Top 20 Terms Coxswains Should Know: Ratio

Previously: Rush(ing) || Body angle || Pick drill || Suspension || Skying the blade || Quarter feather || Pin || Run || Lunge || Washing Out || Missing water || Footboard || Check

What part of the stroke/stroke cycle does it refer to

The recovery and the drive, but it’s primarily referenced while on the recovery.

What does it mean/refer to

Ratio is the contrast between the drive and recovery. The standard ratio for rowing is 2:1, which means that the length of time spent on the recovery should be twice as long as the amount of time spent on the drive. To understand why this is necessary, read the first paragraph of #2 in last week’s post on check (linked below). Pretty much everything that’s discussed in the “check” post and the “rush(ing)” post, as well as any of the other posts linked in there, will be relevant to this one.

Related: Top 20 terms coxswains should know: Check and Rush(ing)

As you start rowing at higher rates the ratio is going to get closer to 1:1 (the boat has more momentum so the recovery doesn’t need to be as long) but you can still maintain the same sense of rhythm that you have at lower rates by focusing on letting the boat run under you. Another way of looking at it is letting your feet come to you rather than you moving towards your feet. This ensures a consistent recovery speed by minimizing the chances of you throwing your weight forward or rushing the slides.

Relevant calls

Several of the calls I make for ratio are detailed in the two posts linked below. Another call I recently picked up was “execute some patience”, which refers to keeping the recoveries controlled and consistent.

Related: Top 20 Terms: Run, specifically the “relevant calls” section

You want to avoid generic calls like “slow the slides” or “let me see that ratio” (I hate that call) because they’re not effective and don’t give the rowers anything to go off of. Saying “slow the slides” is just asking for all eight people to slow them down at different times/speeds so if you’re going to make a call like that (which you really shouldn’t unless you’re with a more experienced crew that can infer what you mean from that … and even then, use it sparingly), be specific about what you want and use a call for the drive to emphasize the contrast between it and the recovery.

Related: Calls to control rush? There’s only so many ways to say “control the recovery” and “slow the slides.” Thanks!!

Another thing I do here is to make a call about getting the hands away together and at the same natural speed (which should be at whatever speed the boat is moving) – usually I’ll say something like “let’s re-establish the ratio, hands away here … hands away here” where “hands away” is said midway(ish) through the drive and “here” is said (aggressively and succinctly) right as they tap down. Tone and inflection are important here but in my experience it really helps to establish a good rhythm through the back end which you can then carry over into the ratio by following it up with calls to stay long, composed, feel the run, stay steady on the slides, etc.

What to look for

When the ratio is off at lower rates you’ll feel (and occasionally see) the boat move backwards a little when the rowers are on the recovery. It’ll also usually feel like you’re rowing at a much higher rate than you are. At higher rates it’ll feel like you’re spinning your wheels and like the rowers are just moving back and forth on the slides without any real purpose.

Effect(s) on the boat

Moving faster on the recovery than you are on the drive will cause check in the boat, which decreases your speed minimizes how much run you’ll get per stroke.

Related posts/questions

The Four Defaults

What analogies do you use for different aspects of technique? Am looking for some inspiration for my novices!

I say “catch 1,2” a lot to keep ratio but after the catch when they’re on the recovery, why do I want them sliding back slowly? Shouldn’t that be the quick part when they’re actually taking the stroke? Or maybe my coach likes me to say that just because she still wants us taking it slow?

How do you call a ratio shift to control and stop the rush without lowering the SR? Is it even possible?

Coxed a varsity boat today for the first time. I felt awkward, I didn’t know what to say to them other than to make the calls. Normally, with my novices I know what techniques to tell them to change/fix but it’s awky with var. Also, what’s a ratio shift? My stroke today told me to call it, so I did. It’s just another way of saying “down on the recovery,” correct?  Do you have any tips? Thanks!

To see all the posts in this series, check out the “top 20 terms” tag.


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