The ‘Perfect Style’

On Sunday, at the Coastweeks Regatta, I bumped into a friend of mine, Bill, who had been out racing in the masters single event. I asked him how it went, and although Bill did not win his race, he was happy. This was his second year racing in the Coastweeks. As a matter of fact, it is not only his second year racing, it is Bill’s second year rowing. He began last year in April, taking some sculling classes during the summer, racing in the Coastweeks in September, and before the year had ended, he bought himself a shell of his own, lucky fellow.

Bill, who is a very nice man, has the right attitude towards his new sport. He enjoys being out on the water trying the get one perfect stroke after another. Adding them up, one outing after another. And though, sometimes he manages to get very few ‘perfect’ strokes on an outing, he enjoys what he is doing. Bill is having pure pleasure being out in his boat. And to me, this makes absolute sense, because whatever you are doing, it has to be fun!

Bill had read one of my entries from 13 September, showing an old ‘funny post card’. Being interested in different rowing styles, Bill asked me about the English Orthodox Style, which predominated during the time the card came out (it was sent in 1917). Some years later, in the beginning of the 1920s, Steve Fairbairn’s method (he refused to call it a ‘style’) became popular – or one could even say it came to be ‘in fashion’! It is hard to try to compare Fairbairn’s new method to the old English Orthodox Style. The only thing, more or less, that Fairbairn wanted his oarsmen, and later oarswomen, to think about was his or her oar in the water. They were not to spend a lot of time learning how their body, arms and legs were supposed to be at a certain time during the stroke, it would come naturally.

I have found two drawings in two old Swedish rowing books showing the difference between the Fairbairn method and other rowing ‘styles’ for Bill and you other readers to see and compare. The one on top shows the Fairbairn in black and the old style in grey, while the image on the left shows the ‘old orthodox style’, ‘younger orthodox style’, the ‘continental style’, and, at the bottom, Fairbairn’s style, or method.

Of course, today, rowers are not rowing in any of these ‘styles’, in their purest forms. However, I will leave that discussion to a later date. In the mean time, Bill and all you others, have fun out on the water!

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