Head race challenges

 In Faster Masters Rowing Radio

Head race challenges – how to deal with things like turning buoys, wind and waves, and staying warm at the start marshalling. Something unexpected always happens in head races – caused by you or external factors.
01:00 Your experience base is what will serve you well in dealing with challenges.
02:00 Challenges -expect the unexpected. anything can happen. Get accustomed to rowing with many other athletes and boats around. Know your response to a range of different situations so you know what to do when a challenge arises.
Marcus Buckingham research into why some long distance lorry (truck) drivers had fewer accidents is helpful for us rowers.
06:00 Staying warm in the marshalling area.
Wear clothing you can keep on until the last moment. Marlene likes a lightweight wind jacket because it’s easy to take off.
Can you row in small circles to stay warm? Do the push/pull drill – rowing in place. Keep your muscles moving as much as you can.
Are you able to get out of the boat and stay warm on the bank by jogging on the spot? Keep your hands under your armpits as that’s the warmest part of your body. And wear a warm fleece hat.
10:00 Avoid sitting still and not doing anything as it is harder to get up to speed in the race if you are cold. Rebecca likes to hang back when the crews move up the marshalling line towards the start line so she can row hard pressure strokes to catch up the crew in front.
At the Scullers Head Rebecca worked out how long after the race began that her bow number would be starting the race. She chose to park her boat and go to a nearby pub to stay warm and drink coffee while waiting and watching the numbers pass by.
You can take a thermos of hot water in the boat if that helps you stay warm.

The Ultimate Guide to Head Racing free ebook download

13:30 Wind and Waves – things you cannot control but you can row them well.
Look at a map of the course and a weather app and work out where the wind will be head / side or tail winds. Where will gusts likely happen?
In a headwind, the waves are highest at the start of a straight when you are rowing into the wind. Can you adapt your technique to reflect the wind and waves conditions to reflect the conditions?

Read our podcast on rough water rowing

Seek out some rough water training to practice stabilising, and adjust how high you carry the oars off the water.
Cross winds push your boat down on one side. On the high side apply pressure into that rigger with your thumb to keep the boat level.
16:00 Keep your stroke length into the head wind it will tend to rob you of your length. Don’t let the wind rush you. Control the oars with deliberate movements so the wind doesn’t snatch the blade out of your hand. The wind may catch your blade as you square and blow it high above the water. counter this by moving your handles upwards deliberately.
If you get a gust of wind, as the gust comes, control your oars and as the gust fades, do a push to get back onto your pattern after the gust interruption.
As a cox or steersperson warn the crew if you see a wind gust coming. Push through the gust.
21:00 Relax and “rock and roll” laughing made Rebecca relax in a head race with bad waves and she got a good result.
Ask locals where cross winds happen on the river.Marlene did the Maine summer head race series on Moosehead Lake with a 5k triangular course. It started getting rough and she thought it was “rock and roll”. She focused on one stroke at a time and by the end her footstretchers were under water.
22:45 Turning buoys.
Sight the buoy first and aim to steer directly at it. Hold water on the inside oar close to the buoy then bring it around with the other oar. Check water with as little force as you need to.
After turning do a flying (rolling) start to get going again. Be aware your arm can feel tired after a hard turn as if it’s got a cramp. Wiggle your fingers to relax that arm on the recovery as it gets back to feeling normal.
Practice turning before the race at full race pace speed. So you know what to expect at speed.
It can be tempting when going around the buoy to row off before checking you have the direction right for the next section of the race. Check over both shoulders and aim straight for the buoy – unless there’s a strong current you can do a small steering correction to get around it – it’s easier to see big buoys from a distance and to steer towards it.
Rebecca’s preference is to go into the buoy parabola curve on a wide approach and to come out of the turn narrow and close to the buoy.

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