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Secret Rowing Weapon #3: Is your hull trimmed?

(This post is cowritten with Casey Baker, from Resolute Racing Shells.)

The trim of a shell is an interesting measurement. Interesting mainly because few rowers pay attention to it. Really interesting because it is a place where you can pick up some quick speed with very little effort.

The trim is how level the boat is when it is sitting in the water. The goal of properly trimmed shell is to have the boat as close to level as possible throughout the entire stroke cycle. All things equal, a properly trimmed boat will be faster than a shell that is not trimmed.

When people are added to a shell the trim will change. And with moving seats, and moving mass, the trim of your boat will even change during the stroke. And significant differences can slow you down.

Many rowers and coaches have placed little if any focus on a shell’s trim. And because of this the trim could be a secret weapon for you.

To utilize your new secret weapon, you should first determine if your hull’s trim is where you need it. Try these two methods to determine if your trim is right for you.

Method #1: Quick Method

Put your boat in the water. Then put your rowers in. Take a 3-foot-long level and put it on the gunwale. Have the rowers come to the catch. Then have the rowers come to the finish, and then sit at the mid drive. Notice the reading of the level in all three positions.

01-07-13 - when level boat is trimmed.jpg

How were the readings?

At the mid drive, was the level centered? At the catch was there a slight stern drop? At the finish, a slight bow drop? If any of those readings were off more than just slightly you might have an issue.

If from this quick test, you think you have a problem, then you should probably adjust your trim (and I’ll discuss that in the next post). If you want more specific information about how severe your trim-issue might be, try this . . .

Method #2: Advanced Method

Get some pinstriping tape, black in the case of a white boat, about 1/8” thick, and make three hash marks with the tape on the bow and stern of the boat just like you would see on a ship. This tape is wrapped around the bow, as well as the stern to show on both sides of the boat.

Make the top and bottom pinstripe 1cm above and below the middle stripe. Also make the middle stripe the longest, like 2” on each side and the upper and lower stripe shorter, like 1 ½ inches. You can set the marks from an empty boat in dead flat water, or with a crew loaded in the boat. The goal is to have the marks give you your indication of trim both bow and stern.

01-07-13 -  pinstripes on shell.jpg

Now put your team in the boat, and have them row. What are you noticing on the trim markers? Significant drop to bow or stern? These markers will not only give you an idea of whether you have a problem, but how significant the issue might be.

In the next post I’ll go over two of the more popular ways to trim the hull in your shell.

Until then, let us know of any thoughts you have. Just leave a comment below.