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Trends of boat speed, stroke rate and race strategy after Rio-2016 Olympics

Trends of boat speed, stroke rate and race strategy after Rio-2016 Olympics

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The 2016 Olympic Regatta in Rio has come to a close, and in it 10 medals were won by BioRow clients serviced in the last two years: one gold (W2x POL), three silvers (W1x USA, LM2x IRL, LM4- DEN) and 6 bronzes (LM2x NOR, M2x NOR, W2- DEN, W4x POL, M4x EST, W8+ ROU), and many more medals were won by previous BioRow clients. Congratulations to all rowers and coaches! 

Trends of boat speed, stroke rate and race strategy after Rio-2016 Olympics

Unfortunately, the discontinuation of the database of results of world regattas makes it difficult to analyse the best time of the year. Therefore, the winners’ speeds were analysed and it was found that this Olympic regatta in Rio was the second slowest over the last 24 years, only being led by the Worlds-1995 in Tampere (Fig.1). One of the reasons looks to be the strong cross-head wind and the rough sea water conditions of the Lagoa.

Two years ago, the average trend of boat speed in 14 Olympic events has shown growth by 0.85% each year (RBN 2014/08). Slower times during the last two years decreased the slope down to 0.4% per year. As in the previous analysis, the highest growth of the boat speed was shown in both eights, lightweight boats, M4- and W2- (Tabl.1). The slowest growth was found in sculling boats:
Analysis of GPS data has shown that the average stroke rate in 14 Olympic boats was 37.4 min-1, which is very similar to the data from the previous 10 years.
In the boat classes, the average stroke rate has not significantly changed much since 2014, except for the W2x, where it was 3.6 str/min lower. Therefore, the average stroke rate of the finalists was the lowest in W2x, even lower than the W1x.
As before, no statistically significant difference was found in average the stroke rate between finalists. This allows us to conclude that in general, the races were won by means of longer distance per stroke and a higher effectiveness of work per stroke, not by higher stroke rate.
Analysis made after the previous Olympics in London (RBN 2012/07) revealed that the typical race strategy of the winners was +2.5%, -1%, -1.3%, 0.0%. The trend of the strategy had been showing that “the boat speed over the race is becoming more and more even”, so the prognosis for the next Olympics-2016 was the strategy +1.9%, -1%, -1.4%, +0.7%. However, regatta in Rio has disproved the prognosis: the average race strategy of the winners was +3.6%, -1.7%, -2.4%, +0.5% (Tab.3):
This could be related to the specifics of the course used, which was more sheltered from winds at the first 500m, and had a wide opening in the middle of the course. Tab.3 shows that the winners had the highest variation of the boat speed (4.1%) among all finalists, which means the winners had higher boat speed over the first and last 500m sections, and relatively lower speed in the middle of the race.
Tab.4 shows relative effective Work per Stroke (eWPS, RBN 2005/10) in all finalists:

On average, a 1.4% higher effective Work per Stroke creates the probability for a crew to move one place up in final ranking. However, there were some exceptions: in LM2x, M2-, M2x and W2- the winners had lower eWPS than some other finalists, so they have won because of a higher stroke rate. The GPS data for the winner in M1x was missing.

©2016 Dr. Valery Kleshnev www.biorow.com