Monday, September 27, 2010

Steering technique in the Great River Race

While watching the stream of boats flow by in the Great River Race I amused myself by trying to spot all the different ways in which the boats could be steered.

Take the photo above: here you see the two bits of string classical method, which together with the hat and gold bars suggests a pro. The boat was also nicely mid-stream unlike many who cut a few cm off the track by heading into the shallows thereby loosing several knots of current (felt like yelling out at times but of course didn't)

Anyhow next up there's use of a steering oar (I am being a bit random with terminology: it has been a long day and happy to be corrected) as in this one:
What interested me here was the Cornish lass at the front reading - what could the book be? Was she reading aloud to her crew? Any answers welcome.

Then the oar could be to one side as in this Viking ship:
There were a couple of Viking style boats and couldn't help but notice that these terrors of the seas were way at the back. Maybe it would have been a different story if they had been told they could pillage Richmond if they got there first but luckily that wasn't in the rule book.

You might have noticed that here the height of the oar meant it had to be controlled standing up, and there were many of those than steered upright. Not only were most the dragon boats helmed in that manner but also this rather sporty number:
Bravo! Together with the shorts that looked very cool in a Queen Bess of the seas way - or, to be totally honest, a bit chilly given the wind was from the NE right on the nose around this corner. I can well see why someone might have to sit down even if it wasn't totally ergonomic:
However that wasn't the most unusual position to hold while steering which was this rather obscure back-hander:
This was the near the front (at Putney anyhow) Aggie and it looks like something has gone wrong with the rudder and that the emergency solution was rather manual. I'd guess the shoulder would still be feeling a little sore if that twist was needed all the way from Greenwich to Richmond.

Though I'm guessing that for the workers at the oars there must be quite a lot still aching a bit.


Tillerman said...

This may be a silly question, but why do most of the boats appear to have a non-rowing passenger at the bow?

JP said...

It's all to do with following the traditions of the watermen and lightermen in that each boat should have a passenger.

More info here:

ChrisP said...

The Viking longships had a 'steerboard' that was always mounted on the right - hence 'starboard'.
They made so little progress against the wind they had to be towed in eventually.

ChrisP said...

BTW the boat with the 'clutch the rudder and twist' steering technique finished third overall. Her handicap of just four minutes helped a bit, but they took no prisoners.

JP said...

Doh! Too much work, knew that about starboard - honest!

Sorry to hear about the viking towing....see, there is a reason why so many of us sail ;)