If I need to answer that question with words I will say: Boat feel is the feel of the feedback of the boat and your body while rowing. How rowing feels when is done right?
This is a key question and the answer to this question is very important. There is only one way to know this and it is rowing a Team boat with a good rower and feel his rowing. This experience is a lot more powerful than any explanation done with words. Good boat feel is too complex to be explained and needs to be experienced.
For me boat feel is one of the key elements to row fast. Why? Because the only way to know what you need to do to get the boat to its full speed the more efficient way is by making adjustments depending on what you feel.
I also use the feedback of the rowperfect3 computer software to feel the way your body moves the most efficient during the rowing stroke. I take this feel to the water and try to replicate the most efficient movements that the computer and rowing simulator is teaching me when I reach the best possible numbers and power curve for the effort realized.
When I get these numbers, I remember how it feels and try to repeat it again and again until is wired to my system. That way I can take it to the water where I don’t have that accurate feedback.
You feel or perceive through the sense of touch or contact of your body with the boat. The rower feels the boat, the water, his body and also listens and looks at.
In this video you can listen and see what you think the rower might be feeling.
In this next few opinions some people talk about what boat feel means for them:
“I think the simplest way to explain it, if this is what you mean, is just that, being aware of how your actions affect the motion of the boat in terms of run, dipping at bow or stern and lateral balance. Or, when you see a change in splits, being aware of what led to it?”
“You can describe love. But until you have that Eureka moment in life you can’t create the experience for anyone.
I wouldn’t linger on it until someone says “that felt really good” then ask why.
Once you have an athlete who has good feel, they can educate others by cnveying the standard of feel at anyone time.
However the only way to create feel is to teach correct technique until with the right athletes they just get it. Some never get it. But some people never really fall in love.”
“How do you describe the feel of driving a car or riding a bike? I’ve been in the game for decades and can’t tell you. As a top coxswain reminded me lately, her role is a guide dog for the blind. That says more about the rowers, their repetitive motion, and the lack of visual cues, than it says about the coxswain’s role. More than a lot of athletes, rowers feel their way through the sport – they don’t see very much. Recently, because of what she said, I’ve been coaching a lot more for feel (and sound) and less for action, and it’s helped.
There are things to feel for. The feet moving toward you instead of your reaching out. Hanging on the handles, acceleration, quiet finishes, the rise and fall of the hull, the unbending of the oar shafts, the calves touching down before the arms break, the turning of the wheels around the catch, the quads locked down through the finish, and more. Feel is why we do drills. But when a boat feels smooth and fast, it likely is…at least relative to your skill level. It’s one of the great things about rowing. Even the first-day novice knows it.”
“I have found that in order to “teach”, or probably more accurately create an environment for an athlete to discover the feel of efficiently moving the boat, it is often very helpful to remove the “non-feel” cues and “crutches” so to speak that most rowers rely on to execute the stroke. For example, while most people are familiar with having rowers close their eyes as a drill on occasion, I have routinely taken to having athletes go through the large bulk of some practices with blindfolds on as soon as they are tied in so that the visual cues that allow them to escape their reliance on feel are not available under any circumstances. While this may be a bit disconcerting to many individuals at first, it certainly was for me whenever I did it, once the visual cues are just not there, even by peaking for one stroke, the athlete does what he/she has to do to get into a proper rhythm and move the boat and the level of concentration and focus on the actual connection to the water on the drive and the effect it has on the speed of the whole system is dramatic. This blindfolded drill is effective not just with steady state rowing but can be done at racing cadence and in doing starts, etc. depending on the level of the crews. I have always wanted to actually have a crew execute an actual race blindfolded at an early season race of little importance to go through the exercise under actual race conditions, but have always been a bit concerned that doing so would be disrespectful to the other crews, so my crews have only done so in pieces against each other during practices.
Once the blindfolds are removed towards the end of any given practice, and the visual cues are back, I have found that the technical precision and efficiency of the crew is dramatically improved along with the speed as reflected by the splits on the speed-coach.
There are other means of removing cues which your crew may be relying on which are preventing them from being in a position to discover the feel of the boat, and using creative tools to remove the “distractions” which they are relying on to essentially avoid the more difficult physical and mental task of feeling the movement of the boat is often very effective. This means that you are not so much teaching feel as you are removing those distractions which prevent them from learning feel in the only way I really think is effective, namely discovering it themselves. You can describe it as much as you want, but until someone feels it they will not truly know what you are talking about. It is the coach’s task to create the environment which will result in that discovery through the use of whatever creative drills or tools you can think of to match your specific situation or problem.”