubs will read your comment. TW

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