Some teams that emphasize stroke rate might put their strongest members in the front to set the stroke rate for the team. Others that emphasize the mechanical science of propulsion put their strongest members in the back to deal with water resistance. There are also those who theorize on the centre of gravity of the boat and the best lineup to lower the centre of gravity. Whatever the lineup, there is a rationale for it. Yet, basic execution, including flawless strokes and synchrony, is the most important part of competitive dragon boating.
A dragon boat race course could be 200m, 500m or longer. The question we ask is how much endurance and strength your teammates have? This is a key factor to determining whether your team can sustain multiple heats and beat a close rival at the right moment putting you in the final race. This is where physical conditioning plays a role in addition to on-water practice. Your team also needs to carefully plan the conditioning exercises not only to build your strength and cardiovascular capacity but also stimulate the muscle movements, breathing pattern and heart rates during a race. In the weeks leading to a race, it is important to tailor your exercises to your team stroke energy. Common stroke strategies begin with a launch sequence.
The launch sequence generally includes a couple of short strokes (normal sweep range), followed by 3 or 4 regular strokes and then by a series of ultra fast, short strokes.
After this launch sequence, some common stroke series used in races are:-
1) Incrementing stroke speed every 25-30 seconds
2) Alternating slow and fast strokes
3) Keeping stroke speed constant but varying the pressure applied to the paddles every 15-20 strokes. For instance, alternate 20 regular strokes with 20 high-pressured strokes
4) A combination of the (2) and (3) as above.
Many teams also have a finish series. which is a series of ultra fast strokes in the last 50-100 metres.
In the next few days I will break down each sequence in more detail and explain the technical background behind why these are important for a race.