Olympic rowing. Four guy edition.

I was watching today and noticed instead of first guy and third guy paddling at the same time and two and four at the same time it went 1&4, 2&3. So the front and back guy paddle then the middle two do.
Does anyone know why?

Are you sure about that? They all row together, otherwise the guy going forward would crash into the guy going back in front of them.

I’m not sure if the question is about when they row[sup]*[/sup], but on which side. Most boats alternate left-right-let-right, but I do sometimes see left-right-right-left.

  • I have wondered about rowing in sync, too. Drag increases with the square of the speed, so you could minimize it by going a constant speed rather than the surging motion of everyone rowing together. If you could keep the seats and oars from colliding, would it be more efficient to have half to rowers out of sync with the other half?

Of course they paddle at same time, sorry I didn’t word it better.
We have four rowers. Why don’t 1 and 3 stroke on one side of the boat and 2 and 4 on the other?
They were using 1 and 4 on one side and 2 and 3 on the other.

That does make more sense, and I don’t know the answer to the main question, maybe it’s just aesthetics.

As to your suggestion I’d guess that the power advantage from being able to use your legs on the slide would far outweigh any reduction in drag (especially as they’re only going at about 20kph). Even if the slide were banned the timing involved to row in a syncopated rather than synchronized fashion would be far more difficult.

Looking at an image search for rowing fours it appears that most crews do have 1&3 to the right, 2 and 4 to the left rather than 1 and 4 to the right and 2&3 to the left. I have no idea what the reasons for this variation are though.

I noticed this in the 8’s as well. One of the German boats did not have alternating left-right, but somewhere in the middle they had two on one side - it went something like R L R L L R L R. It looked odd, but they won that heat. There must be some advantage that is being exploited - perhaps something about the makeup of the crew?

It’s called a “bucket rig” or “German rig.”

There is a lot to explain with regard to physics, but essentially the point of that rig style is to eliminate the bow seat rower’s extra propensity (given the proximity to the bow) to turn the boat.

Staggering the pairs of rowers that way cancels out that issue and allows a straighter run.

If I remember correctly, the rules allow for any rigging pattern as long as there are equal numbers on either side.

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Presumably boats that go RLLR vs. RLRL have a bow seat rower who for some reason turns the boat more than others?

Does the handedness of the rowers factor in? Do you want a lefty rowing a right oar?

I think it would have to do with distance from the center of gravity. The rower in the front seat (farthest forward of CG) would have a tendency to turn the boat to one side. They probably want to counter that with a rower on the same side in the farthest position aft of the CG. So 1 & 4 on the right cancel each other’s turning tendencies, and 2 & 3 on the left cancel each other.

Doesn’t answer the question of why most boats go RLRL while others go RLLR. This tendency to turn applies to all teams, what makes one team choose one while another chooses the other,

The turning tendency would be pretty minor, I would think. Putting two rowers on the same next to each other would get their oars tangled if one of them misses a stroke. You probably figure out which of those factors will slow you down the least.

Or the fact that it’s called a German rig makes me think there’s some regional tradition involved, too. If you learn to row in a system that does things one way, you probably keep doing it.

It’s called a “German rig” because of the dude who invented it. He was German.

As to why some do it when others do not, it’s a matter of personnel, power, coaching style, and sometimes conditions.

All things being equal, the propensity to turn is not particularly great.

However, sometimes the people you select as your bow and stroke rowers both happen to row the same side and no one else brings to those seats what those guys (gals) do.

Or maybe your preferred bow rower has more power than the other rowers but also better control coming away from the back end (finish) of the stroke; maybe he releases cleaner and breaks the knees with more control than the rest of the crew- you don’t want to waste someone like that in the engine room (middle 4 of an 8, where power is prized and technique can take a back seat). The bow rower has a responsibility to maintain the most control on the transition from stroke to recovery, because if he does not, he forces the boat with him and destroys ratio.

Hence, the German/bucket rig- it allows you to play with torque and seating position until you get the results you want.