In Rowing, steering in the straight 4 must be done only when the oars are in the water or the boat will flap from side to side. In the straight four, steering is a little more difficult because you use your foot which you torque to the right or left pivoting on the ball of your foot, in addition to looking around. In a straight four, my foot was almost always cranked in one direction during the stroke to keep the boat straight. A strong bowman needs to compensate, i.e. adjust power to keep the boat straight.

Rigging in general is fairly technical depending on the style. My coach wanted the oars closer to the water, and the length of the oars (from the oarlock to the blade) was adjusted based on whether you were in an eight (longer) or a four (a little shorter).

Your technique also will vary with head, tail or crosswinds. In a head wind you want to feather at the last minute and let the wind push your blade into the water. Early feathering increases drag and reduces catch speed. In a tail wind, earlier feathering helps move the oar with less effort and energy so feathering a little early is less of an issue and makes the catches snappier.

The old wooden oars had a certain way of flexing, a stiffness, where the newer carbon fiber oars from Concept 2 helped that flex work to your advantage by adding a little whip action at the finish of the stroke. The new “blade” oars are even more carefully designed for maximum water movement and placement.

My old coach said he chose guys who picked up the wrong end of the oar: ergo, they saw the world differently from the conventional. The sport of rowing looks simple and rather easy, but like the market, there are many technical aspects, techniques and measurements that make everything from the oar, to the rigging length, angle and pitch (which was often accomplished with tape and Popsicle sticks) to the order in which various guys are seated, to hand speed and oar handling that all fit together to win races. This comes from experience and experimentation.

In the market headwinds today, traders must adjust their timing, hand speed and wait to feather later in order to catch the trade at the right moment. Trying new things is difficult in stormy conditions, but careful oar work and a controlled slide offer balance and control. Experience, patience and strategy are key.

If you don’t finish the race, you have no chance of winning…



 I was an oarsman once and was fortunate to row for a former Olympic oarsman who became the coach of the Olympic champions prior to my meeting him. His story was one of a fat kid who ended up in a car accident and suffered severe injuries that resulted in speculation that he would never walk again. Of course these Doctors did not know this man.

He went on to attend the 1964 and '68 Olympic games, and his picture graces a certain boathouse on the Schuylkill when they were down for a competition many moons ago.

His quotes were legendary as was the training methodology that he utilized. The concept of pain was what he was willing to put himself through to psychologically destroy his competition. Starting a 10 mile run in a sprint, so he could hide in the bushes and puke as his teammates wondered where he had gone. Holding a drive at the 500 by the boat beside you, then crushing their spirit with a drive of your own. Vintage Neil. What he lacked in physical prowess versus his competitors, he made up for with psychological gamesmanship.

In Upstate New York for a training camp we trained the the formidable crews there and were told of their training regimen. Their coach created a program that could not realistically be accomplished in a session, and was designed so that they would get done the small amount he set out to do. Our program was a set number of strokes or kms per day, with a certain number of “hard strokes” . This was usually 400-600. Each length of the rowing course can be covered with roughly 200 strokes and between 1:15 to 1:30 per 500. The objective was 10 kms every day all included. In looking at the two methods he said that the other guys learned to hold back in order to complete a regimen they knew they could not finish, for us the expectation was clear: all out for every session, because it could be done.

I trained with this man for varying periods for four years, and rowed for him for two. This is some of what I learned:

Row your own race: It is not relevant what the other crew is doing to your right and left. Head in the boat, eyes forward.

Problems begin in your seat: If you are frustrated with one of your teammates, and you notice he is doing something incorrectly, check your own technique. Odds are you are doing something to affect the smooth and efficient operation of the boat.

Substance over style: It is more important to have men that can pull, than ones that are technically gifted at rowing. Neil said that you can always teach a puller how to row, not so with a rower who will not pull.

The race is won in the preseason: Those that train hard before the season on the water are the ones that win.

Less is more: Doing too much weight for a given exercise and as a result doing the exercise improperly is of less value than using less weight and doing it technically correctly. Or placing unrealistic training goals does not lead to better results.

A beginning, middle and an end: Each race has a start: three and 20, with a settle period into the first 500 pylon where your first hard 10 takes place. This happens at each 500 until the final 500 or 50 strokes where you coast, turn it up, or burn the barn depending on how the race is playing out, and what part of qualifying you are in. Most boats are with you at 500. Good ones at 1000, your real competition is with you at 1500.

Good finishing: When you are done, no theatrics. Sit up straight and look like you are ready to go back to the start right away and race again. This further demoralizes your competition whom you may meet again today, or in another competition.

There is always someone better: You hope they don’t show up to compete with you that day.

Winning is golden: If you aren’t racing to win don’t bother wasting your team's time. You win gold, accept silver and bronze.

Rowing has proven an excellent training ground for life and markets. For it was at the point of greatest “pain” and suffering that I found depths and strengths that I did not know were available. I spent time with a man who showed many snot nosed 16 to 19 year olds how to train, live and become men over 20 plus years. He is a legend amongst those who trained with and rowed for him. God rest his soul. He was one tough bastard.


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