Pros and Cons of Using Tape to Tell Oar Depth

Laurie just sent a great question about blade oar depth. She asks:

Hi Mike! Can you give me some guidelines on where best to place depth-marking tape on the sweep oar. If you have any ideas on this and if you could tell me from where you are measuring ie- the end of the blade or where the blade attaches to the shaft.
This is for some varsity college guys who are digging a bit and thought the visual may help…any thoughts?

Thanks Laurie, for the question. Let’s see if this helps.

Why To Do It

The oar during the drive moves rather quickly, often around 1 second, and it sometimes can be difficult to see the placement of the oar under the surface. A wrap of tape along the lower shaft of the oar (often called the throat) can help a coach or coxswain gauge the depth of the oar during the drive.

The tape also gives, from behind the shell, a view of how all the oars on a side work, or don’t work, together.

However, in conversation about this with Allen Rosenberg (coach extraordinaire) he noted that the blade depth is likely to change  as a boat’s speed increases. However, the tape could be a good tool for noticing fluctuations that shouldn’t be happening.

Personally, I’ve used tape, and then not used it—depending on the level of skill of the crew. I’ve found it to beneficial when coaching beginners but as the rowers become more experienced it was not quite as helpful.

How To Do It

The first part of the process is pretty simple:

  1. Get the heights correct for each rigger
  2. Then put boat in the water
  3. Put oars in
  4. Have rowers sit in boat with oars buried, at the finish.
  5. Check oar handle height at release and blade depth to make sure they are correct

The second part is a little tricky. You then need to bring your launch over to the buried oars, use your fingers to mark the place on the shaft where the it enters the water. Then I gently lift the oar up, dry it and put a wrap of tape around it.

From here you can either do all the oars, or wait until you come in from your row, measure the distance on the marked oar, and then mark the rest.

My tape of choice is colored duct tape. If I don’t have that, colored electrical tape works well. The brighter the better.

When To Do It

I suggest that you do this process when you have some time to set it up correctly, and when you have time to be able to work with the results. The info you will get may prompt you to make changes in technique (not a great thing to do the day before a race).

Where To Do It

Do this on water that is flat and nice (preferably not at 35 degrees F). Flat water is critical.

I hope that helps Laurie. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know.