If you strolled into the dressing room of rowers, do not be surprised if you sooner than later hear passionate discussions on what the best rating to maintain would be. One group recommending a high rating as the easiest way to upset the opposition and the other, the more balanced group, suggesting a lower and sensible rating that be in proportion to the power applied through the water. Rhythm is another favorite topic amongst rowers.
What exactly is rhythm? One explanation of rhythm would be: a smooth continuous action with no rough edges. Besides the smooth, flowing movement up and down the slide, in the rowing context, rhythm could best be explained as the ratio between the time taken through the water and that up the slide.
Watch a beginner in the boat and you will see him rushing up the slide and will appear to be in quite a hurry to put the blade back in the water. It is with practice and training that one learns to maintain control on the slide. You have to learn to relax on your way up the slide and let the boat run between strokes, so as to maintain the optimum balance between input (power applied by the rower) and output (boat speed achieved). In other words when coming up the slide give it enough time and permit the boat to run and get the purchase for the work you have put in through the water. This is the best way to acheive optimum boat speed. Remember that the boat runs the fastest when the blade is just released from the water. A good rhythm to maintain during practice would be to take about twice the time up the slide as through the water. This could of course alter a little depending on the rating the crew is trying to maintain during a race.
Rating is defined as the number of strokes done in a minute. It is often imagined that just by moving faster up the slide a higher rating is achieved. This could be far from the truth. Remember that rating is the sum total of the speed through the water and that up the slide. Poor crews that are not able to apply sufficient pressure through the water try to compensate by moving faster up the slide. This is sure to spell disaster after a while.
The best way to build rating is to begin through the water. Even at higher ratings try and maintain the ratio up the slide and permit the boat to run. It is only then, that you would be able to traverse the distance of the race at your optimum speed.
Very often one hears the question - what is the ideal rating to keep? The answer is, it depends on the training level and ability of the crew. What is ideal for one crew would be far from it for another. Build your rating with training. Again, do not be obsessed with high ratings. Crews doing comparatively lower ratings have very often been the winners of races. More often than not, a lower rating that permits you to deliver your full potential through the water, would be the one that fetches you medals.