90 Degree Turns in a Head Race - Reader Question

I received an emailed question from a reader today asking if there is a known fastest method for 90 degree turns in a head race:

I live in Maine and here there is a series of stake races that runs throughout the summer. Also, in the fall the Green Mountain Head, a stake race, attracts some excellent competitors (past and present national team members, etc.). Is there any reliable information about the fastest way to round a stake buoy for a 90 degree turn?

I've been favoring approaching it from and angle and then holding hard with the inside blade. People I've spoken with have found no difference between rowing through the turn with pressure on the outside blade or checking the boat down with the inside blade and, if needed, doing a "river turn."

Many thanks for any thoughts or information you could share on this

I coached crews at a race that was out-and-back including a 180 degree turn that would be even stronger than the one this reader describes. I have no scientific data to support any particular method, but we felt hard rowing on one side and air shots on the other combined with a wide approach worked best. Having said that, weather conditions greatly affected the turn and this method with the wind in the wrong direction could be suicidal.

I also have heard from a member of a Canadian National Team Women's 8 from many years ago who entered the Head of the Charles (I think it was!) and their coxie used a canoe paddle to back down on one side for a faster turn - since of course ruled illegal - but what a site to see the coxie carrying a paddle down and getting into the boat.

I also imagine that the particualr boat you are in would greatly affect things - obviously a single is far easier to turn than an 8+. Different boat manufacturers have also experiemented with different fins and rudders for such races. I saw a Dirigo fin/rudder combination on a Hudson 8+ once for just this reason.

So this is a question to readers - What is the fastest way to turn 90+ degrees in a race? Of course I mean head race - in a 2K race the answer is: "catch a crab!"

Please add comments or email me your answers.

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