Wednesday August 9th 2017
Some notes on Stern and Side Wash riding from "Coach" Bob Vincent: http://www.marathonpaddling.ca/advice/2014/9/24/coach-bob-vincents-guide-to-marathon-paddling-canoe
There are 3 or 4 strong waves coming off the back of a canoe as it travels through the water. The best place to ride will be on the first wave so that your canoe is running slightly down hill, and the lead canoe will “suck” you along. This location will place the first wave just under your stern. Keep your bow in the middle of the reverse V. Keep your canoe parallel with the direction of the other canoe and you will not wander out of the draft. This can require a lot of steering from BOTH ends of the canoe. I have found that when one person is steering the other should be PULLING so that the speed stays in the boat.
Side wash is similar to a flock of geese in a long V, with the lead canoe doing the hard work. With side wash you should be sitting with your bow paddler slightly behind their bow paddler, and about 18 inches away to get a good ride from their side wash. On corners it is important that you stay parallel to the boat that you are riding. If you are on the inside of a corner try to get your boat further up on theirs so that you do not get pushed into shore. If you are on the outside of the corner, parallel is very important, however if you can keep you bow just slightly closer to their boat you will come out on their wash at the other end rather than being blown off.
Wash riding is a game of angles.
Wednesday June 28th 2017
Buoy turns are places in a race where you can gain or lose ground significantly. Learning how to execute a turn efficiently is an essential marathon paddling skill.
For buoy turns, the bow paddler needs to place a "post" in the water around which the boat will turn. This is either a post, or a crossbow post depending on which side the bow person is paddling on.
When placing a post in the water, make sure the blade is solid and not slipping. It should stay in a fixed position relative to the boat, and it shouldn't feel like its slowing the boat down too much. Adjust the angle of the paddle blade subtly as needed. The bow paddler doesn't have an easy job here - they need to do all of this while allowing the boat to lean away from their paddle side, which feels very awkward.
When approaching a buoy, don't take too close a line to it. Come in a bit wide; its's a lot easier to clear it properly especially if you are headed upstream. Lean the boat to initiate the turn, then move to sides to accelerate the arc. Turn tightly around the bow paddler's post and then accelerate out of the turn.
Wednesday June 21st 2017
When a wave travels from deep water to shallow water, the friction of the wave on the bottom causes it to slow down. This results in a shorter wavelength and a higher wave.
When the water is more than 2 feet deep but shallow enough to affect waves, it’s called suck water (among other names). It feels heavy and difficult to paddle through. There’s nothing much you can do but try to keep the boat speed up and get through it.
When the water is shallower than 2 feet you can surf your own wave. This is called “popping” the boat. Put some speed on before you hit the shallows and you will feel your stern rise up and the boat speed suddenly increase and feel easier. You can really fly with your boat popped up and it’s one of the reasons you want to be the first boat to the shallows.
What happens when you approach shallows and are riding another boat? Your “sweet spot” gets shorter, so you have to be more precise about where you are on the wave. And because the waves are higher, it’s a more intense ride that can quickly go wrong if you aren’t in the right spot.
Surprisingly, the right spot to be is sometimes farther back on the side wash than you would think. Watch the waves, feel the boat, and you’ll learn where you need to be.
Wednesday June 7th 2017
When a boat travels through the water it creates waves. Another boat can ride, or surf, these waves. It gives the riding boat a boost. There are two places to ride another boat: on the side wash and on the stern wash.
Side wash is the best ride if conditions are right. It is also safest: if you fall off the side wave you can always catch the stern and maintain contact with the lead boat.
Ideally you want your boat about 3-4 feet away from the lead boat when riding side and a about a third of the way behind. (You can think of being in a vehicle’s blind spot.) However these are very rough guidelines – you really need to see and feel the waves to ride wash effectively!
The wave will change depending on wind, water depth, the course of the other boat, etc., so don’t rely on a formula – aim to develop your understanding and feel of the waves and how they affect your boat.
If you are too far forward on the side wash, the bow wave will drive both bows away from each other. This is frustrating for both boats. If you are too far back on the wash you may find your bow getting sucked in to the lead boat, which can be difficult to fight. The key in this situation is more speed (if you have it!) to get back up to the sweet spot on the wave.
Shallows change the wave and will affect how you ride wash. ...for a future lesson!
Riding stern, try to keep the nose of your boat close to the lead boat and within the V of turbulent water created behind the lead boat’s stern. The best ride is on the first stern wave, but you can still ride the stern waves behind it; they just get weaker and weaker. Anticipate the lead boat’s direction and use small leans instead of larger correction strokes. If you have a train of boats, nobody likes playing whiplash!
To ride both stern and side wash, both paddlers need to work together. The stern paddler’s job is to put the boat generally in the right spot; the bow paddler makes fine adjustments to the boat direction and also controls how far up or back the boat is on the lead boat.
Wednesday May 24th 2017 *POSTPONED*
Steering the Boat: Draws, Pushes, Leans and Sides
Paddling a marathon canoe is different than paddling a recreational canoe. Marathoners don't use correction strokes like the J-stroke to direct the boat where they want it. By switching sides every 5-10 strokes the paddlers can keep the canoe going fairly straight, but what do you do when you need a little more help?
The two major steering strokes used by marathon paddlers are the draw and the push. These are used in the bow and stern and are adaptations to the forward stroke. In other words (unless the situation is drastic) the paddler takes a regular forward stroke but with an angled pull or push at the initial part of the power phase. It usually doesn't take much to be quite effective.
The most subtle way to change the direction of your boat is to lean it. If you lean one of the gunwales closer to the water the boat will carve in the opposite direction. Both paddlers need to be loose in the boat and working together to keep it stable. Usually it is the stern paddler who initiates leans, which can be done by simply relaxing your hip on the leaning side and looking towards where you want the boat to go. Leans are most often done towards the stern paddler's side, but if you are an experienced paddler, offside leans can be very useful. In the bow it is an awkward feeling to be leaning the boat away from your paddling side, especially if you are trying to draw at the same time.
Another way to turn the boat is to both paddle on the same side, which pushes the boat away from that side. This is called "paddling sides". The stern paddler may switch to the bow paddler's side or hut the bow paddler to their side, but it's always a good idea to let your partner know you are doing this! Paddling sides can be uncomfortable and some people don't like it, but in certain situations I find it the fastest way to get where you need to be.
Good paddlers will put very small amounts of draw or push on a stroke to fine tune the boat direction before having to resort to something more drastic. Usually small leans and subtle steering strokes are all that is needed to direct the boat, but sometimes you need more. The more steering you need to put on a stroke the more it will slow down the boat. That is why I will try sides before resorting to large steering strokes.
Wednesday August 3rd 2016
We’ve looked at riding wash already but here are some specifics about stern wash riding. The waves coming off a boat’s stern are good to ride in most conditions. In long races side wash riding can be expensive, especially if the lead boat doesn’t go straight or the course is narrow and shallow. Stern riding can give you a break.
You get the best ride if you keep your bow within the V coming off the lead boat’s stern, and about a foot behind. Keep loose in the boat and it will want to follow the lead’s stern. To ride the wash the stern paddler watches the lead boat to anticipate any directional changes and react as early as possible. The bow paddler controls the distance between the two boats and fine tunes the steering if necessary. This is usually by adding a slight draw or push (sweep) to the forward stroke.
Wednesday July 20th 2016
There is a great article about bow paddlers and stern paddlers written by Holly Reynolds here:
We tend to slot paddlers into two categories, which Holly labels “Bow Jock” and “Stern Runt”. The stereotype is: the meat in the front of the boat and the brains in the back.
It’s true that the stronger paddler usually goes in the bow – it’s where the power is most useful. We also stick rookies there too because it’s generally easier to control the boat from the stern than the bow. But don’t let that fool you.
The bow paddler not only has to provide horsepower, they have a whole lot of other jobs. They need to be aware of obstacles and opportunities, set the right cadence for the paddling situation, hold the forward-and-back position of the boat while wash riding, crank in crossbows with an offside lean, fine tune the steering, and be able to anticipate and assist with whatever the stern paddler is trying to do. (In other words, be mind readers.)
The stern paddler’s job is to maximize the power in the boat by getting it in the right position and matching the bow’s stroke so there is the best possible glide in the boat. They put their muscle in too, but their head is wrapped around the whole situation and like chess players they are playing the game 5 moves ahead. They will be planning moves far in advance that put them on the right side of a buoy turn, for example.
Paddling with someone else is like a marriage. You rely on each other. There are roles to play. There is the expectation that your partner knows exactly what you are thinking at all times. There are fights.
Respect and communication are the keys to success. There is no better way to appreciate everything your partner does until you are literally in their seat. Every stern paddler should paddle bow sometimes, and vice versa.
Try this regularly. You’ll think twice next time you feel like throwing the wedding china at your partner’s head.
Wednesday June 22nd 2016
Shallows are difficult to navigate. The boat tends to bog down and the waves get harder to ride. If you understand how to make the best of shallows, you can use them to pass boats and make up a lot of time in a race.
Concentrate on a good stroke in shallows. The first third of your stroke is most important.
Try to anticipate shallow sections. Get your boat speed up so you can “pop” the boat: this means surfing your own wave, and if you manage it you will travel far more quickly. You’ll feel when this happens: your stern will rise up and your speed will instantly increase. Suddenly it will feel much easier to paddle. Popping the boat is easiest when the water depth is minimal – if it’s more than two feet it’s called “sucky water” because the boat feels bogged down and is difficult or impossible to pop.
When a wave moves from deep water to shallow water, it does two things: it travels more slowly, and the wavelength gets shorter. This results in steeper waves that are closer together, which changes where and how you ride wash.
If you are riding side wash, you may find the right place to ride is farther back on the wave. It can be difficult to stay here due to the shorter steeper wave and often you get shunted away from the lead boat and slide down the wave. That’s why everyone sprints before a shallows section – the easiest place to be is out front.
Wednesday June 15th 2016
Wash riding is an essential part of canoe racing. Getting on the wash of a slightly faster boat is the best scenario in a race. You can ride wash with other boats for hours on end, taking turns leading. It makes your boat go faster while allowing you to rest somewhat.
There are two ways to ride wash: on the side of another boat, and behind another boat. The ride is best closest to the lead boat, and diminishes the farther away you get.
This is the safest place to ride as you can always slip into the stern wash if you drop off the wave. A wave comes off the lead boat at an angle – Bob Vincent likens this to a V of geese flying. To ride this wave you want to be close to the lead boat and a little behind. The bow paddler works to keep his/her body positioned between the lead boat’s bow paddler and centre thwart (however in shallow water this position changes). The stern and bow paddler work together to keep the boat parallel to the lead boat.
If you push too far ahead, the lead boat’s bow wave will push your bow out. If you fall too far behind, you may find the stern getting pushed out (feels like the bow is getting “sucked in” to the lead boat). There is a sweet spot: find it and work to stay there.
If there is a headwind, or for some reason side wash isn’t working for you (or you fell off), ride the stern wash. There are 3 to 4 good waves behind a boat that you can ride. Ride close to the boat in front for the best ride. Bow and stern paddlers again work together to keep the nose of the boat in the turbulent water behind the lead boat’s stern. If you are loose enough in the boat it will naturally want to follow the lead boat.
Wherever you ride, if you lose control and are going to hit the lead boat, call “contact!” so they can anticipate this, but try not to let this happen! The more you affect the lead boat the less they will want you riding them and they will try to dump you.
Wednesday June 8th 2016
Keeping a level boat is essential for maximum speed. However, you’ve got to make some compromises when steering. Steering strokes (such as mini-draws) are necessary, but be aware they bleed speed (make you slow down). Paddling on the same side as your partner can steer the boat while maintaining good speed in some conditions. But to turn a boat with finesse you must understand how leans work.
When you lean a boat, it carves in the opposite direction. To turn right, for example, lean left so the left gunwale gets close to or touches the water (depending on how sharp you want to turn).
Use a lean on it’s own for small adjustments (such as while riding wash), but also use it to augment the other steering strokes you are doing.
Leans are usually initiated by the stern paddler. It is essential that the bow paddler stays loose enough in the boat that this is possible. It is very difficult to steer a boat if the bow paddler is “holding” the boat. In that case, the stern paddler ends up “muscling the boat” to try to get it to respond. A good team works in unison to allow the stern paddler to lean the boat without effort.
It takes some practice to learn to lean smoothly, and every paddling pair works differently together. For me in the stern I merely think of relaxing my hip on the leaning side, look to where I want the boat to go, and it naturally carves. (This is assuming I have the ultimate bow partner.) A good bow paddler stays loose in the hips, reads the water and the situation to anticipate when a lean may be needed, and maintains that lean even while putting in correctional strokes on the opposite side. It is very awkward to be paddling or pulling a draw on one side while letting the boat lean away from that side, but it is essential for the lean to have effect!
So to put the last few weeks all together, let’s do a buoy turn:
A team that is able to steer with effective leans won’t lose much forward momentum, will be able to turn more quickly and efficiently, and may beat the field in the next race. :)