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Digital Subscriptions > Row360 > Issue 20 - Oct | Nov 2017 > SCIENCE OF SPEED

SCIENCE OF SPEED

A measure of quality: The boat speed to stroke rate ratio

Many rowers and coaches still believe that maintaining a constant Distance per Stroke (DpS) at varying stroke rates is a measure of the quality of their technique. However in reality, both on the water and on rowing machines, DpS always gets shorter at higher rates. So what should we really be looking at?

Let’s say a single is cruising along at 20 strokes per minute (spm) at a 2:05 500m/split pace (4m/s), with a DpS of 12m. What happens if the sculler increases stroke rate to 40spm but wants to maintain DpS? The duration of the stroke cycle halves (from 3s down to 1.5s), so to maintain a 12m DpS, the boat must go double the speed - 8m/s or a 1:02.5 split

That clearly is an unrealistic speed for a single, or any boat type for that matter. Why? Because drag resistance force is proportional to the square of the boat speed, so for twice the speed, a sculler has to produce four times the force. In addition, stroke length usually gets shorter at higher rates, which would also need to be compensated for with even more force. Put simply, it’s not going to happen. This law applies even at smaller increases in stroke rate. Say a single is racing at 32spm with 1:47 split, then sprints at 36spm and wants to maintain the same DpS of 8.76m. The force would need to increase by nearly one third (27%) and power by nearly a half (42%) - also quite unrealistic.

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Welcome to Row360, the world’s only global, independent rowing magazine. Row360 brings you features from around the world, profiling the best athletes, coaches, and others from the whole rowing community – Olympic, adaptive, college, club, ocean, and more.