Question of the Day

Hey, I was wondering if you could explain the difference between seat racing and matrixes? Thanks!

Someone recently shared this PDF with me that opens to a chapter on crew selection written by Kris Korzeniowski. I’d recommend reading through the first six pages because it explains the entire process of seat racing much better and way more thoroughly than I could. This PDF also explains it well.

Here is another (simpler, I think) explanation that I saved from a Reddit post a couple months ago.

“Say the coach wants to compare rower A to rower B. Rower A starts in boat A and rower B starts in boat B. They race. boat B and boat A tie. Rowers A and B switch. They race again. Now Boat A, with rower B in it, wins by open water. Rower B won the seat race. The only thing that changed was the switch between rowers A and B. When rower B switched into boat A they went faster than boat B and won. Clearly, rower B can make the boat go faster than rower A.”

With the stroke rate and four of the five people in a crew staying constant, the strength and technique of the rowers who are switched (the variables in the equation) will pretty much always tell you who is the faster one of the two because the better the rower’s strength and technique, the more distance they’ll be able to cover.

The “pros” of seat racing are that they simulate race situations fairly well and are easily repeatable. The “con” is that the races can take a lot of time if you have a lot of switches to make in addition to making sure you have equal and adequate amounts of rest time between pieces, the pieces themselves, etc.

Related: Words

A pairs matrix is pretty similar to seat racing except all your rowers are in pairs (hence, the name), are paired up something like this, and there’s more data to work with in the end (which may or may not be a good thing depending on how much you like math). They also take for-freaking-ever. The one time I did this we had like … I donno, maybe five pairs, and it took well over four hours.

The “pros” to doing a pairs matrix is that if you row well technically in a pair then you’re probably going to row well in the eight. Rowing in a pair has a tendency to highlight and sometimes exaggerate your technical ability, for better or worse, so you’re able to look at that a bit more closely than you’d otherwise be able to in a four or eight. The “cons” are the amount of time it takes (did I mention it’s forever…) and that it can favor smaller/lighter rowers who can in turn get crushed in the big boats because the other guys are stronger, heavier, etc. Some people just work better in different boat classes. You have the same issue with seat racing too (which tends to favor the heavier guys) so this isn’t something that’s exclusive to pair matrices, it’s just that it’s a bit more visible.

Hopefully all that makes sense. We did some seat racing this morning and I think I actually have a much better understanding of it now than I did previously (and before I started answering this question). I’d say if it’s something you’re confused by or don’t really understand, see if you can go out on the launch with your coach and record the times. Carefully looking at the numbers and talking it through with the other assistant coach that I went out with (and basically making him explain it to me like I’m 5…) finally cleared up the one part of the process that was confusing me.

PS If you’re a coxswain who’s coxing seat races, check this post out.



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