Cool rowing interview: Bill Zack

This month’s guest coach is Bill Zack. Bill Zack is

the assistant coach for the UCLA women’s rowing team.

Previously, Bill was the head coach for Sacramento
State and a two-time WIRA coach of the year. Bill has
been on the staff of four World Championship teams as
well as the 1995 Pan-Am Games and the 1996 Olympics.
For the last three years, he has coached at the
USRowing Junior Women’s Development Camp.

Bill was nice enough to answer a few questions on
rigging.

Q. In terms of maximum boat speed, how important do
you think rigging is?

A.  I think that rigging for rower comfort (height,
pitch, shoe placement, etc.) is very important.  But I
have come to believe that changing the rigging for
load (spread, inboard, oar length, etc.) doesn’t have
much effect on speed at all as long as the rigging is
in a broadly acceptable range.

Q. How much time do you devote to rigging per week
during the season?

A.  I generally don’t adjust the rigging at all during
the fall or winter.  I’ll tinker a little bit with the
rigging during race season, but I try not to spend
more than an hour or two per week.  I also think it is
important to choose the right brand and size of shell
and brand and type of oar for each crew.

Q. What is your favorite part of rigging?

A.  The first time that I coached at the World
Championships, in 1997, we had a brand-new Empacher to
use.  I loved putting together the rigging on a
brand-new boat; I wish I could do it more often.

Q. What is your least favorite part of rigging?

A.  I really hate trying to loosen up parts that just
don’t want to loosen.  Skinned knuckles is not a lot
of fun.  And have you ever tried to tighten the
upside-down wing nuts that hold the tracks down?  I
usually try to con somebody else into doing that,
claiming that my Popeye-like forearms prevent me from
reaching the nuts.

Q. Do you have one rigging tip that you would like to
share with the readers?

A.  If your crew is not going as fast as you think it
can, don’t look to rigging as the first option. Time
spent changing the rigging might be better spent on
video analysis or changing the personnel.