row2k Features
Technique Feature: Clean Finishes
July 6, 2022
Charlotte Hollings, Calm Waters Rowing

I've noticed that many coaches and crews like to emphasize the effort needed to feather, making the release so hard that the oars make a distinct noise in the oarlock at the release. In doing this, the feather becomes very much a part of the drive - feather and then move out of bow - while also causing the blade to throw up a wall of water.

We coach making the feather part of the recovery - feathering as the hands and body move out of bow together. Imagine both the hands and blades moving as a conveyor belt: as the hands come into the finish, they gently press down, allowing the blades to come part way out of the water while still square and on the drive (see the photo at the top of the article above).

At this point, immediately before the feather, stop pulling and allow the pressure to come off the face of the blade. Then, when the hands start the feather, they should be moving out of bow as they move down so the top edge of the blades moves towards bow as the bottom edge feathers out.

In this way, the blades can slip out of the water with very little disturbance, very little noise and very little water thrown up at the release. This can be especially important when rowing in a team boat as a big splash at the finish can make the recovery more difficult for those rowing to the stern of you. Being clean at the finish will also make it easier to increase the rating as you're not fighting to get the oar out of the water. The blades can be extracted without disturbing the momentum that has been generated through the drive; momentum that will continue to build as the body moves out of bow.

To feather more easily, stop pulling just before the feather, allowing the oar handle to coast ever so briefly which takes the pressure off the face of the blade. The grip also needs to be fairly loose, holding on with the fingers and not the entire hand.

Use the thumb to push against the oar handle at the release while the fingers roll the handles away from the body. We can use some wrist but try not to make it all wrist and definitely don't let the elbow get involved. In sweep, the inboard hand only does the feathering, but the goal is the same, to roll the handle out on to the fingers, away from the body.

The easiest way to practice this is with a stationary drill. Sit at the finish with the blades squared and buried. Think of this as the end of the drive, after the pressure has been cut. Now you want to combine three movements - down, away and feather. Imagine the hands going down a slide, or to go back to the conveyor belt analogy, the bottom turn of the conveyor belt.

If you watch the blades, you should see the top edge of the blade coming out of the water square (the down motion) and then the top edge feathers towards the bow as the bottom half of the blade comes out of the water (feather and away with still a little downward motion). Work to move the body out of bow along with the hands.

There are many advantages to feathering this way - it's physically easier, it's cleaner and doesn't waste time hanging out in bow. Another bonus is that we can more easily get full body preparation by half slide as we are immediately starting the motion out of bow and not sitting at the finish. When working on the release, watch the blades as they come out of the water. When you get it, the finish should be easy and clean, with a solid puddle and little splash.

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Log in to comment
07/09/2022  6:43:59 PM
Spot on, Charlotte (!!!) … my “conveyor belt “ doesn’t always cooperate, but in a year or two this technique will be well worth the effort. THANKS.

Mark Borchelt
07/06/2022  6:19:08 PM
Great description. Very efficient technique.

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