When a certain unnamed but blunt-speaking international coach (use your imagination) first arrived in the U.S. to lead the national teams, he complained colorfully about the athletes’ poor releases, taking the greatest issue with how hurried the Americans were to extract their blades from the water. One theory was it stemmed from a fear of crabbing at the finish. That fear, however, not to mention the weak finish that results from such a timid approach, can be overcome by focusing on the feather. Have your rowers draw the handle level roughly to the bottom of the rib cage.
The draw—more of a squeeze—should stop short of touching the body.
Only then should the feathering motion begin. Emphasize to those who are worried their blade could get stuck in the water that the slip of the blade results in a hollow behind it. A strong draw is required to create this effect. From there, the downward motion of the outside hand and the rolling of the inside hand happen together for a clean extraction of the blade. For a clean catch, the inside hand should roll the blade square over the toes so that it is prepped for entry and the bottom edge is just off the water.