Evaluating Crew Performance – The Problem with Times

Crew races are extremely difficult to evaluate. With a race over 1500 meters, we often don’t get a clear view of the action until the last few 100’s of meters.  In addition, as the boats cruise past it is very difficult to determine who is going the fastest as parallax error interferes with our perception of speed.

Since times are kept of the race, it is very easy to rely on these times in our evaluations.  From my experience – I have found this to be a very difficult measure.  Everyone understands that the course can be different on different days, and certainly we can have varied weather conditions.  But let’s look at some of the races this year and see some of the disparities we can find.  Below are the races and weather conditions I looked at:

Polar Bear Regatta:                                           54 degrees, 8mph wind  27 March 2010

Darrell Winslow Regatta:                               67 degrees, 6mph wind, 10 Apr 2010

Smokey Jacobs Regatta:                                 71 degrees, 7 mph wind, 17 Apr 2010

Al Urquia Regatta:                                             57 degrees, 1 mph wind, 24 Apr 2010

What problems do we find?:

1) No times.  At Polar Bear Regatta the Mens 1st Eight Heat A the places are reported – but no times.  This happens occasionally.

2) Questionable Times between race days. Let’s look at the most advanced team in the most advanced race: Thomas Jefferson in the Mens 1 Eight Finals:  Here were their times at these appearances:

27 March: 4:39.8

10 April: 4:59.7

24 April: 4:26.5

So are we to believe that in their Polar Bear finals TJ ran a excellent time, then worsened by 20 seconds the two weeks later, then improved by over 30 seconds two weeks after that?  Granted, TJ may have changed their line-up.  But lets look at Robinson’s progression from the exact same races:  4:50.9 – then – 5:25.0 – then 4:38.7.  Same progression! Different weather?  It looks pretty close from the conditions listed above.  I even went back and checked the wind direction – it is exactly the same(NE)!  It doesn’t make any sense.

3) Questionable race times on the same day:  In the Smokey Jacobs Regatta on the 17th of April.  The Women’s 2nd Eight was won with a time of 7:18.  This was almost 30 seconds slower than the winner of the 3rd Eight.  In fact – the Lake Braddock 3rd Eight was Twenty-Five seconds slower than the Lake Braddock 2nd Eight.  The timing can’t be right.

As helpful as it would be to have consistent timing for all these races at the Occoquan – it just doesn’t appear to exist.  If we want to evaluate our races – we’re going to have to look for another way to do it.  We’ll look at some possibilities in a future post.

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