Paddling Crew Placement
The boat crew is broken into three sections, the front which is the first six paddlers, the engine room which is the middle eight paddlers and the back which is last six paddlers. Weight of the paddlers must be taken into consideration when setting up the boat. Any serious weight distribution problems will adversely affect how the boat tracks for steering. The biggest paddlers are placed in the middle or engine room and lighter paddlers at the front and back sections.
The front six paddlers set the pace and should be reserved for paddlers with good long paddling strokes. The rest of the boat needs something visual to follow. The rest of the boat will have short choppy stroke if the front has short choppy strokes.
The middle eight or the “engine room” is usually reserved for the heavier, stronger paddlers. During the middle of the race the engine room dictates the pace. The stroke rate of the crew is usually determine by the engine room. The stroke rate is not too fast as long as the big engine room paddlers can twist and reach. Once the engine room paddlers start shortening up on their stroke, you know the pace is getting too fast.
The back six paddlers of the boat should have the strongest people in the boat. It is not uncommon for a novice crew to setup the boat with weaker paddlers who get out of stroke. For an intermediate crew or an advanced crew this would be a missed opportunity. A series which is a sequence of more powerful strokes meant to advance the boat and is initiated by the back six paddlers and ripples to the front of the boat.
Depending which section the paddler is sitting in, the water reacts differently in each section. At the front, the water is dead and more difficult to pull the paddle through. Moving to the center of the boat where the engine room is, the water rushes by quicker. The water is fastest at the back of the boat. What does this do to the timing of the strokes? Since the water is faster in the middle and back of the boat, paddles will “fly” back quicker. Middle paddlers will tend to rush their exits relative to the front paddlers. Front paddlers will need to have long strokes (up front) and be quick on the exits because of this natural tendency of paddlers behind them to rush. In the back because of the even faster water, paddlers will have a tendency to pause at the end of their strokes. These back of the boat paddlers need to long in their strokes and to drive the paddle in the water even harder to slow down the paddle and to be effective. That is why they say that the strongest paddlers should be in the back of the boat.
Side to side and front to back weight distribution must be taken into consideration when setting up the boat. The steersperson must have the knowledge of how to move paddlers around to improve the balance of the boat. Having the boat off balance can seriously affect how the boat tracks. The steersperson is 100% responsible for the safety of the crew. The steersperson has the best view of any obstructions on the water and must make the required commands to the crew to manoeuver the boat. In race situations the steersperson must also be able to read wind and be knowledgeable of how the boat reacts in certain conditions. It is not good enough that the steersperson can just keep the boat straight, he or she must be able to bring the boat to the line in whatever wind conditions and make the manoeuvers or commands to hold the boat on the line.