The crew that's making it look easy is most likely the one doing the best job. While you're watching, look for continuous, fluid motion of the rowers. The rowing motion shouldn't have a discernible end or beginning.
Synchronization. Rowers strive for perfect synchronization in the boat.
Clean catches of the oarblade. If you see a lot of splash, the oarblades aren't entering the water correctly. The catch should happen at the end of the recovery, when the hands are as far ahead of the rower as possible. Rowers who uncoil before they drop the oarblades are sacrificing speed and not getting a complete drive.
Even oarblade feathering. When the blades are brought out of the water, they should all move horizontally close to the water and at the same height. It's not easy, especially if the water is rough.
The most consistent speed. Shells don't move like a car – they're slowest at the catch, quickest at the release. The good crews time the catch at just the right moment to maintain the speed of the shell.
Rowing looks graceful, elegant and sometimes effortless when it's done well. Don't be fooled. Rowers haven't been called the world's most physically-fit athletes for nothing. A 2,000-meter rowing race demands virtually everything a human being can physically bring to an athletic competition – aerobic ability, technical talent, exceptional mental discipline, ability to utilize oxygen efficiently and in huge amounts, balance, pain tolerance, and the ability to continue to work when the body is demanding that you stop.
More Race-Watching Tips
Race times can vary considerably depending upon the course and weather conditions. Tailwinds will improve times, while headwinds and crosswinds will hamper them.
If a crew "catches a crab," it means the oarblade has entered the water at an angle instead of perpendicularly. The oarblade gets caught under the surface and will slow or even stop a shell.
A "Power 10" is a call by the coxswain for 10 of the crew's best, most powerful strokes. Good coxswains read the course to know how many strokes remain for their crew to count down to the finish.
Crews are identified by their oarblade design. The USAblades are red on top and blue on the bottom, with a white triangle at the tip.
It doesn't matter whether you win an Olympic medal or don't make the finals – each crew still carries their boat back to the rack.
Coxswains from first-place boats worldwide are thrown into the water by their crews.
Coxswains don't now and probably never did yell "stroke! stroke!" Similar to a jockey, their job is to implement the coach's strategy during the race, in addition to steering and letting the rowers know where they stand in the race and what they need to do to win.