The Rowing Stroke Cycle: Part 2 – catch


The catch is the placing of the blade in the water at the end of the recovery.

The catch is also the connection of the blade to the water, the connection of the rower’s power to the boat at the beginning of the drive.

It lies between the recovery where the hull is gliding free and the rower is rolling forward out of contact with the water and the drive phase where the crew is connected to the water and applying force to accelerate the boat.

The catch occurs when the rower is moving and changing direction, the blade is moving and changing direction, and when the boat is changing speed.

  • Think of Tiger Woods hitting a golf ball. He’s not a big man. We know plenty of rowers taller and stronger than he but few, if any, could drive the ball as far. It’s not just about being able to hit the ball, although some of us find that hard enough. Timing the swing to transfer the maximum momentum from the club to the ball is something Tiger does better than we do.

A well timed catch allows the rower to begin applying power without there having been any check to the speed of the hull. Of course Tiger has it easy; he is standing on solid ground and the ball is sitting still.

  • Think of Roger Federer then. Making those smooth and apparently effortless returns isn’t all about speed. His timing comes from his being in a good position on the court, his body being in a good position, his racquet in a good position – all ready to change the moving ball’s direction.

A good catch in rowing comes as much from being in the right place and in the right position as it does from being at the right time.

Benefits of a good catch

  • Turn your bicycle upside down and stand it on the handlebars and seat.
  • Spin the wheel by stroking across the top of the tyre with your fingers.
  • What do you feel each time your finger comes in contact with the tyre?
  • What do you see?

Turn your bike upside down

A well-timed catch allows the boat to run on freely. A boat that isn’t slowed, or even stopped, by the catch will be quicker.

A good catch allows the boat to run more nearly horizontal; this way less energy is wasted moving the hull in directions other than the shortest distance to the finishing line.

Spin the bike wheel

  • Try spinning the wheel again, this time stroking directly downwards on the side of the wheel.
  • How much spin do you get with these short strokes?
  • OK, go back to stroking across the top. Take the rating down (take longer between strokes) and try to spin the wheel as fast as you can.
  • What happens to the amount of time your finger stays in contact with the wheel as you try to build speed?
  • Did you notice your fingers starting position move closer to the frame?

A good catch also places the blade closer to the bow making for a longer stroke. The longer the propulsive phase the faster the boat.

The patience and smoothness of a well-prepared catch set up a better rhythm for the crew.

Read more about the Catch; the perils of a bad catch, the catch position for the body and ‘how should the catch feel’.

Read the other articles in the series…
Part I – Posture
Part III – Drive
Part IV – Finish
Part V – Recovery
Part VI – Grip


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