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Sweeping the Surfboat..... Part 3

Sweeping the Surfboat Part 3In part 3 we will be looking at the run out to the turning buoys, to understand your job over this part of the race, plus the turn and return journey to the gate cans.

In general terms this will be the part of the race where your crew will need to show off their best boat speed so to achieve that as a sweep we need to have the boat balanced and set up as best we can.

Û    Keep the boat well balanced. Learn to allow for the ever changing angle of the water surface. Crews can’t row efficiently if one side of the boat is reaching while the other in scraping the handle along their legs. Using the feel of the boat through the feet don’t be afraid to alter the pitch of the boat as it climes over or through rough water if the swell is hitting the hull on an angle. To achieve this you may pressure down on one side of the boat momentarily to set all rowers up with an even drop on the catch. As soon as the catch is locked rower power takes over and propels the boat forward and quickly righting the levels required

Û    Keep the crew calm and concentrating on their best rowing. The row to sea is where your style and speed training is best utilised so the crew must stay focused and they can’t do that with a sweep berating them with panicked or unclear instructions

Û    Pick your best racing line remembering a straight line is always the shortest course but in strong cross wind you may need to be laying off into the wind so at the turn you don’t leave the crew miles away from their can

Û    Work out your turning method and learn to aim for a constant run in distance to the cans. For example the cans are 23M apart so you should be setting up to be no more than a third of the way across that space when you start you turn into the cans

Û    Different sweeps have different turning styles but when you decide on what works for you consistency of line into the turn is your best friend allowing of course for any incoming swell that could hit the cans at the same time as your boat

Û    Read the Surf Sports Manual and know you’re give way rules so you don’t find your crew DQ’d for a simple mistake

Û    Don’t take to many risks on the turn that could see you miss the can. It may be only a meter but if you miss it you will be doing another 20 meters to go around again

Û    Turns must be practised over and over so they become second nature. Complacency in turning has cost many a good crew a spot in the final

Û    When straightening up out of the turn be sure you take a quick look for your gate can. It is important to quickly identify you homeward bound track so you don’t miss the gates. Some sweeps will use a predetermined back of beach marker like a house or tent that is easily identifiable at the turn cans to locate the planned run home but whatever your method DO NO MISS THE GATE CAN

Û    As soon as you have yourself and the crew settled into rowing after the turn you should be looking at the ocean to pick any swell that is travelling your way. You can shift around a little searching for that run but always be mindful of your position in relation to your gate

Û    If you move off line chasing a swell you have to be mindful of not interfering with a neighbouring crew but you must still be able to realign to pass the gate can on the correct side

Û    As a rule some sweeps will stay forward on the front quarter bar and some will shift back in between the two bars or further. It really depends on your individual height and ability as to where you stand. The key is to keep the oar in contact with the water at all times so if you’re tall and can stay forward and achieve that, use that advantage. If you’re shorter you may need to shift aft to increase the shaft angle to maintain constant blade and water contact

Û    If the swells are sitting up be prepared to jump onto the chocks regardless of where you are in the race. In certain type of conditions and depending on our height you could find yourself getting up and down from swell to swell

Û    Keeping the sweep blade in constant contact with the water is the key to holding your line. An exercise to reinforce the point for constant blade contact with the water while at training set the boat up on a runner out the back and lift the sweep blade clear of the water, watch just how quickly the boats loses direction. Remember as a rule the boat will be travelling at greater speed coming home so the sweep blade becomes more of a rudder in holding the water which in turn holds the run line

Importance of blade angle when running swells

Û    Remember in Part 2 we spoke about the angle of the blade and how we keep it trailing just off the flat. We also said the blade didn’t go vertical until on a wave

Û    Running a swell is the exception, it mightn’t technically be a wave but if your boat is running it has more speed that can be handled quickly with the flat blade so by employing a quick turn of the wrist and bringing the blade onto the vertical it will provide immediate steering control

Û    While ever the boat is shooting on a run you are required to directly control and steer with a vertical blade

Û    As soon as you drop off the run you revert to a flat blade so it can be slipped around on the water

Û    As you run home you will constantly be adjusting the angle of blade attack to the water. Remember it must always maintain contact with the water or the rear of the boat will take off sideways. So by changing the blade angle to react to the sped of the boat you can maintain the constant steerage required

Û    Important in achieving the blade water contact is to be always raising and lowering the hand height holding the sweep handle. If you’re starting to overreach above your head and risk losing water contact step up onto the chocks before that happens. As soon as the boat angle drops at the tail move back down off the chocks

Û    If you feel yourself being pushed into the bottom of the boat (usually at the base of a run) make sure the blade is vertical so it can find the path of least resistance and stand up strong and tall. This way you are aiming to keep the handle at a body height position where you have maximum control. The minute you lost control of the handle you lose contact with the water and your crew is shooting along the side of the run and losing race distance

Next time we will look at setting the boat up approaching the wave area and how to handle this last part of the race.

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