row2k Features
Bow Pair -- Making The Most Of Your Front End
May 25, 2000
Rob Colburn

The bow pair is your boat's stabilizer, and a really good bow pair can guide the boat's path just like the bow planes on a submarine, so that the rest of the hull naturally follows. The hull is narrower up there, and the subtleties of its motion most clearly felt (even more so than in the stern pair -- which are the other two "sensitive" seats). Likewise, any adjustments (in oar handle height, feathering, etc.) made by your bow pair have a greater effect on the boat as a whole than the same amount of adjustment made by the rowers in the middle of the boat. Encourage your bow pair to take the lead in this, and to feel this responsibility. If they can make their adjustments well, it will smooth the path for the rest of the rowers.

Getting the bow pair in perfect timing with the stern pair is vital, and worth spending extra time on. Too often, the bow pair are early because slide rush becomes progressively more pronounced towards the bow. If this is the case in your boat, remind your rowers that they should not begin their slide until the rower in front of them begins. (This sounds as if it would cause lateness, but it works because it controls the impatience.) Release drills, and rowing with end pairs (instead of bow or stern four) are good drills, because -- if your boat can link its ends -- the benefits will run through your entire engine room. Hopefully, the lineup of your boat will have been set with this in mind, and your coaches will have chosen a bow pair who have "the touch."

One particular bowman -- we'll call him Nathan, (because that's his name) -- will serve as an example of how important the bow pair can be. Nathan was naturally adept at instinctively varying his stroke in perfect consonance with the Stroke, or whichever oar he was following. It was like watching a mirror. During part of spring training, he rowed Seven seat -- benefiting the starboard side by his ability to follow the Stroke. Nice stern pair, but there was one slight problem. We joked that he was "a port trapped in a starboard's body;" he was such a good mimic that, by following the Stroke so closely, his movements were that of a port. So, he was switched to bow seat, where -- now that he was following Seven's oar -- he regained his starboardness.

Magic. The link between the stern and the bow was solid, as if there were invisible rods connecting them. Stroke and Seven could be confident that any transition they made would be instantly picked up at the far end. (The Two Seat was already a good catch reader, so this was a bow pair made in heaven.) The smoothness this gave to the entire boat paid enormous dividends -- you had only to see that boat working its way through rough water (the rougher it was, the better they seemed to like it) to appreciate the combination.



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