Many people out there are familiar with the Rowing Biomechanics Newsletters. Casually surfing the net you are likely to bump into them in all sorts of places.
Their author, noted rowing and general sports biomechanist Dr. Valery Kleshnev, maintains a web site BioRow.com where he makes the newsletters publicly available. In fact, he grants permission to copy and send them to anyone as long as you credit him as the source. If you would like to receive these newsletters, sign up for the Rowing Science Newsletter and you will automatically receive notification of each issue in your inbox!
As of the June 2006 newsletter Dr. Kleshnev is up to issue 63 -quite an impressive repository of information for coaches and athletes.
The June 2006 issue answers the question: "Why is a front loaded force curve more efficient?" or in layman's terms - why should you lengthen the catch, even though common teaching says it is inefficient and "pinches" the boat.
The answer is split into two parts - why a long catch is not a waste of energy and why the front loaded drive is more efficient.
His answers are essentially that a) no energy is wasted with a long catch - but it does produce a heavier oar gearing and b) the front loaded drive while producing the same total amount of force and power does it with a more even power distribution - the back loaded drive requires double the peak power to maintain the same total power.
Another interesting comment is that this difference is not as apparent on the erg - a back end loaded drive is more likely to be successful on the erg.
Check out this issue and others on the biorow.com web site and don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to receive notification when they come out.