The Catch  – the blade(s) is placed in the water to begin the drive
The Drive  -  the blade(s) are in the water and the rower is making the boat go forward by applying force to the blades with the legs, back and arms
The Finish -  the oar handle(s) is lowered and the blade(s) comes out of the water
The Recovery – the blades are out of the water and the rower returns their arms body and legs to the catch position.

In practice all parts of the stroke follow each other in a continuous fluid movement

The Catch
The blade is buried in the water in the squared position before there is any force (the drive) applied to it.
The knees and hips are flexed, the shins are vertical, the body is pivoted forward towards the stern so that the chest is almost resting on the thighs.  The arms are straight and shoulders are relaxed as if the rower is hanging on the oars.  The oars are gripped more in the fingers than the palm.  The head is facing straight back.

The Drive
The drive is begun by straightening the legs while keeping the body and the arms in the same position i.e. keeping the body leaning towards the stern and the arms straight.  After the first 1/3 of the drive the back begins to pivot towards the bow.  the pivot is done from the hips.  At the last 1/3 of the drive the arms pull the oar in towards the body. During the back and arm movements the legs continue to straighten.  At the finish of the drive the legs are almost fully straight and the back is leaning backwards towards the bow at about 15-30 deg from vertical.
Throughout the drive the oar handle is kept at the same height i.e. it is pulled straight back allowing its weight to keep it in the water.  The blade is just buried in the water.
In sculling the oar handles overlap in the middle of the drive and the recovery.  The rigging is adjusted so that the left hand should pass over the right hand and the left hand is slightly towards the stern relative to the right hand – on both the drive and the recovery.  Wrists are flat on the drive.  Grip is relaxed.
Remember the sequence of movement. First the legs, then back, and then arms.

The Finish or Release
At the end of the Drive the oar handle has been brought back to almost touch the bottom of the rib cage.
For the Finish the hands are dropped  2-3 inches and blade will come out of the water.  Then, the oar is feathered.
When sweeping (rowing with one oar) the release is done by both hands pushing down by slightly straightening the elbows. The outside hand controls the height of the oar off the water.  When the blade is clear of the water it is feathered by the inside hand (nearest to the blade) rolling the oar handle away from the palm into the fingers.
When sculling (rowing with two oars) the release is also done by both hands pushing down by slightly straightening the elbows.   When the blades are clear of the water they are feathered by both hands rolling the oar handle away from the palm into the fingers.  This is done by the thumbs on the ends of the handles rolling the handles and by straightening the fingers.
The Finish is the most important part of the stroke to concentrate for all of the crew to be together.  If the finishes are all together the rest of the stroke is usually together too.

The Recovery
The rower should be relaxed during the recovery.
The Recovery is done in reverse sequence to the Drive.
The Recovery begins with the hands being pushed out away from the body, followed by the body pivoting towards the stern, followed by bending the legs.
Although the first movement is the hands moving out towards the stern the body starts to pivot shortly afterwards when the arms are about half way out.  Before the knees start to bend the body should be nearly fully pivoted and the arms extended nearly straight so that the oar handle has passed over the knees.  The hands should be low on recovery so that blades are well off the water.
At the last 10-20% of the recovery the oar begins to be placed into the water for the catch position.  Before putting the blade in the water it is squared.
When sweeping the squaring is done by the inside hand rolling the oar back into the palm to bring the blade vertical (squared).  The outside hand lifts up on the oar handle and drops the oar in the water.  The handle is raised so that the blade is dropped into the water at the end of the recovery.
When sculling the fingers also roll the oar towards the palm rotating the blade onto the square. The handle is raised so that the blade is dropped into the water at the end of the recovery. The thumbs exerts pressure on the end of the oar to keep the collar against the oarlock.

Ralph Manktelow, Ap 2011


  1. rmanktelow says:

    Unfortunately there are no coaches available for private lessons. The best that I can suggest is that you take one of our Learn to Row courses – which is a group lesson. see programs – Learn to Row. Ralph

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