Interview: Rob Baker – Cambridge University Boat Club – The Boatrace 2023

19 April 2023

Interview: Rob Baker – Cambridge University Boat Club – The Boatrace 2023

Hi Rob, congratulations with the wins at the Boat Race 2023. We all could see the Cambridge teams were using RP3 during preparations in the YouTube video coverage, which was great for us at RP3 Rowing. 

Of course, we know using RP3 is beneficial to become a better rower and win races. We think every rower should choose RP3. Next to this 'free publicity' during the YouTube Livestream, and as discussed on the phone a lot of RP3 Coaches/ Users would like to know how you use RP3 and what is your opinion of the distinctive value of RP3 being part of a (high performance) training program. 

We collected the questions: these are the 16 most asked ones.


1/ What is the most important benefit of training on RP3 while preparing for an event like the Boat Race?

Using the RP3 gives us constant information on the athletes performance, length, power development and the dynamic nature of the machine mean its our best day to day piece of on land training equipment.

2/ Most rowing events are 2 km on a track, during the national & international season. What is the difference in preparation for a longer distance (16min.) race? 

The boat race is unique in that we are side by side for such a long period of time, so we need to start fast and getting in front is a real advantage, so we start much like a 2k race but then have to find the best sustainable pace possible for the distance. Training for the Boat Race is about finding technical efficiency and maximising our aerobic engines to last the distance.

3/ How important is coordination on the rowing stroke for you as a coach of a 16-minute race? The need to be strong and fit is the base, but how much effort is being made for coordination (technical steadiness)? 

The technical aspect of training is very much at the forefront of what we do at Cambridge, coaching and developing efficiency is paramount, the more effective we are the faster we can go and the more efficient we are the longer we can sustain that pace.

4/ By having a lighter rig you can change speed easier during the race if needed and row longer strokes. Only crews very well coordinated and very efficient can produce high speed being rigged lighter. It looks that your crew is relatively rigged light so they can produce great acceleration. Is that correct? How do you think training with RP3 contributes to this? 

We have to row a relatively light gearing to withstand the possible headwinds and rough water that comes on the tideway, plus it's a long race. Training on the RP3 absolutely gives us feedback on length and acceleration, so it's a key piece of training to get those aspects right.

5/ How do you use the RP3 to bring rowers from different backgrounds and rowing styles to adapt to the Cambridge rowing style?

Matching up length and peak power are key aspects to moulding athletes into the Cambridge pattern, their power curves won’t always be exactly the same and I don’t believe they need to be but length and peak power points are key.

6/ Which parameters do you use on the RP3 app the most? Are you using specific parameters for specific training?

Length is key as a start point, having a number to go off is essential and the athletes can work each stroke to produce more connected length. Developing a smooth power curve that starts strongly is also very important when rowing the eight so we look at this a lot too.

7/ Which numbers do you like to see? How is the power curve you look for? Are you aiming for a crew target power curve?

We want to see good early acceleration, so quite a sharp line to the left of the power curve, ideally all would look the same but the reality is everyone is built differently, so the key is improving the individuals and bringing them as close together as possible.

8/ At what rate do you normally do your easy rowing and what target numbers do you like the rowers to produce (split, watts, joules, stroke length)? Does the team (you and rowers) use the RP3 Portal as well for analysis?

We rate 19 strokes per minute for most of our steady work, we’d like rowers to be able to achieve 150cm stroke length, split/watts is on an individual basis based on their own physiology, we measure heart rates and lactate levels at times too.

9/ We could see the women were training connected in the video. Do you like using the RP3 connected as an 8 (4 x 2)? Do you also do 2 and 4 and other combinations? Do you do 'side by side' with more than 2 as well? 

We have training in all sorts of configurations over the years! Best to start with pairs and build up to bigger connected units.

10/ We know longer workouts on indoor rowers could cause lower back injuries. What is the longest you have the crew / rower’s row nonstop on a session with the RP3? 

Some of our athletes like to go 60’ without a pause, we wouldn’t go much longer than that without any pause, we find the dynamic nature of the RP3 means this is possible. A normal workout for us would be 70’ 2x 35’ with a 2’ pause in the middle.

11/ Do you do some race pace on it simulating the boat race, or parts of the expected race?

Mostly we use the RP3 for steady training, but we have done pieces before simulating the race, one interesting piece is with the bag on the wheel, so its very light and you can do the race without a heavy workout.

12/ We have been looking at your crews and they look efficient, great catch, hang/front end, good, coordinated drive and very few negative forces on both changes of directions and the recovery. How do you think the RP3 helps you work on this? 

Thanks! The RP3 gives us so much feedback on being connected and driving correctly, with such direct feedback it's essential for what we want to achieve.

13/ Do you use the RP3 to warm up on land before the Boatrace or before rowing on the water for general rowing practice at the boathouse? How do you use RP3 on a race day? 

Access to the machines on race day isn’t as easy so less so, but in an ideal world we would warm up on RP3s.

14/ The Dutch national team does all tests on RP3 and requires Dutch club rowers that want to be part of the selection to use RP3 as well. Do you use RP3 for testing? Do you have any specific RP3 data or numbers impacting the selection criteria? 

At this point we don’t test on RP3s, mainly because to fit into the British rowing teams testing we need to test on C2s, so that's the practical reasoning behind our thinking.

15/ Many coaches use the RP3 and its feedback to work individually on rowers to fix some problems you have trouble fixing on the water. Do you also use RP3 this way and which are the issues you like to address the most with RP3? 

Yes absolutely, it's our go to tool on land to work with individuals, as said before, connected length and acceleration are the key pieces.

16/ RP3 Rowing has got a development roadmap to provide more analysis and data driven (self) coaching functions. Which functionality are you missing?

Nothing springs to mind, but let's think and see what we can improve! 

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