Rowing position & form

Hi all,

The Chester Yawl is built and moves nicely on the water. Though certainly not a racing shell, I do want to get the most out of myself and the boat - efficient and effective rowing.

1. Seat and footbrace locations - I have been rowing with the stool near the forward end of the middle floorboard and two or three slots showing behind the footbrace. I am 5' 11', stocky, and my wife would say I have short legs. Should my knees be at, in front of, or behind the oarlocks?

2. My legs tend to "frogleg" with knees going down and out frorming a diamond shape. Should I be looking to keep my knees close together - which then presents the challenge of avoiding the knees with the hands & oars?

Thanks for the input.


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RE: Rowing position & form

If you're having trouble clearing your knees on the recovery, that would suggest that you need to move the footrest farther aft to straighten out your legs a bit.  You don't want your legs completely straight out (knees need to be slightly bent to get a good push with your legs on the stroke), but your knees should not be higher than the oarlocks.

Either that, or your taking your hands too low on the recovery.  Your hands should move through a flattish oval pattern as you go from the stroke to the recovery and back again in order to minimize wasted motion.  Think of moving your hands more like the drivers on a steam locomotive, not a circular motion like blades on a windmill, hands moving level to the water on both the stroke and recovery, bringing the oar blades no deeper than necessary for a good bite on the stroke, nor higher than necessary to clear the water on the recovery.  Obviously, that last part gets trickier if the water is rough, which may call for a change of position and a shorter stroke.


RE: Rowing position & form

...and, I meant to add, congratulations on getting your Chester Yawl built and out messing about.  I wish you all joy of what is, by all acccounts, a splendid rowboat!


RE: Rowing position & form

Thank you Michael.

Good info. I will pay attention to how straight the legs are and the "flatness of the oval". Any thoughts on seat/stool position? Should knees be forward, aft, or at the oarlocks?



RE: Rowing position & form

Fixed seat rowing geometry is a tricky business, with a lot of different ideas as to what is "best".  Even given similar body dimensions, different rowers will find various setups more or less comfortable.  Throw in differences in body size and proportion, and things get even more resistant to hard and fast rules.  At least with your Chester Yawl, some adjustability is built into the design.  Here are a few of my further thoughts, with the caveat that my rowing eperience does not include a CLC Chester Yawl, not that I haven't lusted after one.  <;-)

I think the starting place has to be the location of the after edge of the rowing thwart or seat in relation to the oarlocks.  I think the reason for that is that most of us would want to row with our buttocks resting on the seat just forward of the after edge, in other words, with our weight entirely on the buttocks and not at all on the thighs.  I've seen diagrams calling for the distance from the after edge of the seat to the oarlocks as anything from 8" to maybe 13" or more.  For a tall person with long arms, the higher end of that is probably better, but remember that we can only effectively use just so much of the potential range of motion of the oars, regardless of the individual rowers "length of reach".

It is quite common to see folks, especially in boats with shorter oars, trying to get too long of a stroke for effecient rowing.  I used to row a Sea Pearl 21 sailboat as auxiliary power, and, even with the ten foot oars on a five and a half foot spread at the oarlocks, I could grab a longer stroke than was good for me, despite the fact that I am neither very tall (5'-8") nor particularly long of which I am a bit thick in the middle.  Probably a bit thick in the head, too, but I digress....

Back to your question, where your knees land in relation to the oarloks maybe isn't as important as the length of your reach.  The idea is to have the seat/oarlocks distance such that the oars come perpendicular to the centerline of the boat (straight out) about in the middle of your stroke without you having to reach too far aft at the beginning nor lean too far back (toward the forward end of the boat--rowing is all about learning to think backwards!) at the end.

So, ignoring your knees for a bit (other than arranging things so they aren't too high), I'll bet you'll find that there is one position of the seat slots which puts the aft edge of the seat about a foot forward of the oarlocks.  Start there, position the footrest so your knees don't bend too much when you are sitting with your buttocks/thighs interface at the aft edge of the seat, and see if you can get comfortable getting a good stroke.  If you feel like the oars are too close to your chest, move the seat (and footrest) forward a notch.  If you feel like you're having to reach too far aft at the beginning of the stroke, move them aft a notch.  Somewhere in there you ought to able to find something which works.


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