Head of the Ohio Bail
Attached is a clip of me bailing from six seat at Head of the Ohio last
. We clipped a buoy in the final 300 meters and it snapped my oar in
half. Everyone agrees it's hilarious and I thought you guys might
It was the University of Dayton Men's Varsity 8+ in the Open 8+ event (in
which we still took a bronze despite the collision).
University of Dayton Men's Crew
Same Buoy, Twenty-Some Years Later
Kenneth Plumb: I just read the story of "A Buoy for Christmas by John Davis, Irvine '74"
I was rowing in the 2 seat of a Long Beach Rowing Association Masters' 8. My
14 year old step-daughter was the coxswain. We were doing warm-ups near the
turning basin of the Marine Stadium. We were an on power sequence, moving
along beautifully. All of a sounding we here a loud "BANG" and a blood
curdling scream. Our bowman's oar hit a channel buoy, and he went flying
over my head, into the water. We traveled about 200 feet before we realized
what happened, and we saw our bowman bobbing in the water. We turned around
to retrieve him, asked if he was alright, and if he wanted to still race.
Being the trooper that he was, he decided to go ahead and race, despite a
severe pain in his wrist. We went on to win our race, and our Bowman drove
himself to the local hospital. He came back later in the day, his arm in a
cast with a broken wrist.
Riding Roughshod on the Bow Deck
I may take an attempt at describing one of my own crabs. However, as all
rowers talking abour their own crabs, even for comical purposes, there is
something to show the crab was not my fault.
It was my junior year of college in Paris (it was the third, but in France
we do not use words such as "sophomore" and "junior"; by the way we number
seats backwards: the bow is number 8, the stroke is 1, the 7 is 2...), a
saturday morning in the fall. Our coach was on vacation so we were doing a
"deck boat" : whenever you gather 9 rowers on the deck, you designate the
odd one out to be the coxswain (if you have 5 ports and four starboards you
put a port in the stern, maybe alternating him with another port in the
middle of the piece so all can row); then you pick the most expensive and
newest Empacher and just go. On a 'vacation' outing, it can be fun, but for
any crew training with a sense of purpose it can ruin everyone's day.
So (not as planned, but as expected) we had 5 port guys, 3 starboard guys
and one girl who was unanimously promoted to coxswain. She did not cox that
well but was held in high esteem by the stroke as she was dating another
stroke from another school. On the starboard side we had a senior at seven
who had molded his life as being the stroke's faithful servant so it was
easier to extract a kidney from him than to make him leave the seven seat
(still today, he leans on his left side when he has to defend his manager in
company meetings). At three was the switched port rower who was put in the
iddle of the boat to make things easier for him; for the two remaining
starboards, the 'biggies in the middle' rule was used and I was sent in the
bow. The port side was pretty much the same as usual.
The outing went surprisingly well and in the end we decided to launch some
kind of power-40 or -50 to catch up on a girls' quad (for sale or rent : bow
seat, with a view, partially obstructed by tall Two). Or coxswain swerved to
the middle of the lake so we could overtake the quad, which itself was quite
far from the shore so we were right in the middle of the lake.
I tend to look out of the boat too often but there I was quite focused by
the exhilaration of the speed. Then as my blade was near the end of the
drive and I was getting ready for a recovery, I felt a force trying to keep
my blade prolonging its drive and before I could think I was sitting
piggyback on the bow, holding for dear life (or at least dry life) to my oar
with my left hand.
Our coxswain, also stoked by the piece, had not realized we were going to
far out of or course, neither did she realize she was steering head-on on a
large beginners' double (one of those rowboats for two which you need four
people to carry), who was also off course. My blade had caught not the water
but the front ball of the double, making it swing faster than if it had
caught the water. I was ejected from my shoes, landed on my back on the tip
of the gunwale, which I broke, then held to the oar to sit up and I was
there dangling my feet in the water. The two, who was new to our club's
antiques, was shell-shocked as the others laughed. the double's beginners
were blissfully ignorant of what excatly happened though they blurted some
kind of excuse. To this day I have a scar on my back where I hit the
gunwale, pretty much like the one James Bond had from a jealous mistress,
but it did not increase my sex appeal when I said 'Nathalie did that to me'.
Rather, our back-to-school coach would point the chipped gunwale (you know,
the fragile part where port and starboard gunwales meet) to me and say that
as a team captain I should have found a better coxswain.
Crab(s) Every 500 Meters - What If It Were a Head Race?
This is not the story of a crab but of a series of
crabs. A friend and I had promised ourselves all one
season that we would compete in a masters double. We
ended up at the end of the year with no choice but a
2,000 meter race. We got off to a bad, dead-last start
but by the first 500 we were rowing well, had passed
three boats and were in third place. Enter crab one.
My partner, rowing bow, caught an oar-twister that
stopped us dead in the water. The last three boats
rowed on by as we regrouped and started for the second
time. We poured it on and managed to row our way back
to third place by about the 1000 meter mark when the
same oar blade appeared under my port rigger. Dead in
the water for a second time, bow untangled things and
we started again. With a couple of practice starts
behind us now we got moving pretty quickly and in no
time at all we were closing in on third place again,
when, you guessed it, the 1500 mark brought the same
blade back for another visit aft and we started for the
fourth time. Old hands at this restarting business by
now, we went smoothly through the drill and, with a
look from the fifth and sixth place boats reminiscent
of the “Who are those guys?” line from Butch Cassidy
and the Sundance Kid as we rowed by them, managed to
- Robin Jones
The 360 Crab
I have seen many people catch crabs in my short rowing life (2 years) but I must say the crab that I will remember for the rest of my life happened only a few days ago due to the circumstances.
It was about 5:30PM last Tuesday and I was rowing 6 seat in the Junior Lightweight 8. We had just finished 2 hard pieces of about 6,000 meters each. The second of which did not go as smoothly as many of us had hoped. The entire boat was frustrated and tired, and we were starting to get on each others nerves a little bit. Our coach noticing this decided to throw in a few drills such as pause drills, etc. After about 15 minutes of these drills our coach asks us if we would really like to instill "fear" into other crews at the races.
Of course our boat says yes, the drill was the 360 feather. We start the drill in 4's and it was actually going quite well, we then go up to 6's and it is working perfectly, we are all flipping our oars at the exact same time and everyone is relaxed, laughing, the boat is working well once again. Our coach then calls for 5 and 6 seat to drop out and for bow pair to add in, and that is where the crab occurs.
The quick switching of pairs threw the boat slightly off balance and just as I stopped rowing I felt the lurch in the boat and spun around quickly just to see our 3 seat, Adam catch a crab. Now many of us rowers have seen the safety video in which the rower is thrown out of the boat, imagine that in this case. It all happened very slowly as well, Adam's oar just caught the water, went strait into his ribs and under his armpit, slowly pulled his feet out of the stretchers, moved his back over the gunwales, and then quickly launched him out a good 3 feet from the boat. Amazing he flew that far as we were not going that fast. But the best part is by far when Adam poked his head out of the water, with the smirk on his face and yelled out "That was f***ing awesome". It made the boats day.
So when racing at head of the CT, Head of The Charles, or Head of The Fish, look for the boat with all silver riggers and the one black 3 seat rigger and you will know, we were victims of the 360 crab.
Submitted by Chris Wyant SRC
The Sins of the Unrecruited
So there we were at Mount Holyoke College in a straight four, with me at
stroke in my first pair of cotton rowing trou wearing a hat with a pink pig
snout. (First - who gave me that hat and second, what ever possessed me to
wear the damn thing - and for so long???) I finally shed the pig hat, but
I never got rid of my annoying habit of insisting on stroking any boat I was
in. Even if Igor Grinko tried to put me in the bow seat - I stroked from
there as well - never to be denied.
Libby Delana was in 3 (also in her first pair of cotton trou and her bird
Clearly we were not recruited.
I will not name who was in two and bow as they will remain anonymous to
protect the innocent (or the inflamed as they might recall that I actually
caught the crab.)
So our coach, Holly Metcalf (Olympic Team - 1984) has us out on the
Connecticut and the eight is somewhere alongside. It is snowing and the wind
is up - and we are cranking on a 1000 meter piece, doing our best to prove
that we all belong in the first four, when all of a sudden our two seat
catches a crab - and this was no ordinary stick- the -shaft- of- your- oar
-in the- 3 -seat's -back -crab, but this was a crab of epic proportions.
This was the crab of all crab's - the resounding wrath of Isis, as it caught
perfectly with the wind - sending the port side up in slow motion. We fought
it with all we had - but the Connecticut had her way - and this crab dumped
the entire straight four - unceremoniously - into the drink.
The boat is flipped over and Metcalf is yelling "stay with the boat" "stay
with the boat." Someone else is yelling "I lost my shoes, I lost my shoes."
Another person is yelling "it's freaking freezing - we have to get to shore"
(she was the chemistry major)... and all I could think of was: how the hell
can you flip a straight four?
I am, to this day, not sure whose sin in that boat we were paying for - but I
have a hunch it might have been mine.
-Mary Mazzio, former Mount Holyoke captain
1992 Olympic Team
Mutt Crew Goes Crabbing
by Laura DeLucia, George Washington University
You would think that the fact that a male varsity rower had switched places
with a coxswain who had never rowed before would be the main comical element of this crab story, but you would be wrong. It was the last day of spring training in Tampa and it was the practice both the men's and women's teams were looking forward to, where the freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors all competed for bragging rights: Class races.
However, as the coaches chose the top 4 men, top 4 women and their cox for each class 8 to race, I found myself surrounded by the 7 rather unhappy rowers and an irritated coxswain that would comprise the "mutt" boat. Refusing to let our fun be diminished because we had such a small chance of winning our heat, never mind the final, the team's 'jokester', Shane, strapped on a headset and squeezed himself into the cox's seat, very amused by
the whole situation while our buff, but inexperienced coxswain, Evan, kept his airstrokes to a minimum in bow seat.
As we rowed to the start, Shane had all 8 of us laughing hysterically as he innocently asked Christine, the poor stroke, "Do girls pull in lower because they have boobies?" and continued to try to motivate us in the most bizarre, obscene way. Shane had also been stockpiling ammunition such as dinner rolls, candy canes, and any other launchable items to throw at the freshman and senior boats at the start. Well, I have never been very good at conrolling my laughter once provoked and this, along with all of the other comical elements of the race caused me to still be shaking, cracking up silently, at the words "attention, GO!".
We took the first 3 strokes hard and overenthusiastically and still laughing, I managed to get my oar stuck in the water, flipping the handle completely over my head and catching my very first crab. You know that sound: the "Swish-Wham-Ow!-Wooosh" as the entire boat grinds to an embarrasing halt.
It wasn't my last crab though, because as soon as I got it out of the water, I attempted to take another stroke and WHAM! another one flipped over my head. Trying to get Shane's attention that it was stuck again, I turn around and 3 seat Karl is laughing uncontrollably while trying to help me get my oar turned around. The effort is futile however, and as quickly as we had fixed the oar, BAM! it was back over my head. Shane, meanwhile, doesn't know which rower is in which seat and thinks that this whole mess is Karl catching the crabs, so he is yelping "Karl, get it out! C'mon man, get it out!!" while Evan (the REAL coxswain who is rowing flawlessly in bow) is yelling “What‘s wrong with you?! Get it out DeLucia!”.
By now the boat has come to a dead stop and everyone in the boat is
laughing and turning around. Well, after a series of 5 or 6
full-blown-over-the-head-forget-rowing-I'm-swimming-home crabs in a row
belting me in the chest, I sit up really straight and take very careful,
almost paddle pressure strokes because I'm petrified to catch another one.
After a minute, Shane is so excited to be coxing at this point he is yelling over and over again the same phrase (in polite terms) "C'mon guy, mess this --- up!" and then suddenly, "We're walking up on the freshman boat!!". While this is not humanly possible after the stalling I had caused, there is always that slight bit of hope for a miracle only possible in a sport where you can’t see where you are going, and we were all thinking "Really?".
Somehow we all believed him and
started to pull with ferocity, trying to discreetly crane our necks around to see if we really were catching up to them. Of course in reality the other boats had finished the race and were on the dock before we had rowed the first 500 meters. Well, after a night filled with comments of "I wonder what's for dinner....crabs?" the end-of-spring-training banquet began and my coach, Steve (who had been shaking his head in embarrassed dismay during the incident), popped in the video of the class races he had been filming up-close that day and the team got to watch my half a dozen crabs in slow motion over, and over again.
*Note: Those were my first crabs and I haven't caught another one since.
1956 Olympic Trials Crab
by John P. Cooke
In the finals of the eights at the 1956 Olympic Trials in Syracuse, the 7-man in the Yale boat, Richard D. "Rusty" Wailes, caught an over-the-head crab on the second stroke of the racing start. Clifford "Tippy" Goes, the referee and former Syracuse cox, seemed to notice, and then looked the other way. Rusty lay flat in the six man's (Caldwell B. "Es" Esselstyn) lap while the boat took the catch on the third stroke. As Es started the drive Rusty reached out, fethered the oar and swung it over his head to hit the fourth stroke on time.
Yale won by about 3/4 length over Cornell, followed by the Navy Admirals
(1952 Olympic Champions) and Univ. of Washington, where Rusty's older
brother, Ron, was rowing in the three seat.
Too busy with the start to think about it, in the Yale three seat I remember wondering only briefly what Rusty's oar was doing trailing alongside the boat; then I spotted Rusty's big left hand on the handle just as we started the third stroke; and then everything was back together again.
Of course, Rusty went on to win a second gold medal in the 1960 Rome Games in the Lake Washington blind four. Just doing what he always did well!
Coxswains Vantage Point
by Adam Travan
While observing many crabs from different angles, even catching a few of my own as a rower, the most amazing thing i have ever seen was while coxing a Varsity 8 in my junior year of college. While there is no weird story or strange coincidence it was different from all others that i have ever witnessed.
Now all coxswains will admit that after a while you can really see a crab before it happens, weather it be the recovery of that particular stroke or even 1 or two strokes prior. Call it premonition or just the mental note of a blade that looks wrong for that given time. In this fashion i have seen numerous people catch crabs. Although never seeing anyone ejected i have seen my four man who was tightly tied in have his body contorted to such a degree that his entire inboard side and head got dipped.
However during a random workout on a random morning we were working on some high rate pieces. I happen to be looking at all the blades when out of the corner of my eye i notice my stroke mans over feathering just a bit much and some rollers are present, at that point i said '8 watch your overfea...' at which point I witnessed the most fascinating view of a crab, head on.
If any other coxswain has seen their stroke catch one please let me know if it was as amazing as i thought it was. Seeing a body recoil at such a speed was amazing and painful to watch. Bones seemed to turn to rubber as he was flattened out on his back. After the amazement passed i really thought to myself he must be badly injured, but to my surprise he just got up shook his head and retrieved his oar from the perpendicular position with my aide. Holy Bajeesus.
E.J. Finds a Name
by Jeffrey Mork
While I have seen quite a few crabs, this is my favorite due to the circumstances.
As the last official rowing practice before Christmas break, Texas Crew (the club team) holds the NoVar race. We randomly draw eight eights consisting of two Varsity Club men and women joined by two Novice Club men and women.
The race is a dual-boat, single elimination bracket raced over 1000 meters.
The rowers that are eliminated hang around the finish for the BBQ and to cheer on the other boats still competing. Each boat gets to practice in its race lineup four times before the actual race. The Novice rowers learn a racing start for the first time during these practices. There are no rating caps, breakage zones, or set strategies; the first boat across the finish advances. The NoVar champ claims bragging rights and recognition for the entire year.
I was on shore at the start aligning boats and starting them while a launch on the water filmed the races. Just before one of the races two parents came up to watch. I informed them that this was the start and that they might enjoy the race more at the finish. They said that their daughter E.J. (a novice) was in the upcoming race and that she had told them that the real excitement was at the start, as sometimes rowers would catch crabs and get ejected. I assured them with a laugh that while that COULD happen, it was fairly uncommon and that they should not expect to see someone leave the boat.
I aligned the boats and sent them off. About fifteen strokes into the race there was a certain amount of commotion and out flew none other than the parents' daughter, E.J., from the bow. She landed safely in the water and the oars passed over her head. In what seemed like hours under the watchful eyes of the parents, the launch traveled to her aid (it was actually about ten seconds) and pulled her out of the water. After consulting by Walkie-Talkie with the launch I assured the calm parents that E.J. was alright. Her boat never stood a chance with seven rowers to advance but the entire race was caught on tape. The part where she is thrown out has been watched so many times that it has worn out the tape. Her name also changed from E.J. to Ejection.
Why Coxswains Shouldn't Row
by Gregg Hartsuff
One early October morning a few oarsman were sick, leaving me one seat short
of four eights. I did have an extra coxswain, however. Wanting to have our
weekly Friday morning time trials with all four eights, I penciled a
sophomore coxswain named John, who had rowing experience from high school,
into the port bowseat of a starboard stroked eight. He was a fairly
athletic, former wrestler, and was very excited, to say the least. It was
his opportunity to show up the other coxswains and score points with the guys.
We launched and began the warm-up with dawn just breaking. I didn't focus on
his rowing much, but the few glimpses I gave him he seemed to be rowing OK.
He wasn't screwing everyone else up, anyway. And a small coxswain trying
their damndest behind the much bigger oarsmen is always a humorous sight that
can bring a smile to the face of even the biggest sourpuss. At the first
spin point the port side checked their blades to bring the boat to port, when
I just happened to glance over and watch John check his blade. The top lip
caught hard and fast and it surprised him, and he lost his grip. The oar
went crashing against his body, catching him under his outboard armpit.
The crab itself wasn't that spectacular. His small feet easily came out of
the size 13 shoes, and the oar catapulted him out of the boat. Most of us
that have rowed for any length of time has stories of people being launched
from the boat in this manner. But what followed was the most humorous end
result of a "crab story" that I have ever witnessed.
On his way out of the boat John grabbed his rigger with his inboard hand
which prevented him from actually getting away from the boat, but his body
was soaring, and he resembled a gymnast on the high bar. He entrered the
water and for a moment all I saw was an arm sticking out of the water,
latched onto the backstay of his rigger. He reacted quickly and being strong
for his size he instinctively hoisted himself over the gunnel with ease in
one motion, and quickly got back in his seat and tied in.
Realizing that he wasn't hurt and out of danger, as the water temperature
wasn't too cold yet and the air temperature warm from the Indian summer, I
began laughing so hard that no sound was coming out. And when it struck me
that not a soul in his boat, not even the coxswain or the two seat in front
of him, realized what had happened, I just couldn't stop laughing. I suppose
I could see how no one would have noticed - the light was dim, he only
weighed 125 pounds, and the boat was coming to stop so there wasn't a huge
jolt to the craft.
The guys were curious as to why I was laughing, and all I could do was signal
to keep going without me that I would catch up. Finally I regained my
composure, and we finished the workout, with John sopping wet in the bowseat
of the 4th eight. When we returned to the dock and everyone got out of the
boat, someone noticed that John was sopping wet and asked him how he got that
I couldn't hold the laughter back once again. John just shrugged it off and
said it was just "sweat". Finally someone had to know why I was laughing so
hard. Realizing only I could provide material for the butt of many jokes in
future weeks, I let the story out. And of course that is what happened.
Crabs for Lunch
One day my high school crew team (NFA crew) went to Kingston for what was going to be the Hudson Valley Rowing League Championships. This would have been a big day for us because we currently had the boys trophy and wanted to regain the other (we have had both trophies numerous times). One of the top female rowers was taken out of our first girls 8 man due to an injury and I was put in the boat at the last minute. I had never rowed in that eight-man before and I was used to the newbie 2nd girls eight man.
The race started and it was very close. The stroke rate of the A boat was a lot higher than I was used to and about half way through the race I caught the biggest crab I ever have. That's a lot to say considering I caught at least 25 crabs one day at practice. The oar flew parallel to the boat and on the way it hit me hard in the mouth. I was hurting and bleeding but I was concentrating on getting the oar out (which I was usually very good at considering all the practice I've had) I couldn't get the oar out for at least 10 strokes. We lost the race. It was disappointing but at least it had earlier been changed to a scrimmage due to the fact that it was so early in the season.
The Slow-Motion Crab
by Charles Ehrlich
This took place on the Charles River in the fall of my junior year in
college. On Friday afternoons, we traditionally mixed up line-ups and did
a series of head pieces. On one such occasion, a crew I was coxing was
marshalling above Weeks Bridge ready to start the first piece of the day
upstream from Andersen Bridge. When the crew starting ahead of us had
moved off the required number of lengths, we picked it up on a light
paddle. We were not to bring it to full until Weld Boathouse, so this was
indeed just light. On the second or third stroke, with the boat just
getting moving, the three man got his blade stuck in the water. As there
was no big deal, I called to weigh enough and even had enough time to
comment that we'd let the three man (who will remain anonymous) recover
his crab and then we'd start over.
While I was saying this, I saw the three man's head stick out off the
starboard side. I figured he was just looking up at me after my comment.
But then I saw his shoulders. Then came his torso. I thought that this
seemed an awfully strange way to recover a crab.
At this time, the four man turned around to see if he could help. He
reported later that he was startled to find that the three man's right
foot had come free from the shoe and he was trying desperately to slip it
back in. Then the left foot slipped out of the shoe.
At this point, with the boat barely drifting, the three man simply hung on
his oar handle as it slowly pivoted over the edge of the boat. As if in a
cartoon, the three man dangled on his oar handle momentarily and then went
straight down into the water.
Since we were not really moving, it was easy for the three man to climb
right back in. I waved the crews starting behind us to row on by. We
thought of returning to Newell Boathouse to get him a change of clothes,
but there were too many novice crews clogging the dock and a line of
varsity heavyweight crews waiting to land. It was a warm day, so the he
decided he could carry on, and we started the piece upstream. Despite the
delay, we even managed to catch up to a crew on that piece.
"Quite comfortable. Until, that is..."
by James Blythe
An Oxford college crew succeeds or fails by its starts. The nature of bumps racing (which involves 12 crews starting 1.5 lengths apart and trying to catch the crew ahead) is that a crew with a fast start can finish their work for the day within 30 strokes, despite the whole course taking around 5:30. So, two weeks before competition, we're doing a lot of practice starts, which I'm finding quite comfortable. Until, that is, the coach tells me to sit up more as I'm 'washing out'.
Fine. What he neglected to mention is that I'd have to tap down that much sharper...
I didn't actually come out of the boat, to be fair. First start, second stroke, the blade crabbed and pinned me against the back of the slide. The second start, I made it to the fourth stroke, and the blade came out of the water - and caught a bit of a wave. My reflexes not being the sharpest, the handle caught me full over the forehead before I had chance to duck, and only narrowly missed the knuckles of the guy behind. The river, I should add, was packed with other eights, so as well as the pain of a blade handle being applied forcefully to the head I had the utter indignity of crabbing two successive starts in front of most of our competition. I bore the scars, physical and emotional, for some time, but I am proud to admit I have never crabbed a start since, am sitting up better and we 'bumped' twice. Pain and humiliation are powerful performance boosters!
However, this would not be forgotten by my esteemed crew mates. When we were back on dry landing, boat away, the following gem was heard:
'Where are we going to eat? There's that new seafood place just by... but actually no, I think we've had enough crabs for today'.
A Buoy for Christmas
by John Davis, Irvine '74
Some of the 70's Irvine gang, which had it's 30-year
reunion this past spring, may remember Assistant Coach
Stu Gibson's little brother - I think his name was
Bob. I also recall that Sully from rec.sport.rowing
fame was in an eight our novice year at the Long Beach
Christmas Regatta when on the warmup the coxswain hit
a big steel channel bouy down the port side. Bob got
ejected from the 2 seat and whacked on the head by the
shaft of the four oar.
I have a memory of looking to my right to see the two,
four and stroke sweeps parallel to the boat and mine
at six bending backward about 40 degrees as the blade
was caught on the back of the bouy and the handle was
caught on my left hip bone. As I got light on my seat
and my feet slipped from the stretchers, I thought we
were going to flip the thing. Somehow we didn't. At
five, Roy Bevan, still to this day a hearty hulk of a
guy, grabbed the dazed Gibson by the scruff with just
one hand and threw him back in the boat.
I figured we were done for the day, but the
semi-conscious Gibson sputtered and regained just
enough of his senses to stupidly agree to race. We
proceeded to the start only to get whipped pretty bad.
That day was a portent of things to come as not a
member of that eight won a race that year. In the
long run we had a good experience, and although Gibson
was no longer with us, that same coxswain steered
Irvine to 2nd in the V-8 at '74 Sprints.
I am sure the "medico's" of this world would doubt the
wisdom of having Bob race, but he was game for it. He
quit rowing soon thereafter, leaving us with one more
corny memory to recall at reunions.
Duff, Lucky, or Both?
by Tim Granger
Having done exactly the manoeuver of breaking a scull in a quad
that your original entry talks about, here's another story of
a similar tale with a very different ending.
We were racing in a quad in Cambridge, UK, doing a head piece,
with myself steering at bow. We were coming up to the half way
point, I was lining the boat up for the approaching corner.
Coming forward to take a stroke, my right hand scull slipped
out of my hand, which was wet with all the water flying around.
The oar handle continued to go forward, the blade sliding
through the gate. At this point I thought game over, but started
to take the stroke with my left blade anyway, just to see what
The blade spoon was dropping to the water, only a matter of time
before it hit. Surely enough it did; at this point the gate
had slid most of the way to the spoon, and when the water caught
the spoon the handle shot up vertically. By this time I was approaching
the finish of the stroke, when as if by magic the the blade handle
started to drop down towards me, the spoon being carried towards
the stern of the boat. Just when I reached the finish, the blade
slid back out into the gate and I caught the handle with the
spoon feathered ready to go up the slide for the next stroke.
The other three did see any of this happening of course, and thought
that I'd just done a bit of a duff stroke. When I told them at the
finish what had happened, they were amazed at quite how duff, and
quite how lucky I'd been!
by Mattison Crowe
During the first full season with the C2 hatchet blades, this was one of the
first "empirical tests" to show that the greater surface area and reduced
slip of the blade's shape had a dark side: the oar handle was virtually
unrecoverable from an over-the-head crab if the crew was at racing pressure.
As I remember, it happened one rainy afternoon in the fall of my junior
year. As part of our annual "points racing" series for fall standings, we
were doing head racing pieces against the clock, starting at the south end
of the flood control channel and finishing out by the lighthouses on Cayuga
lake . Full pressure. Rate cap of 28. My boat started third out of four
eights. On paper, we were not the dominant lineup. Less than 3 minutes
into our race, our coxswain began yelling, "Ohmigod, Crazy Ivan! Crazy
For those who have read Tom Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October" or seen the
movie, you'll remember the Soviet Submarine fleet made use of a maneuvering
tactic called the "Crazy Ivan". If the Russians were being shadowed too
closely by an enemy sub, they would execute a full stop and turn their boat
perpendicular to the path of the trailing sub. This was the ill-advised
tactic of the first eight. A sophomore, who shall remain nameless, lost his
grip on the oar in the steady rain. The force of the crab not only pinned
him against his rigger and into the cold lakewater--it was enough to bring
the boat to a dead stop and pivot the shell 90 degrees to the racecourse,
nearly blocking all lanes of traffic.
The second shell, working hard to catch the first shell, was forced to react
quickly to the first boat's pull of the Big Wheel spinout lever. All eight
checked it down to avoid t-boning the other crew.
Over the bullhorn, I heard our coach instruct the two stopped crews to get
out of our way, then resume racing as soon as possible. Our coxswain,
smelling blood in the water, told us in no uncertain terms how we were going
to capitalize on their misfortune. As we bore down on them, he proceeded to
thread the needle between the two separated crews and within earshot, began
to call a series of AMF 10s. For the uninitiated, "AMF" stands for, (in
polite company) "Adios, My Friend". Good times. Good times.
by Dave Rosen, Baltimore, MD
The most spectacular crab I've ever seen was courtesy of
the high school crew I coach:
It was the last novice practice of the season, and we
were on the water with our girls’ freshmen eight; an
unseasonably warm afternoon had brought out legions of
powerboats, and the persistent harbor breeze easily
churned wakes into whitecaps. Our girls, many of them
slight enough to be mistaken for coxswains, cruised
through the chop in a men’s heavyweight eight, lovingly
nicknamed the “Teflon Monster” for its size, heft, and
ability to withstand all forms of novice abuse. Two
coaching launches trailed alongside, bouncing their way
through the waves; one was there to coach, the other to
keep any curious onlookers (and their wake-mongering
craft) at a safe distance.
The row had gone well, despite the conditions; we
decided to finish up with a few practice starts and then
take it in. The crew sat ready for the first start, as
the coxswain coaxed the bow around into the wind and
pointed towards the city; throngs of tourists looked on
from the restaurants and shops that surround fringes of
the harbor, watching expectantly. From one of the
launches, a coach called “Attention…go!”
The first five strokes of the start were clean and
strong, and the boat surged ahead; the chop lapped
within inches of the gunnels, but the girls, familiar
with rough water, were unfazed. At the catch of the
sixth stroke, however, four-seat jerked upright as her
blade glanced off a whitecap and knifed deep into the
water; she held on and tried to pull through, but all
control was lost as the freight train force of the
accelerating boat swung the handle back at her at
tremendous speed. A mere moment before being cast out
of her seat like a lure at the end of a fly fisherman’s
line, a voice in the back of her head (or perhaps from a
nearby coach) told her to let go and DUCK! The handle
whipped past just inches over her head, but the oar did
not stop and drag as with most crabs; instead, as the
eager and unaware crew plowed full-pressure into the
seventh and eighth strokes, the blade was buffeted up by
another wave and swung full around into the boat,
completing a lightning-quick and surprisingly graceful
180 degree pivot. The oar struck five-seat across her
side, but the blow was only momentary…another whitecap
caught the handle, levering the blade straight up into
the air as four-seat, now terrified, cringed down
against the deck of the boat, expecting the worst.
At the coaches call of “way’nuff, way’nuff,” however,
everything stopped…including the now-vertical sweep oar,
which firmly wedged itself against the oarlock; it
jutted straight up, blade high in the air like a carbon-
fiber flag, handle trailing gently in the water. Once
four-seat calmed down, and the coaches stopped laughing,
we pulled up to the shell to inspect the situation. It
took some trying to free the oar, as the force of the
jam had completely destroyed the oarlock, bending the
gate and twisting the plastic out of shape…fortunately,
this was the only damage, as the stainless-steel rigger
was sturdy and the only injury to the young rowers was a
mild mental trauma. After assuring them that something
that spectacular couldn’t possibly happen again, we
changed out the oarlock and finished the other starts
without incident. Two days later, the girls rowed
flawlessly in their last race, pulling their best time
of the season, and all thoughts of crabs were forgotten.
The original submission
: We've all seen 'em: big crabs, little crabs, crabs in practice, in racing, full-blown over-the-head ejector crabs, you name it. But even among those, there is that species of crab that stands above the rest: the truly memorable, holy-beejeezus crab.
Our first entry is as follows: "I'm doing some short pieces in a quad
with some buddies, against a Junior Men's 8+ preparing for Henley, so
needless to say, the juices are flowin' and the ratings are pretty high
(46-50 range). All of us were competent, fun-loving scullers, eager to
teach the young 'uns a thing or two about getting off the line in a hurry.
We're doing the first 30 seconds of the piece, so it's start and 20 high, no
settle. Third piece, we blast off the line, rowing a 48, water everywhere,
and we're flying...10 strokes in, three seat loses his grip on the slippery
sculling handle of his starboard blade, and that's when things start to get
"The handle, on its own, continues to travel towards him, but the shaft
of the blade is starting to run in from the oarlock. Then, a wave catches
the blade, and the next thing you know, a 9-ft sculling blade is standing
vertically next to the quad running at full tilt, like a flagpole, the
oarlock torqued parallel to the water, and the blade trapped, scooping water
into the boat at gallons per second. Something's got to give, so on the
next stroke, the scull snaps with a carbon 'kaBoom!' just above where the
blade meets the shaft."
"After coming to a stop, we did what any self-respecting quad would do:
spun, paddled back to the dock (with 7 blades), bailed the boat, got a fresh
set of sculls, and finished the workout."