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. :)