With 20 years’ experience coaching crew, Cherry talks not just mechanics, but the potential art in the rowing experience.
This guide to rowing comes at the sport from a pre-Socratic angle, digging to its essence, then shifting to the Platonic ideal of release, strike, recovery sweep, catch, drive—the perfect stroke, like a dive without a splash. When you put all the elements together—nothing more, nothing less—there’s a mysterious elevation of spirit. Cherry, in his debut, brings a pleasingly old-school formality to rowing: do it right, do it to perfection, but have fun while you’re at it. Sense the atmosphere of the wooden boathouse—the deep shadows, the slanting rays of Rembrandt light—and you learn that there is a way to conduct yourself as a rower: with respect and consideration for others, with quiet camaraderie and an offering hand, and with an eye for the common good. “You must embrace the fact that as soon as you lay hands on the racing shell, you surrender your unique identity absolutely.” Cherry offers clear instruction and advice to oarsmen and -women, coxswains, and coaches, like how to get the shell from the rack to the dock and into the water, where to halt the catch—“Only enough force to bury the blade’s paint”—and how to execute the drive: “No matter if you’re on the square or feathering, it is the job of the drive hand to strike at the finish and unweight at the catch.” (Don’t worry, the lingo becomes self-explanatory.) There are checklists for the coxswain and the coach. There are playlists of songs that Cherry recommends. In fact, gentleman rower that he is, Cherry always recommends, never claiming the last word: “What I’ve written here is not intended to be the final word on technique but only pieces of accessible guidance that will make some good sense to you.”
Buoyant advice for readers ready to hit the river.