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The Masters Regatta Lineup Puzzle: Tactics for Selecting Masters Lineups for Regattas
June 11, 2021
Marlene Royle, OTR and Rebecca Caroe

Picking your crew lineups for a regatta is a delicate task for Masters group organizers and coaches. There are so many potentially “touchy” topics. Rather than present a vanilla approach, we thought it would give insight to share the process Rebecca uses for her club group, a mixed club of racing and non-racing members with some who train one-three times/week, and others who train five days/week or more.

1. Start with a spreadsheet.

Planning a regatta squad start with creating a spreadsheet with a list of every single event in the order in which they will be raced. The critical issue here is the turnaround times between events. We normally find you need at least three races in between races for an athlete to finish one event and get back to the start for the next event.

Then make a list of all of the athletes who have signed up to attend, including their age, and their sweep and sculling preferences.

2. First preference crews

Part of our club’s modus operandi is that we encourage members to ask for their first-choice preferred crew lineup and event. In this way we allow people to set their own personal priorities. We have an understanding that after you have your #1 crew, you will join any crew for which you are selected without complaint.

Many people say they only want to do two or three races, and we also try to boat crews of people who train regularly together. We find that if there is a group who enjoy training together that makes it super easy for crew selection!

3. Simplifying lineups

I find it most straightforward to put people into groups of four athletes. In this way you have the same people in the same crews at the same time and there are fewer boat sharing and lineup conflicts between races. So for example, four people may do a quad and then they may split into two doubles, and they may also do a coxless four.

The next job is to run through the list of events and to write draft names next to each event, using the list of priority crews to put those in first.

Next, run down the list a second time adding in each crew’s average age based on the people in the lineup. This shows which age class they are in and which are close to the age limit.

Then return to the list of names to write the event number that each person is rowing in next to their name.

This quickly shows that some people might have five races and others only have one! From here, review the list again and move people between boats so that everybody has a similar number of races. Knowing the average age of each lineup helps see where if you will have to change age categories when switch an athlete in or out.

4. Boats, oars and coxswains

The last job is then to allocate boats and oars against each of the events. We have several boats which can be rigged for both sweep and sculling, which creates the necessity of allowing time to re-rig in between races.

5. Testing and checking

Then the fun starts! I send the draft spreadsheet to a small group of people who review for and point out any errors, omissions, and overlaps. There have been some hilarious ones in the past, including putting the same person in three crews the same event, and another when one crew member was listed as both Bev and Beverley with her married and maiden last names - so she ended up in the same crew twice!

Based on this I do a further revision and then send it round to the athletes as a draft. That allows people to see some of our suggestions and to come back with any objections or changes which they want made.

This leads to the next version of the spreadsheet, and in the meantime people start training in their crew combinations. The final lineups are given to our entries secretary who steps up to do the hideous task of putting in the regatta entries. I’m so grateful I do not have to do this.

And of course, on the day there are sometimes drop-outs and crew swaps... but those are relatively easy to manage compared to the work already done.

Marlene Royle and Rebecca Caroe coach at Faster Masters Rowing Programs, video & technique for masters at

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