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Rowing Spare Parts: Little Pieces, Big Difference
July 18, 2020
Mike Davenport,

Following is another excerpt from Mike Davenport's posts designed to help rowing folks make the most of this downtime in the sport, as well as keep their programs on the water at any time; read the full article at Rowing Spare Parts: Little Pieces—Big Difference.

I just finished checking the rigging on our eight—putting the last tweaks on it for the qualifying heat—when a fellow coach ran up, coming to a screeching halt in front of me.

Between gasps for air he said, "Mike... Vespoli rigger... need two top bolts... fell off in the trailer... can't find them... "

I had a few extra bolts - gave him two (three actually)... and off he ran.

Later that day the Coach swung by - this time at a more leisurely pace.

"You saved me. We looked and looked but couldn't find those dang bolts. I got yours back just in time. We launched but arrived at the line late and got a false start. The stress flustered the kids to no end and about killed me. We barely made it... and don't tell the kids this but I ended up puking in the bushes afterwords... "

The right spare part at the right time can save the day
The right spare part at the right time can save the day

The super-power of rowing spare parts

As boatman for the US national team, nightmares about spare parts would wake me up at 2:37 am all the time. Something would break at the worst possible moment and there I'd be... wishing I had a spare part with none to be found... and Olympic athletes getting ready to toss me off a cliff.

Because of that, I became, and still am, obsessive about spare parts for my rowing equipment (and just about everything in my life).

A Stash of Spare Parts (SoSP) can and will:

- SoSP: Maximize practice time
- SoSP: Turns issues into opportunities
- SoSP: Reduce friction
- SoSP: Reduce cannibalization (taking a good part currently in use to replace a part somewhere else)
- SoSP: Save valuable (almost priceless) water time
- SoSP: Reflect positively on the holder
- SoSP: Is a competitive advantage
- SoSP: Saves $$$
- SoSP: Reduce the time you spend puking in the bushes

Those who have spare parts look wise, are cool, and can be wickedly helpful.

Those who don't have rowing spare parts will always be dependent on, AND indebted to, those who do have them.

The 3 Elements of Rowing Spare Parts

Let's explore three elements of spare parts to get us on our way:

Element 1: What spare parts do you need?

Element 2: Where can you get your spare parts?

Element 3: Where should you keep your spare parts?

Element 1: How many and what type of spare parts do you need?

What Small Piece >>> Big Impact? You don't have to scratch your head too hard to imagine what that could be for a rowing practice:

- rigger top bolt/nut
- seat wheel
- rigger bolt
- oarlock

When a part like one of those goes bad it stops a practice cold. So those spare parts are always with me - in my practice spare parts stash.

I have three types of parts stashes.

Stash #1: Practice Stash - those small items mentioned above, plus anything else a specific boat, or workout, will rely on.

Stash #2: Race Stash - the Practice Stash PLUS bigger items, such as a spare oar, bow numbers, entire seats, rigger stays, foot stretchers... anything and everything that I could/would/should need. (Sometimes it looks like I brought the entire boathouse with me. Come to think of it... I usually do.)

Brent Bode, Traveling Boatman at Community Rowing, Inc. and instructor for the Institute for Rowing Leadership spent time in the trenches (and pits) of Indy race cars. A teammate used to tell him this about spare parts: "If we don't pack it in the trailer we are sure to need it on race weekend. So pack everything!"

Stash #3: Boathouse Stash - Practice and Race Stashes above, along with any other parts that need replacing frequently.

What Parts To Stash?

If you're looking for suggestions of parts to put in your stashes, here are a few. It is by NO means an exhaustive list but I dare to include it here with the thought that it might get you thinking about what you should stash:

- oars
- rigger (assorted rigger part include frame and all parts)
- seat (or at least wheel(s) or under carriage)
- bow ball
- electronics and chargers
- boat strap
- fin
- microphone
- assorted stainless nuts and bolts
- oarlocks
- oarlock pins
- rudder and cable
- seats and parts
- slings
- spare rigger(s) for each shell
- extra set of vehicle keys
- battery(s)

Bode's Top 5 Spare Parts are:

- Oarlock Spacers
- Skegs / Fins for all boat types and sizes (includes rudders for coxed boats)
- Heel Ties
- Bow Balls
- Lane Numbers (for spring racing season)

Element 2: Where do spare parts come from? Often... but not always... you can get spare parts from the manufacturer. In fact, many boat builders will include spare parts kits with purchases or have them ready to buy separately. A thought to keep in mind - in most places there is NO LEGAL OBLIGATION FOR A MANUFACTURER TO HAVE AND KEEP SPARE PARTS. So the day may come (or its already arrived) where you can't get a spare/replacement part for older piece or speciality equipment.

You may need to turn to other sources. Here are a few recommendations:

- Hardware store
- Online store:
- Cannabilization: be careful about robbing Peter to pay Paul. Meaning DO NOT take things in use as a spare part, because that thing seldom, if ever, gets put back. However, that shell that hasn't been rowed in years (and the future doesn't look very promising for it either) could be a good source of parts.
- Friends/family/fellow coaches: could be helpful in a pinch. Don't forget quick and prompt repayment. Too many relationships have soured when repayment is delayed, or never happens. DO NOT BE THAT COACH.

Element 3: Where should your spare parts stash live?

Tom Peters is known to say (quite often) "Excellence is the next 5 minutes." My version as it relates to the topic at hand is Excellence is having spare parts exactly when and where you need them.

The container for your spare parts does not have to be fancy. Whatever works works!

I suggest finding a container, a home, a nest, a whatever-you-want-to-call-it, and put your spare parts in it.

The container for your spare parts does not have to be fancy. Whatever works works!
The container for your spare parts does not have to be fancy. Whatever works works!

Build a stash. Keep a stash. Use your stash. Love your stash.

The smallest of parts can make an enormous difference. At any rate, spare parts can make your life easier... maybe just a bit. But today that could be wonderful gift... and a competitive advantage.

To learn more about rigging and equipment care, check out Mike's site, sign up for his newsletter, or consider a consult (or one of his books) at

During these unprecendented times, row2k is working hard to keep rowing coming to you; please help us keeping it coming by supporting our work!


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