An Introduction to Rigging, pt. 3: Pitch

Previously: Intro to rigging, spread, and span || Oar length, inboard, and blade profile

Today’s post is going to talk about pitch. There are two types – stern and lateral. Stern pitch, which goes from front to back (aka stern to bow), is the angle that the oarlock pin is set from vertical during the drive. Lateral pitch is the degree of angle that the pin is either to or away from the midline of the boat.

Stern pitch

Stern pitch is a necessary component of rigging because it’s what helps hold the oar’s position in the water during the drive (meaning that it plays a part in ensuring the blade is at the proper depth). Since your blade is not strictly horizontal to the shell while in the water – it’s angled downwards – the pitch of the oarlock is necessary in helping keep the blade buried. 4 degrees is the standard angle, but it can range anywhere from 3-7. Too much pitch (7+ degrees) will cause the blade to wash out at the finish, whereas not enough (less than 4 degrees) will cause the blade to dig in too deep.

Lateral pitch

Lateral pitch creates different degrees of pitch at each end of the stroke. An outward pitch of one degree away from the boat’s midline increases the stern pitch by one degree (keeps the blade buried) and decreases the stern pitch by one degree at the finish (allows the blade to pop out more easily). Pitch here shouldn’t be more than one degree at most – the typical range is between 0 and 1 degrees to avoid creating too much depth on one end and not enough on the other.

To measure both the stern and lateral pitch, you’ll need a pitch meter. The most important part of doing this is making sure your boat is stable and not sitting cockeyed in the slings. It’s not a bad idea once you’ve set it down to go stand at the bowball and look down the boat to ensure it’s level. Set your pitch meter on the gunnel and calibrate it so that the bubble is in the middle of the level. It should read “zero degrees” at this point.

From here, take it out to the oarlock, set it against the face of the oar lock, and adjust it until the bubble is in the middle of the level again. This will tell you the degrees of your stern pitch (remember, 4 is average but it can range from 3-7). To measure lateral pitch, you’ll first have to take the oarlock off the pin so you can get better access to it. Place the pitch meter against the pin and measure the angle away from midline of the boat the same way you measured the stern pitch.

Here’s a video that demonstrates how to do it:

Next week: Rigger height and work through


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