One of the more important parts of the stroke in rowing is the catch and in order to have a good catch you need to time it right, have a good timing at the catch. On the water the catch happens direct as the mass of the rower and the mass of the boat move on opposite directions and find each other at the catch. The mass of the rower is moving to the stern as the mass of the boat is coming under the body.
The good catch is a reaction of many things happening at the same time. In order to have a good catch and time it right I like to explain to the rower that he needs to have a good release and good control of the boat, balance. The reason is because if you are not connected to the blade at the end of the stroke, having pressure still on the blade and the footstretcher as you release, you won’t be able to transfer your body mass to the stretcher and have control of the boat. This transfer of body mass to the strectcher as you iniciate your recovery will come as you have advanced your gravity center ahead of your hips and have positioned your body on a good posture to eventually at the catch jump and suspend.
As you get going to the catch on a stable position, you will feel how the boat is coming under you and you are compressing your legs getting to the stern with your body set forward, with good hip rotation and seating up. At this moment what I like the rower to do as his hands that carry the blades move around the knees is to send the hands close to the knees and at this point start squaring getting ready for the catch. I like to make things simple and very clear and I know that by sending the hands down, eventually they will go up at the catch and find the water with the perfect timing with a direct motion. Also by squaring early we assure that the rower doesn’t need to do extra work wit his wrist at the catch, the blade is ready and has inertia coming from under and going up to find the water.
When all that is working and the rower is driving his body to the stern as the body is coming under him, the blade is ready and the hands are looking for the water coming with inertia from behind, at this moment the rower is ready to find the water and achieve a perfect timing. How?
Here is a good example of good timing at the catch:
At this moment the first thing that the rower needs to do is to make it happen naturally looking for a direct entry and simultaneous connection with the feet to the strtecher with relax neck and shoulders, good posture and good engagement of lower back and lats. At the catch it should feel like we are in a pause motion as the arms get extended and carve the water to find the load as we load the weight on the stretcher to transfer the negative forces of the change of direction to the blade. The arrival to the catch and compression and take off should feel like jumping on a trampoline. As the rower is compressing his body to get ready for the catch, his blade is getting directed to the water and loaded and as it carves the water and finds connection finding pressure on feet and hands. At this moment his body goes up. The body will go up as a reaction of driving well his hips and blocking his lower back lever. The key here will be the time we use to find connection on the water as we jump on the stretcher. This time should be close to zero. The timing here if it is perfect won’t let the stern go down and will send the boat up as the body weight has changed direction and has transfered all the negative forces to the blade instead of the stern.
As you can see many things are happening at the same time to achieve good timing at the catch and it really needs to be done together to be able to master and work on the movement.
A good way of working on the timing at the catch is doing this drill that this Italian sculler is doing.
Another way is to slow things down to be able to work on all I said on a very slow motion. One way to do that is by rowing on a Team boat stoping part of the crew. This will make the boat slower and heavier. Another way is to work with a bungee to also make the boat slower to facilitate again balance and timing.