An Introduction to Rigging, pt. 4: Rigger height and work through

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

Today I’m gonna go over the last two “technical” parts of rigging – the height of your riggers and the work through. I’ve also included two videos that show how to measure both of those.

Rigger height

What this refers to isn’t the riggers themselves but the height of the oarlocks and their distance from the surface of the water. This is an important part of rigging for a very simple reason – if your oarlock is too close to the water, you’re not going to be able to get the blade out of the water and if it’s too far above the water, you’re not going to be able to get the blade in.

When I’m coaching, especially with novices, one of the things I’ll have them do is sit at the finish and just stay there for a second while I quickly look at each rower and where their blade is. If someone has their hands too high or low I’ll have them adjust them to belly-button(ish) level and see what that does to the boat. The goal of all this is to find the spot that allows them to finish cleanly out of the water while still getting the maximum leverage from their oar. If adjusting that puts them in an unnatural finish position then I’ll look at the height of the oarlock to make the change.

Another thing that might indicate you need to adjust your rigger height is if your hands are making an abnormally large arc on the drive. This is usually an indication that your height is too high, which means you’ve got to lift the hands higher in order to get and keep your blade in the water. If it feels like you’re constantly digging the blade in, have your coach check it out.

To measure this you need a tape measure and a straightedge level. Place the level on the gunnels and the tape measure on the top of the seat. Measure the distance from the seat to the level before moving your tape measure out to oarlock. Set the measurement you just took on top of the level (so, if you measure 6 inches, put the 6 inch mark on the level) and look at the point where the oarlock intersects the level. I’ve read several “standard” height ranges so I’m not sure which one actually is standard but the most common one that I read was somewhere in the 6-7 inch range.

Now that you know how to measure it, you have to know how to adjust it. This is easily done by popping off the spacers and moving them either below the oarlock to add height or above the oarlock to lower the height. These things can be a pain to get off, especially if it’s cold, raining, snowing, etc. so it’s best that your coxswain carry a couple spares with them in case you lose one in the river (which is a common occurance).

Here’s how it’s done.

Work through

Work through is comprised of the tracks, foot stretchers, and location of the riggers and is defined as “how far a rower is rigged in front of or behind the oarlock pin or the location of the outside arc of the stroke in relation to the pin”. To keep this simple I’m going to defer to what row2k has written about it since it’s all fairly straightforward.

When reading about all of this, a lot of articles made note of foot stretchers as part of the work through but didn’t go into much detail on them. It’s pretty simple though and has to do with the angle they’re set at. Having them at too steep or too shallow of an angle would result in a lot of inefficiency with the leg drive so it’s not common to move them. Too steep of an angle would make it hard to get to full compression which would result in only being able to row at half to three-quarter slide whereas too shallow of an angle would cause you to drive more vertically than horizontally, which would press your weight down into the boat (making it feel heavier) instead of straight back towards bow.

Tracks

To ensure you’re not jumping your tracks you need to make sure they’re evenly aligned. Sometimes the screws holding them in place can come loose over time which can cause them to slide around a bit so if your seat is popping off check first to make sure they’re even.

Their positioning in relation to the pin though is the main thing to look at. Here’s what row2k said:

WHAT – The amount of track on the stern side of the oarlock pin.

WHERE – The distance from the front stops of the tracks to a perpendicular line through the oarlock pin towards the centerline determines the amount of work through in the rig.

WHY – To maximize the most powerful part of the stroke (mid-drive), the work through must be increased for faster shell classifications. First the tracks must be set to the desired work through, then the foot stretchers can be adjusted so that each rower reaches proper leg compression at the catch for the given work through.

HOW MUCH – Work through varies depending on hull speed, but averages from 0 to 2 cm for pairs, to 8 to 12 cm for eights.

HOW TO MEASURE – For a quick measurement of work through, measure from the center of the mid-drive knee (should be perpendicular to the oarlock rigger) to the bow end of the track’s front stop. It’s usually a good idea to place some tape next to the track to signify the location of the pin for easy reference.

Here’s a video that shows how to measure the tracks.

Rigger location

The last part is the location of the riggers on the hull itself.

WHAT – Instead of adjusting tracks to get the proper work through, some riggers can be shifted towards the bow or stern to get the same effect.

WHERE – Adjusting the rigger moves the oarlock pin in relation to the front stops.

WHY – To maximize the most powerful part of the stroke (mid-drive), the work through must be increased for faster shell classifications. First the tracks must be set to the desired work through, then the foot stretchers can be adjusted so that each rower reaches proper leg compression at the catch for the given work through.

HOW MUCH – Work through varies depending on hull speed, but averages from 0 to 2 cm for pairs, to 8 to 12 cm for eights.

HOW TO MEASURE – For a quick measurement of work through, measure from the center of the mid-drive knee (should be perpendicular to the oarlock rigger) to the bow end of the track’s front stop.

Next week: Rigging and de-rigging a boat

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