Top 20 Terms Coxswains Should Know: Release

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

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

The finish.

What does it mean/refer to

The release is the part of the stroke that occurs immediately after the actual finish – it’s when the outside hand applies weight to the handle, causing it to tap down and release the blade from the water. The terms “finish” and “release” get used interchangeably but they’re actually two completely separate parts of the stroke. At the finish the blades are in the water and at the release they aren’t (which is why it makes no sense when coxswains tell the rowers to “sit at the release” before they start rowing), although the bodies are still in the same layback position.

Relevant calls

Many of the calls I make specifically about the release have to do with the set of the boat. One of the things we say to the guys a lot, particularly if the boat is looking wobbly, is “release to the balance”, which gets them thinking about the position of their hands relative to the set of the boat. I’ve adopted this call too when I’m coxing and usually say something like “…let’s make sure we’re releasing to the balance … right [catch] here [finish] … haaands [drive] here [finish]… haaands here …”. I try to save this call for when the boat is consistently off-set rather than just a wobble here or there, mainly because I know it gets the rowers’ attention and I don’t want to wear it out.

Another one is “cut the pressure before the bodies, come down and away smoothly…”. This isn’t so much a “coxing” call that I try to line up with any particular part of the stroke, rather it’s a “coaching” call that I say conversationally as we’re rowing. I try to follow it up with a specific “coxing” call though, usually something like “smoooth here“, “hands here“, “cut it now“, etc.

What to look for

Because the finish and release only differ by about six inches in handle height, one’s ability to tap down at the release is largely effected by their posture at the finish. Not laying back enough or laying back too far can inhibit the movement of the hands here because it’s practically impossible to tap the handle down when your body is directly underneath it. (If you’re laying back too far it’ll be your stomach and if you’re not laying back enough it’ll be your thighs.) On the water you can make reminder calls for this but on the ergs is where you can really coach the rowers (particularly novices) on proper body angles, posture, etc. Plus, it’s a lot easier to do this on land when you can actually manipulate them to the right positions vs. on the water where it can be tough to explain what it should look/feel like.

At the release, assuming pressure was cut before the handle reached the bodies, you should see the blades cleanly pop out of the puddles and then feather over the water. If you’re seeing the blades get stuck in the water as the recovery begins (which at best will cause the boat to go off-set and at worst can cause crabs of varying magnitudes) then a couple things might be happening, the first of which is what I mentioned above about not giving yourself room to tap down. The other is not accelerating the blade through the drive into the finish. If you’re connected on the drive and have good acceleration the blade will naturally pop out more easily at the release whereas a lack of acceleration will cause the puddle to close up and essentially act like a brake (tl;dr physics), which obviously limits the carryover of acceleration and kills the boat’s run.

With regards to feathering, watch that they’re not feathering before the blade is fully out of the water too. You’ll be able to tell if this is happening because you can see the water getting flipped up as the blade rotates. In my experience this happens most often when people feather with both hands because they’re rotating the handle down into their laps instead of drawing straight through, tapping down with the outside hand, and then feathering with the inside. Square blade and outside-arm only rowing, along with delayed feather drills can help fix this though.

Effect(s) on the boat

The effects of a poor release will be felt on the subsequent recovery and catch, usually in the form of the boat being off-set or poor posture on the previous finish causing timing issues with getting the hands down and away (and bodies over) on the next recovery which leads to a late/poorly timed catch. A clean release though provides a stable platform for the rowers to work off of and lets the boat take full advantage of the power and acceleration that was generated on the previous stroke by allowing it to run out further between strokes.

Related posts/questions

Heeey so at the moment we’re doing a lot of work on the finish and the release but I am struggling to come up with calls that really work. I have a few basic ones but not many so I find myself repeating them over and over and over and over. Do you have any calls for technique at the finish and release that i could borrow or modify to suit my crew?? TY x

The Kiwi pair does this really incredible thing where they take their oars out of the water SO FREAKING CLEANLY and I am having such a hard time trying to do it, I can never tell if I’m throwing water around when I feather my blade and IDK if you know what I’m getting at but yeah help?

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

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3 thoughts on “Top 20 Terms Coxswains Should Know: Release

  1. tom scott says:

    kayleigh, do you have a recording of your own calls? in particular, can you read these two paragraph and make the calls as you would if you were in the boat:

    ===========================================
    Many of the calls I make specifically about the release have to do with the set of the boat. One of the things we say to the guys a lot, particularly if the boat is looking wobbly, is “release to the balance”, which gets them thinking about the position of their hands relative to the set of the boat. I’ve adopted this call too when I’m coxing and usually say something like “…let’s make sure we’re releasing to the balance … right [catch] here [finish] … haaands [drive] here [finish]… haaands here …”. I try to save this call for when the boat is consistently off-set rather than just a wobble here or there, mainly because I know it gets the rowers’ attention and I don’t want to wear it out.

    Another one is “cut the pressure before the bodies, come down and away smoothly…”. This isn’t so much a “coxing” call that I try to line up with any particular part of the stroke, rather it’s a “coaching” call that I say conversationally as we’re rowing. I try to follow it up with a specific “coxing” call though, usually something like “smoooth here“, “hands here“, “cut it now“, etc.
    ===========================================

    thanks.

    • beantownkmd says:

      I haven’t been recording myself much lately (I also haven’t been coxing much either so there’s that too) but I have had a few people ask if I could post a video or something so they can hear how I call things or how you’re supposed to call them … I might make that a long term project, maybe something for the summer when I’ve got an abundance of free time.

Thoughts?

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