Tipping Etiquette

Whilst working on the refurbishment of a pair of sculls I began to wonder about the ‘tips up’ or ‘tips down’ habits of most rowers when they leave or come in to the dock.

The oars I was repairing were so worn on the stroke side blade that the edge was razor sharp and the overall length of the blade was about 20-25mm shorter.

I put the question out to my Twitter followers: which way do you do it, and why? I did have my own ideas, but what’s the point of having a big brains trust if you can’t use it?

There were a few people who did it one way or another because that is what they’d had ‘beaten in to them’ by a coach or boatman back in the day. There were also a few people who had firm reasons for their method.

One key reason was to improve boat movement at the dock. Tips down made it easier to put the end of the blade into the surface of the dock (many have raised timber slats or some form of edge) and enable the boat to be pushed off more effectively than using the bottom corner of a squared blade. One rower followed the rule of ‘tips down’ to leave the dock, but ‘tips up’ to return to the dock.

The other key reason was to avoid damage. Back in the day timber oars had copper tips, and then later they had a timber strip at right angles. Both of these are easily replaced when needed. Not so easy to replace was the thickness of wood worn from the back of a spoon. This is much less of an issue with modern oars as epoxy and glass fabric is simple to apply. The tips of modern oars, however, can be a pain to fix.

So it seems that the ‘tips down’ habit is mostly a dated one that harks back to the time of timber oars. However, ease of pushing off the dock is still one area that the tip is useful.

There is one exception to the rule (isn’t there always?) and that is the Vortex edge. Whatever the marginal gains this technology brings to your performance, many rowers look upon it as a mere protective device and are willing to go ‘tips down’ with confidence (note that Croker have purely protective corners available).

Whatever method you use, be sure to understand why and what the downsides may be. Tips and corners can be repaired, but it’s always best to avoid damage in the first place.

One thought on “Tipping Etiquette

  1. Our landing stage is concrete and the old principal of tips down from the days of wooden blades has taken it’s toll on the blades made with modern materials, the loss spoon dimensions on that side of the boats has been noticeable. We now go tips up !

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