The “best” rowers are not always the fastest

You don’t have to be the biggest and most powerful to win races.

Fans wear great gear. #rowing @rowperfect #NZ
Fans wear great gear. #rowing @rowperfect #NZ (Photo credit: rebeccacaroe2000)

So much emphasis is placed on ERG scores and size (height & weight) these days as metrics for success in rowing. Well, the first of the NZ National races on Karapiro last Saturday should put a big spanner in that theory. Let’s look at the 3 main protagonists in the just completed premier men’s 1X race last weekend at Karapiro, New Zealand.

  • Mahe Drysdale– 201 cm, 100kg, world’s fastest time for 2K on the water, second best ERG score for 2K (to Rob Waddell), 5 times 1X world champion and 1 x Olympic champion.
  • Eric Murray– 195cm, 95kg, worlds best ERG time for 5K, in pairs (with Hamish Bond) unbeaten in 16 events (over 40 actual races including heats).
  • Hamish Bond– 190cm, 85kg, in pairs (with Eric Murray) unbeaten in 16 events (over 40 actual races including heats).

So which of these guys actually won the 1X final (and had the best times in all the heats)?

Final Placing & Times

  1. Hamish Bond- 7:05.4
  2. Mahe Drysdale- 7:11.0
  3. Eric Murray- 7:17.1

So, does size and absolute strength always win on the water? Apparently not. To be fair, Murray & Bond have been training full time in 1X boats since October (longer than Mahe during this current cycle- post World Champs). However, given Bond’s time vs his partner Murray, something must be said for overall fitness and lightness. Physics tells us it takes more HP to move more mass. So it is strength-to-weight that counts on the water, whereas on an ERG just absolute strength matters (ERG’s don’t float). Then there is the matter of technique, but having not seen the actual race, I cannot comment on any of these fine points here. Row well & happy holidays, Evan Snyder A Guest Post by Evan Snyder, St George Rowing Club, Auckland, New Zealand

6 thoughts on “The “best” rowers are not always the fastest

  1. Graham Sibley says:

    Don’t you mean the best Rowers are not always the biggest? as I think that is the point you are making, and if so I completely agree.

  2. Peter Becker says:

    Susannah Chayes (Netherlands) made several points at the recent US Rowing National meeting in Seattle:
    1.She noted that the Netherllands are a small country, the available selection pool is thus small and that anyone who gets on national team will very likely row on it…
    2. She said that even though her teams “did not always look pretty” they got results…why? They row together.! ..When instrumented they found the rowers in the 1st eight were all hitting the pressure peak at the same time and in the correct +17- +19 degree spot before the pin… That makes for fast boats…

    Yes they are team boats…so of course the “best” team will win…

    1x and 2x/- or other small boats, we are back to my favorite rower, Olympic Gold medal 2x winner (1984) Brad Allen Lewis and his comments on training…”the rowers who can take the pain longest win”…whether it is training, or racing…
    I believe he set the bar highest on what it takes to be a great sculler: dedication, training and time in the boat….a LOT of time in the boat….
    I use his sculling instruction DVD and training materials to coach masters rowers…and his waffle recipe….( including the bottle of beer for the cook). Seems to work…

  3. Albert Knop says:

    Rowing fast is a multi dimensional problem. Weight and height is a big parameter, but a lighter an smaller rower can compensate partly bij improving his technique. In the bigger boats it is not only about the individual technique, but the harmonisation of the rowing styles plays an important factor as Susannah Chayes states. And of course the overal physical and mental fitness play a big role to. It is clear that the amount of power delivered (strengh) over the time needed (stamina, toughness and the will to suffer) and the determination and ability to train hard and cope with all kind of circumstances (heat, cold, rain, snow, disapointment, racing stress etc). The biggest does not win, the best “stylist” does not win, the fittest does not win, the mentally strongest does not win. No the one with the strongest “package” on the day of the event or test will be the fastest.

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