With the growth and popularity of sculling throughout the world, the Complete Sculler serves as an excellent primer for the new athlete. It also points the experienced athlete and coach in the direction of a thorough and holistic approach in the preparation of the complete sculler. In this book the author, an Olympic Gold Medallist, provides the sculler sound advice to look inward when things go wrong in the boat.
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To be asked for a reprint of a sculling book which was first published fifteen years ago, and which was even then a distillation of several earlier books on the same subject, is gratifying, but in some respects daunting. One must ask - because others will certainly ask the same question - 'Is this still valid, and does it still meet a genuine need?"
To answer the second question first, all of my previous sculling books have had the same aim, which is to make good the deficiency of sculling coaching. Do not misunderstand this. I am not suggesting that those professionals, and the few amateurs, who regularly coach scullers, do not make a good job of it. There is photographic evidence in these pages to prove that they certainly do. But the number of men and women, from junior up to veteran status sculling today is vastly greater than it was a few decades ago, and shows no signs of declining. And all too often they get little, if any, coaching, even when they are being required to scull as part of the selection process for rowing in a crew. There is a lot of coaching for rowing and a few textbooks on the subject, but the sculler is left to his own devices.
So I believe the need for a sculling book is indisputable. But is the advice that was offered in 1975 still valid today, or has it been outdated by more advanced equipment and techniques?
In my youth there used to be several different ways of rowing - at risk of over-simplification, Orthodoxy, Fairbairnism, Conibear, and so on. But one thing I soon noticed was that irrespective of their labels, the better crews got, the more similar they looked. The change I notice in rowing between yesterday and today is that nobody argues about style anymore.
There have never been the same arguments about sculling. It is a more effcient, and in some ways more demanding method of propelling a boat than rowing. Fads and heresies have not flourished because, quite simply, only the right methods of sculling have ever achieved any success. So I believe the advice offered in 1975 would have passed muster fifty years before, and I shall be surprised if it is not still sound in the year 2000. Perhaps by then sculling coaching will be taken seriously, and the need for a simple D.I.Y. textbook will have receded. But I doubt it.
Since I wrote in 1975 there has certainly been one major change in the sport, and that has been the enormous increase in the number of people building sculling boats and marketing the associated equipment. This must be good because it means competition and innovation. It does not outdate the Theory of Rigging as pronounced in Chapter I of this book; but it does outdate some of my comments on the methods of adjustment, particularly with reference to the diagramatic drawing of the Swivel Rowlock on page 30, nor would it be possible to illustrate all the alternatives available today.
There is another point which arises from the wide choice of equipment now available. It becomes ever easier to make instant adjustments. The leverage on the sculls, the span, the height of the work, the pitch of the swivels, the sculler's position in the boat, can all be altered in a few minutes. With so many variables from which to choose, the sculler is inevitably tempted to adjust the rig whenever things are not going well. He or she may be right of course, particularly since the boat is frequently transported on the roof of a car and rigged and unrigged several times in a week. But it is well to remember that by far the most variable of all the factors involved is the person doing the sculling. A sculler may be unable to catch the beginning of a stroke efficiently because he is heavy handed or unbalanced. Increasing the severity of the rig may indeed assist the sculler to get hold of the water; but it will not cure the fault nor bring much joy when the headwind starts to blow.
There is no more important advice in this book than this, elementary though it may appear. If something seems to be wrong, first try another pair of sculls in your boat, or try your own sculls in another boat, or get another sculler to try your sculls in your boat. If it turns out that there is a fault in the rigging and not your technique, that is the moment to start making adjustments - one at a time. If on the other hand you are sufficiently confident and experienced to do without such trials, then perhaps you have already taken the first steps on the way to becoming a 'Complete Sculler.' But do not take it for granted!
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