Thursday, December 01, 2005

Dad Vail Fours vs. Eights

A reader posted a comment to a post on dedicated lightweight programs suggesting that the real race at Dad Vails is lightweight fours because that event has more competitors than lightweight eights. This comment was followed by another taking issue with that statement, saying that the light eight winner was closer in speed to the open 8 winner than was the light 4 winner to the open 4 winner.

Both are correct in their facts. There were 18 light four entries vs. just 5 in the light 8, but the light 4 was 3.3% slower than the heavy 4 while the light 8 was only 2.5% slower than the heavy 8. To try to understand what this means, we need to look for some context. We can get that by looking at other races. At Eastern Sprints the light 8 was 5.1% slower and the light 4 was 2.3% slower - the opposite of Vails! IRAs don't work because the heavies row in a different regatta and no fours are raced at IRAs. (Rowing in a different regatta means that times are not at all comparable, but what the heck, I'll do it anyway. The light 8 turns out to be 5.0% slower - a result I attribute to pure coincidence.) I've used 2005 results here, as opposed to going back and doing some sort of averaging over the years.

We've just succeeded in muddying the waters so now let's look at world records. I know they were all set at different times and on different courses, but as world records we can use them as measures because to set a world record the boats will have met up with generally the same conditions. No light eights or light fours race internationally so we'll use doubles and quads as proxies. Here we find that light quads are 5.1% slower and light doubles are 2.8% slower, the same pattern as Sprints. The men, by the way, also follow that pattern at Vails and in the world records (no fours at Sprints).

So, this suggests that the fact that at Vails the light eights are closer to the heavies than the light fours are is an aberration. I'm not sure why this is but I'll guess that it's because the heavyweights in Dad Vail programs are closer in size to lightweights than in the scholarship and national team programs. I think this supports the point I made earlier that if Dad Vail programs would concentrate on lightweights they can be much more successful on a national (as opposed to the Dad Vail) level. Think about the Truthtellers.

Back to the original question about which event is more competitive at Vails - I don't know. I think we can safely say that despite only having 5 entrants, the light 8 is as competitive as any other event. We don't know, however, if they're closer to the heavies because the heavies are slower or the lights are faster. As for the fours, they do seem to be a bit slower than they should be, but still close enough to be in the ballpark.

The other thing that comes out of this is the fact that the men are generally closer to their heavyweight counterparts than the women (except for the light eight at Vails). This probably is due to longer standing and better developed lightweight programs for the men. The good news for the light women is that they can look forward to improving their speed at a faster rate than the heavies.

1 comment:

sydskid1 said...

interesting point!

i can't wait until next year when i have 8 lightweight women...