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Best Smartphone Apps for Rowing Referees

by Jules Zane, jules@usrowing.org | Jan 30, 2015
Many rowing veterans will tell you that nothing beats a good, trustworthy stopwatch, but that doesn’t mean that the smartphone in your pocket can’t be of great use while refereeing or being out on the water. Here is some advice from our own referees.


Many rowing veterans will tell you that nothing beats a good, trustworthy stopwatch, but that doesn’t mean that the smartphone in your pocket can’t be of great use while refereeing or being out on the water. Here is some advice from our own referees.

An app used by quite a few people is Row Zone, which offers a number of different options including a guide to rigging your boat, a timing function for multiple lanes and a variety of rowing drills.

“Though nothing can replace a stopwatch with multiple splits, in a pinch, this serves as the next best alternative,” said USRowing referee Mary Carol Madigan, who uses Random Number Generator to select random boats for boat weighing and other duties. She said to check your phone for a compass, which is a great way to orient yourself, if need be, on a larger body of water.

Rowing SPM (for Apple users) and Stroke Rate Counter (for Android users) are easy-to-use apps to measure stroke rates. There are also various stopwatch-specific apps, such as D-Stopwatch for Windows phones and the Stopwatch & Timer app for Android. The latter has a paid version as well, which offers a great variety of timing options.

As for determining weather, there are several apps out there.

“Often used is the Weatherbug app,” said referee and coach Larry Lazlo. “Its forecasting is pretty good; it has a good radar map and a lightning detector. It refreshes every 30 seconds and lets you know how close the last strike was. We have used it a lot to help make decisions about whether to go out on the water or to wait.”

For referee Derek Blazo, “Weather Underground has some of the best local radar and the most accurate storm tracking maps to watch the path of bad weather.”

Weather Underground’s Wundermap weather app was also put to use by the USRowing trailer team that quite successfully avoided storms on its cross-country trailering trip last month.

“I also use the voice recorder if I want to record something about a race which won't fit on my heat sheets, and sometimes grab and shoot a little video, if time and boat stability permits,” said Blazo. “But none of these replace my trusty Ultrak Stopwatch, experience and a white or red flag.”

And although it speaks for itself, handle your smartphone with care. Your device isn’t compatible with water (or from the bottom of a lake). If you plan on using a mobile device for rowing, consider purchasing a waterproof cover and gloves that allow for use on touchscreens.
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