Observations of Mahe Drysdale’s sculling at Henley

Here’s a couple of shots from the drone, overhead.

1) at the catch


2) at the finish


The finish looks about standard. But the catch… Good grief! He’s got such a wide spread with his hands there that the angle is huge! No wonder he goes so fast even though he doesn’t tend to rate very high.

The other point is to look at him side on.  A perfect example of keeping a constant speed coming up the slide on the recovery – he doesn’t slow down – he almost seems to bounce into the opposite direction at the catch!

This is what Rowing In Motion have been describing as good technique. This is a selected snippet from my use of RIM to try to illustrate it (rate 24, not many strokes included to try to get a graph of what I’m talking about!):


I think this is where you try to get the acceleration line (the solid one) to stay flat at the end as long as possible before it sharply drops down at the end (where Drysdale seems to ‘bounce’ into the opposite direction). If you’re slowing yourself down as you come towards the catch, the acceleration drops  slowly away, and the boat velocity (dotted line) is lower for longer.


Here are some other rates:








13 thoughts on “Observations of Mahe Drysdale’s sculling at Henley

  1. That is a remarkable catch angle. I didn’t notice what you pointed out about how he changes direction on the slide but I can see what you mean. My acceleration curves look different than yours at the end of recovery. At low rates, less than 22, it is quite flat. As the rate goes up from there, I start to see a positive rise before the deceleration of the catch. Yours tails down. I think that means that I am accelerating my body during recovery (start slow, finish fast) and you decelerate (start fast, finish slow). If I understand it correctly, constant velocity on the slide is best (and what sander’s curve looks like !😎)


    1. Just to comment Greg, bio mechanically its actually best to accelerate up the slide to create a rise in the curve during the recovery with a very late press on the footplate to decelerate the approach into the catch, this helps maintain the boat speed through the stroke. Technically this is quite tough however as it has to be combined with a fast change of direction at the front end otherwise you’re unloading a lot of speed by checking the boat

      Check out rowing in motions post on this


      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks Tom! I recall you saying something similar when I posted some curves. This post has me thinking that I might experiment a bit with narrowing my span to increase catch angle (while making all the other compensating changes to keeping gearing and overlap the same. )


  2. Nice pictures! Having met him at the regatta he is pretty tall and rangy so not surprised he has such a large reach, that being said roughly measuring the angles to my eye he looks to be around the usual 60-70 degree arc at the catch, I think if you could get a top down video of yourself sculling Ben you’d probably see similar angles at the catch!

    You’re right, technically he is pretty awesome tho I’d probably put down his sub 5:40 2k probably helps more with his flat out speed 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re probably right on both counts! Compared to some of the others he was racing though the angles did look bigger (not the lwt Csepregi though interestingly).


  3. Catch angle, reach, stroke length. I am convinced this makes him faster significantly.
    Recovery style. There is probably an improvement to make but I am not sure it is as significant as what one can gain from the catch angle. By the way, I would like to see Ben’s curves (the RIM ones 😉 ) at higher stroke rates, because it is very hard to not accelerate the boat during the recovery at the higher stroke rates. My thinking about recovery is summarized here: https://sanderroosendaal.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/managing-the-recovery/


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