Boathouse tips: how to make your boat equipment last longer

As the winter season progresses, what should the canny boatman be focusing on now? David Blackham, Director of Rowing at The King’s School, Chester, gives advice


City of Sheffield RC boathouse (c) John Anderson

The athletes are back into the rhythm of training and working towards their new goals. This presents a new set of challenges for the boatman and coaching team as the fleet must be maintained, repaired and, where possible, upgraded whilst the squads are training. A few areas to consider:

1 – Eights’ maintenance

With the focus on personal skills and strength and fitness development at this time of year, leading to extensive use of the smaller boats, the bigger shells get a rest. Use this period to get the eights off the rack once a week and do the essential maintenance check – heel restraints, wiring looms, slides and rigging checks. A well maintained, but worn eight, can still give good service to non-performance rowers if its upkeep is good.

2 – Vortex edge

Do your blades have vortex edges? These are special tips that are standard on some blades but can also be added to ones without. As well as offering a speed advantage to the top end crews, the tips will protect all the blades from damage, especially the danger of having one side of blades shorter than the other due to a concrete landing stage. The cost of a new vortex edge is a lot less than the cost of a new pair of sculls!

3 – Gearing changes

There will be all sorts of sweep and sculling boats out at this stage of the season and that means constant gearing changes. These adjustments will ultimately wear out the collars on the blades.

A good way round the constant changes is to buy a Clip-on Load Adjusting Mechanism (CLAM) – if you don’t already have one. Set your blades to the eights (or quads if sculling) gearing and have a CLAM on each blade on the wrong side of the collar. During the head season you can use the CLAMS when needed and save time and wear and tear.

4 – Squad use of the singles

With so many people keen to row, the singles are likely to be taken out by all squads and that means constant change, wear and tear. These two items will make your life easier:

Height-adjustable washers on each of the riggers
These make it really simple to alter the height for different athletes in seconds. Most boat manufacturers will sell you a bag of these for a few pounds. They work on sculling and sweep boats.

Adjustable shoes
A quick and easy way of making the equipment accessible for all is to use the Active Tools adjustable shoe. It’s an excellent way to ensure that all rowers have a good shoe fitting in the boat, and is especially important when sculling. Consider standardising the span at, say 160cms, and using different blade lengths outboard.