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Preview: Sliding Seat Rowing In A Wherry

January 13, 2012

Achieving the power and speed possible with sliding seat rowing need not be limited to needle-like shells that are half-a-cheek too narrow for the normal sized rear end. This video explores sculling a kit-built wherry that’s light, handsome, speedy and a far more seaworthy boat than most high performance shells.

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– [Jerry] I always thought rowing was something that you did to get from the land to the boat, and after that, it wasn’t really important anymore.

– We both rode in recreational shells. That’s usually how you start out rowing. As you get better, you do go a narrower lighter boat, which is great in perfect conditions. But if you’re gonna be rowing in open water or water that’s a little bit rougher, this kind of boat where he is is perfect.

– The sliding sea technique, the sliding sea introduced into the boats came in about 1860, 1870s, so it’s quite old. The professional boatmen in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, they made their living rowing people back and forth to boats, and, obviously, the faster the boats, the more in demand they were, and that alone led to the sport of racing small boats. It grew out of the commercial side of things, and it wasn’t long before they realized that if the seat moved, that put a whole new aspect to the muscle groups using the boat. And what’s interesting about all boats now is the designs have not changed much since the 1800s, all we’ve changed sometimes is materials, making the boats lighter and stronger. Okay, so, to demonstrate the difference between a sliding-seat rowing boat and a fixed-seat rowing boat, we’re gonna make the transition on this boat from rowing without the seat moving, and then move into the seat moving, and you’ll see the transfer of power that happens by using the legs and the sliding seat situation. So, right here, we have just arms only, the oars are in the squared position, they have not been feathered. There’s no change in the wrist motion because the oars are staying squared, and this is an excellent opportunity for the rower to feel the position of the oars in the water with the hands without the complications of the seat or the back motion. So right now, it’s just arms only, very gentle, and you can see the speed of the boat is moving along. This would be very typical of rowing skiff, even a well-designed skiff would not move as fast as she’s moving in this really well-made shell at this time. All right, now we’re gonna introduce the back, and you’ll see the transition of power, and the boat will pick up speed. There she goes, bringing the back, and already, now there’s two groups of muscles being incorporated here, not just the arms, but the lower back, the core muscle is being used, and this adds quite a bit to the power of the boat, but yet, we haven’t brought the strongest group of muscles in yet, so you’re about to see the boat pick up speed as we bring in, and a few strokes, Jeanne, will bring in quarter slide, just a quarter slide on this one. So there’s just a little bit of leg now, a little bit of leg being brought into the stroke just a little bit. You might not see the boat pick up speed here, but she is picking up speed. And just go to half slide. Hey, there’s half the legs in. And, full slide, all the way up, all the way up. Good. Now the boat’s gonna move. Now the legs are being incorporated into the boat. You’re gonna find, we’re gonna have to catch up here. So you can already see difference between rowing with just the arms and, now, arms legs and back. And the whole idea of this is that using the strong group of muscles, which are your quadriceps. And then, the core of the back, and the arms really only play a role, mostly to bring in the oars and cross over and come back out. So the arms actually have very little power to the stroke, the legs are it. It’s a little bit beamy, so it’s a little bit stable, unlike a racing shell, which has no stability, but, yet, it’s sleek enough that it allows her to move effortlessly through the water, so it’s ideal for recreational open water rowing, which most shells are not. She could go for miles and miles this way without ever having to feel tired. Beautiful boat. One of the things that we watch in rowing is the wake that is generated of the back of the boat. And it tells you a lot about the slipperiness of the hull, watching the bubbles come off the back of the boat, or the lack of bubbles, I should say. And that’s what I was watching quite a bit, to see if the boat was really disturbing the water much, and it was a clean wake in coming off the back, which tells you the design is very well thought out.

– [Jeanne] You know, it was very easy to row. It just felt like, you know, the blades fell on the water real easily, came out real easily. There was no struggle to try and, you know, get my handles down and get the blades out of the water.

– Yeah, the rigger height is well thought out because a lot of boats, people think you can just drop one of these, drop in riggers, and you’ve got a sliding-seat rowing boat. It’s not true, it has to be really well thought out, because it could be too high off the water. You want your oar handles right down into the mid-body section, so, the people who designed this boat have been very aware of that. That’s not just an accident.

– And the other thing is that you could put gear in here, so, if you wanted to row out to an island and bring a picnic, you know, when you had a few people who had this kind of a boat, you could do that. You know, the both of us are able to row it, and we probably have 70 pounds difference in our weight, which is pretty significant if you were, you know, a couple. Both people could use it, and get you inside of it if you only had one boat. And the fact that you can car top it, and if you have riggers pop out with two bolts throughout. Let’s take the riggers off. The boat is light, put on top of your car and go for a road.

– [Jeanne] I found that if you row at least a few times a week, you can pretty much eat as much as you want. I used to, I would row to maintain my eating habit.

– The kit form would allow you to build this boat in a matter of weeks with minimal skills, minimal carpentry skills. This is a boat that I would like to build in my shop, and the pieces and parts all come already cut, so it’s just a matter of fitting them. So, I think it’s exciting. I think it’s a really exciting design and idea, and the fact that you can make it yourself just adds to the pleasure of rowing it. You know, rowing your own boat that you built. What could be better than that?



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