One of my coaches was a coxswain and I got switched out the last third of practice to be in the launch with her. OMG BEST TIME EVER. Every time I had a question she’d answer it so well! More coxes should become coaches! One thing she was talking about was watching the wind patterns – like the dark patches in the water to let the crew know. I understand the concept, but I’m not really understanding why. Like, I tell them that a wind/wake is coming to prepare them?
The type of wind that you’re encountering will determine what you tell the rowers and how they should adjust their technique.
Lay back just a little bit more than you normally would. If you look at a protractor and visualize that sitting straight up makes a 90 degree angle, your normal layback should be about 110 degrees (roughly – don’t overthink this). In a headwind, you want to layback just a little farther, to about 115-120 degrees. The reason why is because if you think about rowing into the wind, it’s going to slow you down regardless, but if your body is up high, it’s essentially acting like a brick wall and slowing the boat’s movement even more. When you layback a little more than usual, you’re allowing the wind to flow over you, which results in the boat not being slowed down as much.
The tailwind is going to push you along so you’ll be moving faster than you otherwise would, which can give the rowers the sense that their blades aren’t gripping the water like they should. Quick catches and maintaining connection will be important technical focuses here. The boat might be a little tougher to set up too so you can also make general reminders for that as well.
Crosswinds are the worst, in my opinion. Depending on how strong the wind is, it can actually push the boat into another lane or into the shore, regardless of how hard you steer. Crosswinds can also knock the boat offset so if I can see a gust coming on starboard I’ll say something like “gust on this next stroke, ports hands up…”, that way the “push” the boat will get from the wind will actually keep it even.
When I’m out I’ll watch the ripples on the water to see if a gust is coming or which direction the wind is blowing and then alert my crew and adjust my steering as necessary. If they’re going side-to-side or at an angle, it’s a cross wind, if they’re going in the same direction as us, it’s a tailwind, and if they’re coming towards me, it’s a headwind.