A story of scull versus sweep

Great Eight, 2014 HOCR, Scullers beat Sweepers

From a question on Quora – Is it better for a collegiate rowing hoipeful to row year round or to play other sports to show athletic ability?

Great Eight, 2014 HOCR, Scullers beat Sweepers
Great Eight 2014 HOCR Scullers beat Sweepers

My perspective is that if you want to improve both your strength and your oarsmanship, learn to scull. Most good scullers can beat rowers in a sweep boat. Few sweepers can scull (and it shows).

You will learn better how what you do with your oar affects the set of the rest of the boat, and how to use muscles (like your glutes) to best effect to lever the boat past the blade in the water.

Even more, it will “set you apart” because few collegiate athletes can scull.

At the HOCR in 2014 they invited two crews to compete. One had 8 of the best sweep rowers in the world, the other, the 8 best scullers.

Guess who won by a boat length (3 seconds).

“Adding to the excitement of this year’s regatta was a race against two composite crews in the championship men’s eight. One was made up of some of the best scullers in the world (John Graves (USA), Mahe Drysdale (NZL), Ondrej Synek (CZE), Olaf Tufte (NOR), Martin and Valent Sinkovic (CRO), Roel Braas (NED) and Julien Bahain (CAN) ) and the other made up of some of the best sweep rowers (Josh Dunkley-Smith (AUS), Olivier Siegelaar (NED), Hamish Bond (NZL), Henrik Rummel (USA), Richard Schmidt (GER), Conlin McCabe (CAN), Francesco Fossi (ITA) and Jacob Barsoe (DEN).*
*The scullers proved to be the better boat, beating the sweep boat by three seconds. “*
50 years of the Head of the Charles

4 thoughts on “A story of scull versus sweep

  1. Keith Bradley says:

    Not a fair comparison, put the scullers in the sweep and the sweepers in the scull. However it is true that scullers make for better sweep rowers in the long run 🙂

    • Harry says:

      The heavy weight sweep rowers have always flogged me. The exception was always a howling tailwind and 2 foot waves where light weights rule supreme.
      When we raced in sculls my better technique was not enough to match their brute strength. The losing margin was a lot closer.
      When we raced in pairs even coxed (truck driver) pairs it was a different story.- technique and timing beat brute force.
      I think people who can move a pair will be the faster rowers in the long term.

  2. Lucas says:

    Hi Keith, agreed that it’s not necessarily a fair comparison. HOCR is a coxswain’s race, the potential impact of a coxswain’s steering on that course is also a significant factor, as is starting order. Depending on how and when they might have had to pass crews, which they did, could also lead to some varying results. It makes HOCR a hard gauge of speed, unless it’s a wide margin/blowout. For closer times, especially at that level, it should be taken with a grain of salt in my opinion. That’s the nice thing about straight-up 2k racing, is that it’s potentially a better way to display a crew’s true boat speed, since there are less variables and it’s a shorter distance. Also nice to better see the role that a great coxswain can fulfill.

    • Lucas says:

      But no doubt that on that day the eight with scullers rowing sweep was faster than the eight with sweep rowers

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