How do you call a ratio shift to control and stop the rush without lowering the SR? Is it even possible?
Well, with ratio shifts you’re not actually doing anything to the stroke rate even though it feels like the stroke rate is going down. All a ratio shift does (or is supposed to do) is shift the ratio from being something like 1:2 (recovery : drive) back to 2:1. What you have to communicate to the crew and help them understand, particularly if you’re coxing a younger crew, is that all you’re doing on a ratio shift is slowing down the recovery and powering through more on the drive.
If the boat feels rushed, what does that mean? It means that less time is being spent on the recovery than the drive and there’s no slide control, so you and the stroke need to communicate and determine if a ratio shift is necessary. If it is and it’s not something your crew has done before or they’re not used to doing them, explain that the amount of time that they’re spending on the recovery is too short so they need to lengthen out and slow the slides down with the stroke while keeping the drive solid and quick through the water. To help them understand, give them the numbers – standard ratio is either 2:1 or 3:1. If you’re rushing, the numbers will be reversed. Call for the shift “in two, that’s one … and two, on this one.” Remind them to swing out of bow together, start the wheels together, roll into the catch at the same controlled speed, and maintain a powerful push on the drive.
When I call for a shift, I use my voice to help them sense the ratio. Right after a shift to ensure the power doesn’t drop, I always tell them to make that first stroke the most powerful stroke we take so that’s usually when I’ll throw in a “BOOM” call at the catch. The “boom” reminds them not only to have a strong catch but to make the drive powerful. If the drive is powerful, the blade has to move fast through the water. In order for the boat to benefit from that powerful stroke the recovery has to be controlled, regardless of the stroke rate.
If we’re drilling or doing steady state and it feels rushed, I’ll call the shift and say “Let’s take a ratio shift in two, that’s one … and two now, catch looong.” The “catch” part stays aggressive and direct but the “long” call is drawn out to the help guide them through the recovery – basically I want them to match the length of the recoveries to the length of time that I’m holding out the call. I’ll also use my voice to enunciate what I want if I’m coxing novices and counting out the timing. “One – two – three – catch, push. Controlllll – two – three – catch. Move together and send. Let’s keep this run – hook through, smoooth now on the slides.” Recovery calls are drawn out, catch calls are short and staccato, and drive calls are aggressive.
The experience of your crew will also play a factor into how little the stroke rate changes when you call for a shift. The majority of the crews I’ve coxed in the last several years have been experienced enough that when I call a ratio shift, regardless of whether we’re at an 18 or a 30, the stroke rate hardly ever changes. It’s something that comes with concentration, experience, and practice.