Things that affect the set: Bladework

A pretty common question amongst coxswains is “what are all the things that affect the set of the boat?”. I’ve been asked it more times than I can count this summer so I wanted to put a series of posts together that address some of the technical issues you might encounter that can/will lead to balance issues on the water.

Related: When a boat is down on one side, what can a coxswain do or say to get the boat set?

This is definitely not an exhaustive list by any means but it should give you some ideas of what to look for (and then from there you can use what’s in these posts and your knowledge of technique, body position, etc. to make the call for an adjustment).

Washing out

Washing out occurs when you pull down into your lap at the finish instead of drawing the handle through horizontally and hanging off the handle for the full length of the stroke. Failing to support your side is not only going to cause your blade to pop out of the water early (because you’re pulling down instead of through) but it’s also going to cause the boat to roll over to your side.

Related: Top 20 Terms: Washing Out

Over or under-rotating the blade

This is common with younger rowers (i.e. middle schoolers…) or novices who haven’t quite figured out how to control the oar yet. Over-rotating the handle will naturally cause your hands to track downwards as you go up to catch which will pull the boat over to your side and then rock it back over as you lift the hands to put the blade in. Since you’ve likely skied your blade here too, what typically comes after that as a result is burying it too deep on the drive (meaning you’d be carrying your hands too high) which will then cause the boat to fall to the opposite side.

Catching or driving with the blade under-rotated will also pull the boat over to your side, in addition to making it more likely you’ll catch a crab when you drop it in at the catch.

Getting stuck at the finish

If you’ve ever been in a boat where someone’s caught an over-the-head crab or an ejector, you’ll be familiar with this one because more so than the other examples, this one really yanks the boat over to that side. If you’re not suspending your weight off the handle then the water is going to control the oar more than you will, which means the handle will get pushed back towards you rather than you pulling it in at the finish. This’ll push it into your rib cage and make it harder for you to tap down and get it out.

Related: Top 20 Terms: Suspension

This is another reason why reminding the crew to hang off the handle is important. Driving horizontally and keeping pressure on the face of the blade all the way through the finish creates an air pocket behind the blade that allows you to tap down and release it cleanly.

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