>> It really seems to help me a lot to get an adequate angle at the catch so that the initial motion of the handles is more inward, toward each other, and less toward the bow. It makes sense, just geometrically then, that a catch angle of at least 60 degrees is needed. With that catch angle I think I can get that motion- mostly inward- just after the blades hit the water, by the feel of pulling my hands inward, toward each other, with motion of the shoulder joints. When I do that quickly enough, it seems to load the oars nicely so that as my legs start their push there is already a good connection to the water. When I get that right I immediately see my speed go up, with what feels like the same effort. So the feel I'm trying for of the handle motion at the catch is almost in two parts making nearly a right angle shape- first as quick an upward motion as possible, to immerse the blade, and then as instantly as possible that inward motion to load the blade. That seems to help my
timing of the leg drive too, because I can feel the upward handle motion clearly before the leg drive starts. As a musician, I feel it as a grace note just before the beat.
>> Does this seem like a good way to think about and feel it, or am I going down the wrong path?
>> John G
> Well, I'm not Carl but IMHO this is definitely the right path. An old sculler (very good in his prime) told me to "take the catch with your pecs" because it will do exactly as you describe, namely close the handles together first. This helps lock the blades in, generating lift, etc, before applying force in the direction of the bow.
> I believe a consequent benefit is that, because you don't need to brace yourself with the feet against the stretcher as much when doing this, it can help reduce check, ie the result of the feet pushing before the blade is locked in.
> As with everything catch-related, timing is crucial, and it can be overdone too.
> Smoothly does it.
John's on the nail with his comments on using the pectorals for the
sculling catch. It's a conversation we've had here on RSR in the
When you consider catch angles, the hands are moving at ~60 degrees to
the axis of the boat, so although you can simply load the arms in
tension, that's only going to connect a part of the force you could
deliver. If you also draw the hands towards each other, then you can
make a real difference to the speed & rate of loading.
And there, you add, is the beauty of it - you can do it initially
without pressure on the feet, not even activating the legs or back.
That's not to say you can't connect a simple draw without touching the
stretcher either, by working the light bits near the handles against the
heavier bits near & above the seat, because it is self-evident that, for
a short period, you can - but that would be less than the full potential.
I see nothing wrong with an early break of the elbows to achieve a
faster, slicker catch. The initial loads start from zero, obviously, &
take time & distance to build up to serious pressure, so why would it
matter if the arm were to bend, or the fingers to hook into the palms a
bit, or the shoulders to flex to the bow. As load builds & pressure
then mounts on the feet, it may be that a slight arm bend gets somewhat
straightened, but that isn't going to strain or overload you - it's how
the springiness of the body works in a truly athletic performance.
Besides, your arms are not necessarily at their most effective when dead
straight - sure, you might say the muscles are not loaded, but I bet
even that's not correct as I doubt the joints stay together without
loading the related musculature (any experts here?). And your finger
grip depends on constant muscular input, your full applied load going
through maybe 3 fingers of each hand. Funny how those fingers still
cope when the legs reach the point of absolute fatigue.
And, John, I do like your idea of the grace note! It's often like an
anticipation of the note & the beat, adding to the effect of the note it
precedes. Not sure how meaningful it might be as a coaching concept,
except that every student needs a slightly different explanation of what
they should strive to do.
I do think it worth considering that the process occurring between catch
& full load is no simple switch from fingers to feet but the
transmission of a fast-acting pulse passing right through the body from
end to end. OK, too abstruse a thought process for daily use from the
launch or bike, but worth thinking about in quiet moments?
Carl Douglas Racing Shells -
Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories
Write: Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK