Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Erg

          In honor of CRASH B. Sprints, which occurred this past Sunday, I am going to dedicate this post to discussing erging and winter training. First I’ll begin by explaining that CRASH Bs is the world indoor rowing championship. It occurs each year in February. Since 2008, the event has been held at Boston University’s Agganis Arena in Boston, Ma.  The event originated in 1980 with the invention of the Concept 2 Model A rowing ergometer. In the winter of 1980 some Olympic and National team rowers got together to hold an event to try and break up the monotony of winter training. That first event in 1980 had very few people who participated at Harvard University’s Newell Boathouse on the Charles River in Cambridge, Ma. Over time the event expanded to become the indoor rowing championship.
            The event is open to any competitor who would like to enter. There are no qualifying times to participate. CRASH Bs does not have qualifying times because it wants to give all athletes the opportunity to enjoy competition and to break up the routine of winter training. Competitors are broken up into age categories. There is a junior’s category, which is ages 14-18, and there is an Under 23 category in which competitors are ages 18-22.  After age 19 competitors can enter open events in which ages are grouped by 10 years. So, ages 19-29 are one category, and 30-39 is a category, 40-49 is a category and so on covering the oldest entry. Although there are no qualifying times to enter a partner of the CRASH Bs event, Concept 2, provides airfare to the event to participants who meet their qualifying times. Concept 2 wants to ensure that the fastest athletes in the world are able to participate in the event.
            The participants in the event race on ergometer, which are commonly called ergs, for 2,000 meters. 2,000 meters is the distance of a spring sprint race, and sprint racing is what athletes have been preparing for all winter. The athlete with the fastest time in their age category is the winner of that category. The winner of each category receives a golden hammer as their trophy, which is simply a unique tradition of CRASH Bs. The golden hammer is recognized distinctly as a trophy of CRASH Bs in the rowing community.

This is a video from CRASH Bs 2010. This is a video of Felix Bach, who won the Junior Men's category. In this video he is rowing with the junior women because there were technical problems with his erg in his event, so he was allowed a re-do in the women's event. This video is helpful simply to see what erging is. 
            In order to fully understand what CRASH Bs is you must understand what an erg is and what erging is all about. Erging is what rower’s call the activity of using an erg. An erg is an indoor rowing machine that allows rowers to train on land. 
This is the most current model of an erg.

 The erg allows an athlete to see many features about their stroke. It allows the power of the athlete to be measured. This can be measure through recording watts, or more commonly by looking at meters pulled or the predicted split of a rower over a distance of 500 meters. The split over meters is difficult to understand at first, but it is essentially explain how long it would take the rower to travel a 500-meter distance. This is a similar feature to what most treadmills have. Treadmills predict for you how long it would take you to travel a mile at a certain pace; the erg does the same thing but over 500 meters rather than a mile. Ergs are used as a way to judge how fast an individual athlete can be during a race. In order to determine this rowers are tested on 2,000-meter and 6,000-meter tests. These are the distances of a sprint race and a headrace.
            In the winter it is often too cold to row on the water, and bodies of water are often frozen. These conditions force rowers to move indoors for training. The erg allows for indoor training. Erging is just part of what most athletes do for their winter training. Like any other sport many forms of strength and condition exercises are used to strengthen the athlete.
    Even though erging is a core part of winter training, it is not restricted to just the winter. Most athletes erg year round. Training on the erg is an integral part of a rowers training because it creates a solid cardio basis for rowing, allows for practicing of the stroke, and develops essential muscles used by athletes. Most rowers feel the erg is a necessary evil. Rowers often complain about erging because it pushes you to your limits. You see every stroke how hard you are pulling. It is both a mental and a physical test to complete a 2k or a 6k test. As the CRASH B’s website says, “This ergometer has become serious business, threatening to replace fun with pain, unless you can equate the two.”

All information about CRASH Bs was found on their website:

Monday, February 14, 2011


In the sport of rowing, there are many different types of boats. Knowledge of the different types of boats is important not only for understanding the basics of the sport but also to be able to understand racing.

The types of boats can be separated into to main categories. These categories are sweep rowing boats and sculling boats.  In sweep rowing each rower only has one oar. In sculling each rower has two oars. The stroke varies slightly in between sculling and sweep rowing. 

This is a photo of sweep rowing. It shows how each rower only has one oar. 

This is a photo of a sculling boat. The each person in the boat would have two oars.

The categories of sculling and sweep can be further broken down by the number  of people in the boat  Sweep boats are referred to simply by the number of rowers in the boat. If there are eight rowers the boat is called an eight, if there are four rowers it is called a four, if there are two rowers it is called a pair. Sculling boats are referred to in terms of multiples. If there are eight rowers it is called an octuple, if there are four rowers it is called a quad, if there are two rowers it is called a double, and if there is one rower it is called a single.

Boats are also defined as to weither or not they have a coxswain. Coxswains are an additional person in the boat besides the rowers. The coxswain does not have an oar to help power the boat, but rather their job is to steer the boat and motivate the rowers. They are essentially the brain of the boat. Coxswains are often referred to as Cox. Boats will out coxswains are called coxless or straight boats.  All boats with eight people have coxswains. All singles do not have a coxswain. Fours, quads, doubles, and pairs can either have a coxswain or not. 

Boat names are often abbreviated to simply numbers and symbols. For example a four with a coxswain would be abbreviated to 4+. The 4 refers to the number of rowers in the boat. The + refers to the fact that there is a coxswain. If there was not a coxswain it would be a 4- . Sculling boats have the additional symbol of x. If a boat was a quad it would be referred to as 4x. It is especially helpful to know these abbreviations if you are trying to look at a race schedule or results of a race. 

Here are some photos of boats to help you better identify the many different types. 

Single (1x)

Double (2x)

Coxless Pair (2-)

Coxed Pair (2+)
The coxed pair is not often seen at races. It is not recognized as an event at races hosted by FISA (the governing body of world rowing). These are events such as Olympics and the World Rowing Championships

Coxed Quad (4x)

In this type of boat the coxswain is in the back of the boat. 

Coxless (straight) Quad (4x)

Coxed Four (4+)

Uncoxed (straight) 4-

Eight (8+) 

Octuple (8x)
The Octuple is not often raced in the United States. It is mainly for exhibition. It is not recognized as an event at races hosted by FISA (the governing body of world rowing). These are events such as Olympics and the World Rowing Championships

As you can see there are many different types of boats. Most rowers can row in all types of boats, but they do generally have the favorite types. It is important to understand the different types of boats in order to understand racing. 
The most common types of boats that  youth and collegiate rowers race are the 4+ and the 8+. In both collegiate and youth rowing the pairs, doubles, and singles are used primarily for training purposes. These boats allow for more individual work and technical lessons that can be applied to rowing in the larger boats. For master's rowing, which is the name used for adult rowers, the focus  falls more on small boats such as single, pair, and double. This happens because master's rowing tends to be more of an individual sport rather than a team sport.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Competition: The Basis of Sport

Jessica Pryor
February 7, 2011

            The sport of Rowing is often viewed as an elite prep-school sport.  Although it is true that the origins of rowing in the United States trace back to the Ivy leagues and private prep schools, today it is no longer a sport of the elite. Even though the sport of rowing is growing in popularity, it often seems inaccessible to people, usually because they simply do not understand the sport. Like any other sport, rowing has it’s own language of terminology, culture of norms, and traditions. In this blog, I will break down the sport of rowing so that those who are unfamiliar to it have a chance to understand it.
            It is difficult to prioritize what topic of the sport is most important for new rowers and spectators to understand. I will start though by explaining the different types of races. When most people think of a sport, they view the competitive arena, and so I will start by breaking this down.

            In the United States there are two main types of races: head racing and sprint racing.

Head Race
            Head racing occurs in the fall and is considered the non-traditional season of rowing. The results of head races do not count for rankings, points, or determination qualification for championship races.
            Head racing is generally covers 6 kilometer course.  The course in a head race follows the curvature of the river or body of water. There are turns in the course, which provide a challenge for teams. Head racing is set up in the format of a time trial. Each boat starts the race at lapsed times. These lapsed times are referred to as centers. An example of how someone would use this term is, “ ok team there are 5 second centers today.” So for example of how this would work is, boat 1 would start the race and then boat 2 would start the race 5 seconds after boat 1, and boat 3 would wait and start 5 seconds after boat 2. It would continue this with  5 second centers between the start time of each boat.  The boats are essentially playing a game of chase down the course. In order to win a boat has to clock the fastest time down the course.  A boat does not have to pass a boat in order to win; they must simply have the fastest time down the course.  Even though passing a boat is not essential to winning the race, it is exciting to the athlete and the fan if a boat passes another boat is a good indication that they will finish with a faster time. It is difficult for spectators at head races, because they cannot see the entire race from one point.  In addition, for results of the race, both spectators and athletes must always wait in order to determine who has won the race due to the centered starts. To add to you rowing knowledge the largest and most well known head race in the United States is the Head of the Charles in Boston, Ma. This head race includes competitors from all over the world. There are many races that divide compotators by age and level of experience. It lasts an entire weekend due to the vast number of events. The Head of the Charles is usually in October. In 2011, the race will be October 22 and 23.

This is a video of the youth boys race from the Head of the Charles in 2010. This video shows good images of boats trying to pass each other. Also in this video, it is easy to see how the boats are following the curves of the river. 

Sprint Race
            Sprint races consitute the traditional season of rowing sports. Spring racing occurs in both the spring and the summer.  For both youth and collegiate rowers this is the main season that counts for records and points. Sprint races are what qualify teams to compete at championships.
            Sprint races are 2 kilometers in length. They are generally referred to simply as 2Ks.  2Ks are done on a straight buoyed course. There are 6 or 8 lanes on a course. The course is laid out similar to a race track because each competitor has their own marked lane. However, the lanes in rowing are a straight line instead of a curved racetrack. The starts of 2ks differ greatly from head racing. In a 2k, all the boats line up in their lanes at the starting line. They often must back into starting platforms. At both steak boats and starting platforms, there is a person to hold each boat in place. This assures that they do not drift and allows for an even start of all boats. 
Click for next photo
Photo of starting platforms at NCAA 2010 championships

            After the start, the course is often broken down in terms of 500-meter segments. The start of the race crews generally take short strokes in order to get their boats moving quickly off the starting line. In the first 500 meters of the race, the boat will settle into its racing pace. In the two middle 500s, the crews will make moves. They will work to catch up if they are behind or stay ahead if they are winning. The last 500 meters includes the sprint. The sprint is the last part of the race. It is when crews exert the last of the energy. They generally shorten their strokes and bring up their speed.  In a 2k the winner is simply whoever crossed the finish line first. Sprint races are exciting to race because you can see who wins.
            Many important races occur in the sprint season. Some examples of these races are Stotesbury Cup, IRA championships, NCAA championship, Youth Nationals, Club Nationals, and the Canadian Henley.

This is a video from the 2010 NCAA championships. The video shows clearly how each boat is in their own lane following a straight course. In this race Yale passes other boats in order to win the race. The way in which they quickly pass through the other boats shows the excitement that can be found in sprint races. Also, at the end of the race Yale can clearly be seen as the winner which adds the excitement of sprint racing. 

            Head races and sprint races are very different types of racing. It is important to know that unlike other sports, all rowers do both sprint and distance racing. It is sometimes difficult to understand the races, but the easiest way to understand is to see a race. If you are sitting in the grandstands, do not be afraid to ask someone questions in between races. Most people will gladly help you understand what is going on. Sprint season is coming, so get out there and watch a race.