Findlay, Matt and Turnock, Stephen,
Rowing strategies in Cambridge bumps races
Estivalet, Margaret and Brisson, Pierre (eds.)
In The Engineering of Sport 7.
- Author's Original
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‘Bumps’ racing is a form of rowing with boats in a line astern which has evolved to allow a large number of crews to race simultaneously on narrow rivers. Boats line up with approximately 1.5 lengths between them and start simultaneously.
A crew is successful if they manage to catch and ‘bump’ the crew ahead without being caught by the crew behind. This process can take as little as 30s or may require the crew to row the whole course which can take upwards of 10 minutes. The
physiological demands of bumps racing are therefore unique as the crews do not know a priori how long the race will last.
Selecting the appropriate race strategy and level of pacing is therefore both very important and difficult to do. In order to
investigate different pacing strategies a multiple degree of freedom computational model of a rowing boat was used. This
determines the boat velocity by balancing the force application by the athletes with drag components arising from the motion
of the boat, oars and athletes. This velocity prediction program (VPP) is coupled with a physiological model of an athlete
whereby the athlete’s ability to deliver force is assumed to vary as a function of the work done during the current bout of exercise. The level of effort required from the crew is dictated by the coxswain in terms of stroke rate in accordance with measured data and dimensional scaling analysis. It is shown that different starting strategies are appropriate on different days
of racing when the crew would have either a limited or good knowledge of the specific capabilities of the crews ahead and
behind them. In addition an evaluation was made of the dynamic tactical options available to a crew and it is shown that when
an attacking boat came within striking range, an aggressive rate change was tactically the most effective complement to an
otherwise defensive strategy.
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