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Rigging numbers for scullers

BY VOLKER NOLTE
PHOTO BY ED MORAN

As we plan to return to rowing on the water, we must prepare our boats properly.

After safety checks, the next thing to check is rigging. Rigging needs to be set so that athletes have the most fun–whether improving technique, achieving the highest speed, or simply enjoying rowing on the water. Rigging is the start of all this, and we need to know the numbers we’re looking for when measuring our equipment.

Let’s make this easy by using as a starting point a proven measurement for all athletes that can be fine-tuned for the individual rower–the “zero number.” 

Oarlock height is a good example. In sculling, we need to decide two things: the vertical distance between the oarlock and the seat; and the difference between the starboard and port oarlock.

Use 17 centimeters as the zero number for lightweight rowers, and 18 cm. for open-weight rowers (measured on the starboard oarlock), and one centimeter for the difference between oarlocks. 

Now watch athletes rowing on the water to see whether you need to fine-tune for height, weight, limb length, skill level, and boat design.

The zero numbers for scull measurements are trickier because there are more factors to be considered, particularly blade type and performance level. Here are recommended overall lengths in centimeters for sculls with the most commonly used blades:

Blade Type/
Skill Level
COMP, ERAPEX, Arrow, Big Blade, Slick, Smoothie Plain EdgeFatBlade
International286288 280
National285287278
Club281285276
Masters279283274

    The zero number for span is 160 centimeters. The inboard length should be set according to the span and is calculated by this formula: Inboard = Span/2 +8 cm. ±1 cm.

     Fine-tuning for individual athletes follows these principles:

     * If the load is too high or too low, increase or decrease the inboard length within the limits of the above-mentioned formula, or decrease or increase the overall length of the oar.

    * If the stroke is too short or too long, decrease or increase the span.

    The process of fine-tuning should be done always by changing only one variable at a time so that changes as experienced can be attributed clearly to a particular factor. Also, one should be certain about what criteria will be used to evaluate a change.

    For example, changing the overall length of the scull can have different effects. The rower may be able to sustain a higher stroke rate over a longer time, and therefore increase race speed, but it will be more difficult to balance the boat, and more technical skill will be needed to maintain a high speed at low stroke rates. While a competitive rower may like the change to a shorter scull, a beginner or recreational rower may not.

    Fine-tuning is a long and ongoing process that can be compared to riding a bike, which requires changing gears constantly in hilly and windy conditions. We need to monitor the effect of rigging changes and fine-tune based on solid zero numbers in accord with conditions on the water.

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