Posted by: nickwardscenarios | August 10, 2009

Marathon Sculling Log 2


Kiwi boat-movers

Preface 1

The Four-Stroke Cycle

Via e-mail to the Official Sir Steve Redgrave Website (that doesn’t mean Sir Steve Redgrave has read it!); The President, Cambridge University Boat Club; and Laurie Anderson, The West Australian Sculling Academy (where I was apprenticed between 2001 and 2005).


the crew should simply agree upon a mantra covering four strokes (that is the ideal number because 4 objects can be visualised easily even by ‘non-visualisers’)… that’s all. The boat will go faster because the mental energies of individual rowers will combine… nothing more sophisticated than that (unless you really want to engage me with my ideal ‘correct livelihood!’) – they just have to agree on a ‘mantra’ – any language – any meaning – the boat will go faster.

Cheers – enjoy the Tideway.

Nick Ward

I recommend this yoga site for convincing explanations of why mantra-mediation generates power and endurance: and, above all, become the peace of mind of an emmanating Buddha… or just win that Gold medal first and become an emmanating Buddha later to put it in language even the young fellow-dyslexic Steve Redgrave might have responded to!

Wildminders, you write with beautiful clarity on the benefits of mantra-meditation and I am about to link you to my site! Thank you.

It is interesting, I think, that the power of mantra meditation is fast becoming the cutting-edge of elite sport science.

Nick Ward

marathon sculler

Preface 2

Comment from nick ward on the wildmind site
Time: March 8, 2011, 7:37 am

Boston Marathon UK (31 miles) link:

Course record: ELITE 1X LEANDER ( CROOKS ) 3.29.18 1978  (I was on the bank to see the end of this historic row  by Tim Crooks – the conditions were not particularly fast though there was very  little wind. It was a hot day – I’d just rowed the race in a King’s School, Ely, crew composed of teachers and students and we’d made the mistake of not carrying enough water – so at the finish we were seriously dehydrated and extremely blistered having not trained since the Summer term. Hell! Tim Crooks now manufactures rowing roof-racks. No idea if he’s still rowing.)
Tim Crooks winning the Diamond Challenge Sculls at Henley  Royal Regatta in 1969
Sculling Boat Roof Racks, Boat Roof Racks, Sculling Boat Transport Tim Crooks provides Sculling Boat Roof Racks for Sculling Boat Transport in the UK.
Marathon Sculling Log 2
Outing 2: Friday 12th June 2009. 7.30am. Paddled to Railway Bridge ahead of female front-loaded CUBC 4+ who were rowing square blades. Kiwi Head Coach bringing out the length. Some square blade rowing myself but avoided exercises. Disappointed to realise I’d been gripping the blade handles too tight.


Outing 3. Tuesday 16th June. 7pm. Sculled with four stroke cycle without blade handle rubbers: square blades after 2nd stroke. Working on sitting up for central 2 strokes – pushing stomach out – loose fingers – beginning mental visualisation of mantra as leg drive connects – no attempt at snappy catch, just dropping blades in and connecting. Core stability poor. Relaxing all conscious thought for 1st stoke of cycle – working on extending length for 4th stroke – occassionally pausing with hands away and body over before sliding after 4th stroke. Rowed to Baites Bite and 2x Long Reach. Sat ahead of mixed 2x from the 99 RC until the Gut on the waydown. Balence generally better than might be expected. Got stuck behind amiable 8 of recreational Trinity College Fellows (1st and 3rd BC) with very splashy blade-work after Green Dragon Footbridge. As I was disembarking Robs President was teaching a beginner in the club clinker 1x and we agreed that it is a fine learning boat.


N Ward photo by H Ward

Outing 4: Monday 29th June. Photo session with Dad. The ‘catch’ so called is advisedly more relaxed with the marathon sculler compared to 2K exponents. The direction of the hands in relation to the direction of the boat’s movement changes through the fore and aft stopping points. The marathon sculler moves smoothly around the stopping points taking time to visualise them as he or she connects through the stretcher – great extension and low-impact entry maintain boat speed over distance. Dad’s getting the photos ready for Henley. Saturday morning, Steward’s Enclosure.

the catch

photo: N Ward by H Ward (photo of photo by Luisa)


Ask Johnson Racing, South Australia – great prototype guys, sorry the closed-minded sports politicians squashed it: they don’t giving a damn about the great quest which is to move a boat as fast possible. They wouldn’t last a minute in the Yachting world or Formula 1. Or the Tour de France. International 2000m rowing is a closed sport which very few countries can afford. Let’s face it. River racing is always popular. How would Yifter the Shifter have gone in a marathon sculling race? How many Ethiopians get a chance to scull their beautiful rivers, let alone organise a Regatta conforming to the £50m plus pond-constructing mindset? How many Moroccan rowers get to the Olympics? Tibetan mountain yogis ‘leaping’ up mountains, day after day:  how hard would they be to beat in a sliding-rigger shell on the Thames? Is Tibet a country? Yes, I am making a very big point here, Sir Steve -and as you know, I am totally in awe of your achievements within the official world of rowing.


You changed rowing despite the underachievers controlling British Rowing when you stunned everyone as a dyslexic teenager who was obliged  to speak with his boat-speed. I love 2000m Olympic Rowing and I revere you as the greatest there is ever likely to be. Tomkins… James Tomkins. Top 5. Not many sweep-oars make it in to my top 5 (pictured below with three times Olympic Gold medalist Drew Ginn).



sliding rigger circa 1954

Check out Marcel ‘The Mavarick’ Hacker in the Empacher


Good to chat, Marcel, (Henley 2007) – never easy to talk after losing. Good losers are good sportsmen! Cheers.

1982 World Champs. Before the ban:

Less body weight moving against the direction of the boat in the recovery is faster: logical

Outing 5: July 13th. 7.30pm

As I was about to disenbark a coach with two female beginners on the water asked me out of the blue ‘what is the correct position for the wrists at the finish?’  I replied ‘wrists should remain flat. Simply drop the hand for clean extraction and roll the blade handle into the feather using the thumb to ease the handle into the fingers.’ I don’t know why he asked me. I must give off that I know what I’m doing. It was a short, blustery outing up to the Railway Bridge with the river busy with eights and scullers. Someone with very long legs has been rowing ‘Simon Brown’ because the footplate was fully extended and the stretcher had been dropped to the lowest position which meant that I couldn’t get my legs flat – very unpleasant feeling. I should have noticed this before setting off because not doing so meant I had to pull up and raise the stretcher. Hard to find my trade-mark long-haul  rhythm-trance with the extra length on the 4th stroke (so mesmerizing to competitors in my racing days) on a busy river alive with stressed-out heavers and head-on collision merchants. Its a form of yoga – natural boat-moving asanas and the kriya breath – pure energy flows in on the outbreath energising the 72,000 nadis of  the subtle body. Extend the lungs. Lose years. Do you believe that yoga is rejuvenating?


I do. At this rate I’ll be about 30 in 2012! Watch out! Hear the music of the river with eyes in the back of your head wide open. Glide. Love the senses playing with reality and reality playing with the senses. Light as a feather caught in a breeze. Listen to all the coaches. Sit ahead of their crews and scullers. Get it for free. Annoy them. Make them get past you. ‘The best coach is the boat coming up behind you’ Steve Fairbairn, who became a coach because he was speared by an eight on the Cam which damaged his spine. Novice coxes can be lethal. ‘Mileage makes champions’ was his catch-phrase. Wordsmith. Enthusiast. Winner. The way ‘Greenie’ Crackers is. R U up for this challenge, James?


James Cracknell could win it.


You can pay your respects to Steve Fairbairn at the Mile Post on the Championship Course. He founded the annual Tideway Head of River Race for eights and extended the slide with his Jesus College crews whipping all opponents more than a century ago, but you probably know all that. Aussie with penchant for eccentric hats, I’m told. Sometimes the coaches you over-hear will say just the right thing if you catch their vibration. Mental strength is an open mind. See without looking, like the perfect spy. My concentration point was dropping blades in and feeling arms extend elastically (more a visualisation than a hard and fast reality!) as the press from stretcher shifts from balls of the feet (including toes) to the heel and attempting to keep the blades clear of the water for the recovery. Hands away, body over. Avoid slumping.


Sit up. ( I can hear your powerful voice Laurie Anderson, WA Sculling Academy: never forget the great coaches who have inspired you and tolerated you. Hear them as they constantly point at your weakest points. A weak coach is a compliant coach. Discharge your ego. That’s tough. Love you, Laurie!) Draw long.


Draw up to avoid washing out. Keep them buried – no point otherwise. One in four really draw in  and up with the arms and let the other three strokes of the cycle equalise the lactic acid build up in the arms. In other words: pull harder one in four. As hard as you can! The length is secondary. Most sculling races are lost because of tight arms not tired legs or lactic acid swamped back connectors. Keep toes in touch with the boat  to avoid bow dipping. Watch the bubbles and wash-line off the stern – keep it even as possible. Steer the boat with the legs. Watch the puddle-circles expand and disappear behind you – dynamic, brush strokes. Dynamic. Keep it dynamic. Good word, dynamic. Let the shell’s hull run. Go with the flow. Never fight the elements – that’s a loser’s game. Love the headwind because the opposition hates it. The worse the conditions the more you love them. Love the boat, ‘Wee Scott’ Peter Haining (Tideway giant):


Where does the river want you to be? Read the river, feel the stream. Cut through the water. Love the movement. Love the river. Love to be surprised. Weight off the seat with the connection: make the boat and its contents as light as air. Fly. Get air beneath the boat (another visualisation, guys, before you get all literal and confounded on me). Levitate. Breath. The way a marathon runner does. Become weightless levers. Move the boat. Move the boat. Glide pale stream with weghtless alchemy. Inhabit the mantra, an ancient formula creating pure energy in the body-mind mechanism. Hands away at the same speed as the boat. No strain. Felt more wobbly than last outing.  The marathon sculler accelerates smoothly through the leg-drive phase – no stamping off the footplate. The marathon sculler is totally absorbed in moving the boat as efficiently as possible and is at the same time totally aware of everything, particularly other boats. An evening paddle. The mantra meditation kicks in automatically now – but outing wasn’t long enough to use the stroke length differentials to advantage. The key to it is that the arms pull longer-harder (as hard as you can pull!) one in four, in a nutshell (it’s a gearing system, that’s the key), which addresses the fact that aprox 40% of muscle is in the legs; aprox 40% in the back and core; and only aprox 15% in the arms. This is why the four stroke cyle works for all rowing events – but very hard to get most rowers to even try it as they (and most coaches) are locked in the search for the ‘single perfect stroke’ mentality. The Germans used to win gold medals with minimal body swing – massive pumping legs; the Canadians won gold medals with maximum body swing, hanging off the oar handles – sometimes I do both within the four-stroke cycle – but I’m no kind of dogmatic technocrat – I’m an artist with common sense and I move a boat naturally. I love Eastern yoga systems more than Western sports science systems – but have learned most from their combination. I try not to feel dumfounded by sports science technical applications the way some sports science professionals are confounded (and dismissive) of ‘esoteric’  sytems which are profoundly scientific when you get in deep – and can win races.


Ask matinee idol ‘Grinder’ Waddell (Rob) and the other kiwi  (Tideway Sculler) M Drysdale (the ugly one on the left with stiff wrists)


Ask ‘Boxer’ Lama Ole. Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi is crysal clear and very accessible about that. Yoga (union) is a way forward for many top sportsmen and women because it takes you beyond the ‘event’.  This has nothing directly to do with religion or dogma – unless religion and dogma turn you on.  Faith? Maybe. Be good to yourself. Be good to others (off the water!). Enjoy winning. Feel good. The only Temple in rowing is on an Island on the Henley Reach. Some people pray there once a year. Some ultimately competitve friends (for life) hang off Temple Island tree branches to test strength-weight ratio and will-power in a congenial natural environment. Some prefer to do it it in the gym. It takes all sorts, Jurgen. You know that better than anyone. You also know that a great rowing coach has the patience of a saint.


UK wind-up merchants. Whatever turns you on, guys.


How’s the back, Tim? You gave your ALL in Sydney. 0.38 seconds ahead of Italy. Was it worth it? Fancy a paddle?


I’m getting drawn in and even such a short paddle left me pumping endorphins – a beautiful high. Don’t miss coaching right now. I was coached out by end of 2007. Might consider taking on someone like Allan Campbell (2000m sculler) if he’s open-minded enough.


And a few beginners because they are always open-minded. Never really got beyond the foothills of the four-stroke cycle with any crew or sculler – except for the Corpus Christi College 2nd V111 in 2006 – and they went up 9 places in the May Bumps, equalling the post-war record.  Some of that crew had never rowed before. The Corpus Ladies 1st V111 in the same year did many miles of the four-stroke cycle over Baits Bite Lock (charming stretch of water, rarely enjoyed by Cambridge undergraduates) and also won their oars with fantastic ease.  I shared the coaching of that boat with Mike Boyd who had developed the squad over several seasons. Hats off to him. Dad plus bike was with me on the towpath with the men. The Corpus 1st V111 won their oars in the Lents and four-stroke cycled with pleasure in the month and half that I was with them. Happy chilly mornings. No better way of getting a crew to cohere. No better way of creating a cycle of technical concentration points. The body-mind-muscle-memory complex is highly responsive to this system. I know it works, guys. Subsititute for fartlek, amongst many other things. It would win the Boatrace – but those guys are totally absorbed in their own systems (Oxford need shaking as Cambridge were shaken by Topolski – a new system and a real Tideway head. Oxford are never beaten by the river or the conditions because the ‘Topolski factor’ lives on. He’s a wily man of the Tideway and he has been since he was a boy. Cambridge are about to enter a new era. Watch out, Oxford, this new kiwi has something about him which I like – and Cambridge are hungry, very hungry. I love the Boatrace!!


how ya going, Dan? We must stop bumping into each other under Hammersmith Bridge.

olympic rowing news only

Marathon Sculling Log « Nick Ward Scenarios You changed rowing despite the underachievers controlling British Rowing when you stunned everyone as a dyslexic teenager who was obliged to speak with his boat-speed. I love 2000m and I revere you as the greatest there …


  1. Hi Nick, I see you still dont draw with your shoulders just your arms. I have sent you an email and forward this to some of your fans out here. Catch you in a while.

    • Thanks for that, Laurie… yeah, shoulders are useful for the draw… I’ll endevour to use them for a change!

  2. Good to see you are still into rowing, sculling marathons and music. We evenly had to send your bike to the tip. The kitchen cupboards are looking good. The rowing club is going fom strength to strength –
    We hand a new ergo machine demonstrated to us last Thursday which uses the princeple of the sliding rigger. Claire and I are doing well. Cheers from Adelaide.


    • love to Claire and your brilliant boys…

  3. Great site! Beware of The Darkness, Concert For Bangladesh when Leon Russel cuts in and later when Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Leon Russel on bass…music for the soul. Prajnayama + Mantrayana x 4 stroke hathayana = yoga
    In Vietnam carrying 80 lbs of gear in 100 degree heat going up a foothill found the breath intuned to inner song made moving along flow up the hill. Also, incredible energy once completed paper on analytical philosophy…almost ‘outside myself’…a release. Times long ago and far far away. Joe Cocker with Mad Dogs and Englishmen at Woodstock: A Little Help From My Friends… When was Padmasambhava born? And when leaving Tibet at the border of Nepal the Dakinis came down from the sky and took both He and his horse up into the the sky. A friend of mine here in Chengdu has a group of artists making mandalas and tankhas about the life of Padmasambhava which is to be made into a video. I’ll try to get an update on their progress.

  4. wow! you’re speaking my langauge, my friend… pure inspiration. Thank you.

    When was Padmasambhava born? This question pleases me no end.

  5. OwAGCx

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