Hey Kayleigh, I was hoping you could lend some advice on spacers, the correct positioning of your body in relation to the pin, and how to change these things either before you are out on the water or while you are out on the water. I was told that when in doubt to take a spacer off… is that the rule of thumb? It is different due to the type/make of the boat? Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks!
Changing the positioning of the spacers effects the height of the oarlock, which will then correspond to how easy or hard it is for you to get your blade out of the water. To adjust the spacers, all you’ve gotta do is pull them off (which takes some muscle) and reposition them either below the oarlock to add height or above the oarlock to lower the height. This is how it’s done across the board, regardless of the type or make of the boat. I’d recommend doing it on land, if you can, when the oarlock itself is dry. It’s much easier trying to get them off when the boat’s not tipping to the side and your fingers aren’t wet and slippery. Doing it on the water pretty much guarantees you’ll lose one if you do manage to get it off and unless your coach or coxswain has spares out with them, you’ll be stuck rowing with the oarlock lower than you want it. I’ve never heard the rule of thumb about removing spacers and couldn’t find much when I Googled it so that might just be what your coach has found worked best in his/her experience.
Where your body is in relation to the pin (aka your catch angle) relates to the positioning of your foot stretchers, your flexibility, and your skill level. Whenever you hear someone talking about rowing through the pin or rowing through the “work”, what they’re referring to is where your hips and seat are in relation to the pin when you’re at full compression. You want to make sure you’ve achieved your full body angle ahead of the pin so that when you reach full compression, the relation of your seat to the pin is accurate. When you’re sculling I think you’re supposed to be even with the pins but with the larger sweep boats you’ll typically go a couple centimeters past that (a couple being 1 or 2cm). If you’re (excessively) in front of the pin then you’re going to have a very steep catch angle, which is going to cause you to have mostly ineffective stroke due to the excessive load you have to contend with. It also puts a lot of unnecessary stress on your low back. If you don’t reach full compression then you’re going to be behind the pin and have a very shallow catch angle, which is also ineffective since you’re not loading the blade enough.
Regarding your foot stretchers, if they’re too far up (closer to the stern) then you’re likely to be too far in front of the pin and if they’re too far back (closer to the bow) then you’ll be too far behind it. If that’s the issue then you can easily fix that on the water by removing your feet, loosening (but not removing) the wing nuts, and moving the stretchers forwards or backwards. You can do it on land too if you’ve got the boat upright in slings. I wouldn’t recommend trying to do it with the boat on the racks because there’s always that risk that you’ll loosen everything too much and the stretchers will fall on your face.