There are a few subjects that get rowers seriously hot under the collar, and sitting the boat – or, more specifically, not sitting the boat – is one of them. For any non-rowers reading this, let me explain quickly: during the warm-up or certain exercises, rowers will drop out in multiples of two and “sit the boat” – ie. sit with their blades flat on the water, balancing the boat for the others. This means the people still rowing have a nice stable platform so they can focus on their technique without compensating for the pitch and roll of the boat which, unless you’re super-competent, happens when everyone is rowing.
At least that’s what is supposed to happen. What makes rowers really shirty is when the boat-sitters don’t do their job so the boat continues to rock. The problem is that not everybody gets it – or, to be more generous, perhaps they haven’t been told how important sitting the boat is. So here’s a handy guide to things you must absolutely not do when you’re sitting the boat.
- Switch off
Sitting the boat is an active, not a passive activity. It requires concentration and focus. When you’re sitting the boat you have to make continual small adjustments to compensate for the movement of the rowers and you can’t do this if you’re admiring the wildlife, writing a mental shopping list or, cough, composing your next blog post. No, I would absolutely never, ever do that.
2. Turn around
Honestly, people do. And you hardly need me to tell you what that does to the balance of the boat. Just don’t do it.
Hmmm, I am occasionally guilty of this, and I know it’s bad. For all the reasons above. You can’t chat and focus. Even when you’re talking about rowing. Tell me off if you see me doing it.
Sitting the boat is not your opportunity to rearrange your clothing, have a drink, move your footplate, adjust your gate. You wouldn’t do it while you’re rowing (at least I hope you wouldn’t) so don’t do it when you’re sitting the boat.
Think I’m joking? Nobody would do that, right? Actually yes, they would. But they shouldn’t. So don’t.
6. Take your hands off the oar
You may think you’ve got the handle wedged under your arm, but I bet you’re down on bowside already.
7. Take selfies
OK, so I haven’t actually seen anyone do this yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
Now it’s all very well knowing what you shouldn’t do, but what exactly should you do? Well, the exact technique is open to debate. Most people like to sit at half slide with the end of the handle nestled in the crook of their outside arm and their inside hand resting lightly on the top of it. Some just hold the handle steady without wedging it. Others – more flexible than me or at least with longer arms – grasp the foot stretcher. Still others advocate applying light pressure on the water to ensure good balance, but this will only work if your counterpart is doing the same. What everyone agrees on is that the main thing is to keep the boat level, whatever position you’re in.
So there you have it. Don’t faff, don’t disrobe, don’t fling yourself around. Be still, be engaged, hold it steady. And if you see me breaking the rules myself, do holler. I never said I practised what I preached.
Here endeth the lesson.
(Note to fashion-lovers: wearing Kate baselayer, Nicky all-in-one and Daisy compression leggings, all by Queen B Athletics)