There is a palpable sense of excitement surrounding the GB Rowing Team’s Caversham training base at the start of the summer racing period. The season began well with six medal wins, including a gold for the men’s quadruple sculls and a silver for the women’s eight at the first international regatta of the rowing calendar, the World Rowing Cup I in Belgrade, Serbia.
A series of three regattas taking place early in the summer each year, the three World Rowing Cups form an important part of the team’s preparation ahead of the European and World Rowing Championships later in the year. Data is an integral part of the sport and as the Official Analytics Partner of British Rowing, SAS provides a vital tool in helping British Rowing maintain success on a long-term basis and identify the rowers who will take to the water at future Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Speaking at the World Rowing Cup squad announcement about the importance of data analytics in preparing for elite regattas, Rebecca Girling, who rowed in seat two of the silver medal-winning women’s eight squad, said: “The most important aspect of data analysis, particularly when preparing for the World Rowing Cup, is to be able to track performance over the course of an individual race, targeting extremely specific areas of improvement. In rowing, the difference between a gold and a silver medal can be a matter of milliseconds, but data analysis can help us to pinpoint exactly what we need to do to reduce our time and ultimately find those marginal gains that can make the difference.”
As the first international regattas of the summer, the World Rowing Cup races will, in some instances, be the first elite events that some crews have raced at together, and analysis of data for new crews can help to provide a second, yet equally important, benefit to athletes – a mental edge at the start line. Speaking about the confidence boost that the data can provide ahead of an international regatta, the Hampshire native continued: “Fundamentally, if our practice data tells us that we can get from A to B at a certain speed, all we have to do is replicate that during the race. The confidence comes from the knowledge that we are not trying to achieve a miracle, but to simply perform as we do every day at Caversham. It doesn’t matter that the person in the next boat might be a world record holder because through the data I know what we are capable of and having that confidence at the World Rowing Cup is a huge benefit.”
Elaborating on the impact of data analytics on preparation for the World Rowing Cups, British Rowing’s Biomechanist and Performance Analyst, Jack Mercer said: “We collect an enormous amount of data every day, in every session, and the important thing to be able to do is turn the raw numbers into useful information that both athletes and coaches can interpret easily. Ultimately, our goal is to turn as much information as we can into performance gains and success at international competitions. SAS’ manipulation, processing and interpretation abilities are a massive help in maintaining that into the future.”
Of the athletes who competed in Belgrade and will make the trip to Linz Ottensheim, Austria and Lucerne, Switzerland later in the summer, as part of the World Rowing Cup squad, some will only have been with the team for as little as six weeks. For the Sports Science team, it is important to understand these athletes’ key strengths and weaknesses as quickly as possible so that the best crews can be put forward to race.
Mercer continued: “Data analytics helps us to identify the areas that newer athletes might be able to improve upon more quickly, bringing them up to speed with the rest of the squad in a much shorter space of time. In years past, it would have taken a lot longer to fully assess new athletes, but with today’s technology we are now able to do this much more quickly, ensuring that the best athletes are racing at the World Rowing Cups, and then again at the European and World Championships.”
GB Rowing Team World Rowing Cup I women’s eight silver medal-winning crew: Back row: Rowan McKellar, Holly Norton, Fiona Gammond, Rebecca Shorten and Matilda Horn (cox). Front row: Anastasia Chitty, Rebecca Girling, Hattie Taylor and Karen Bennett.
SAS / Naomi Baker