Tag: henley royal regatta

Coxswain recordings, pt. 42

College Coxing Racing Recordings

Coxswain recordings, pt. 42

George Washington University 2015 V8+ IRA C/D Semi-final

I’ve posted quite a few of GW’s recordings over the years, not just because they’re good but because I think they are easily some of the best examples out there of how to cleanly and assertively execute a race plan. Of all the audio I’ve posted, when you listen to Connor’s specifically, that should be one of the main takeaways as far as “what is this coxswain doing well that I can/should try to emulate”.

One call I liked in particular was “keep tappin’ it along”. This is such a universal call because it works for literally any situation – racing, steady state, drills, etc. The biggest thing it conveys is to maintain consistency. In the past I’ve used it as reassurance if it feels like the crew’s starting to second guess how well the boat’s moving – you know, like when it’s felt too good for too long and you’re like “is this a fluke or…?”. Most of the time this’ll happen after we’ve had a few questionable rows or pieces and we’ve finally started hitting our stride again and reestablishing our confidence. Similarly, nearly every coach I’ve ever had or worked with has said this during drills, especially when doing the pick drill or reverse pick drill when you’re working with a shorter slide and the propensity for having wonky a wonky set or slide control is a bit higher.

Green Lake Crew vs. Tideway Scullers 2015 Henley Royal Regatta Thames Challenge Cup Heat

This is a decent recording (tone and intensity throughout are pretty good) but the primary takeaway should be to put some daylight between your calls and not have your race sound like a seven minute long run-on sentence. You’re just not as effective if it sounds like you’re running out of breath every few seconds and rushing to get out what you want to say before you have to replenish your oxygen stash. Slow down, breathe, and speak clearly.

This is probably dependent on your crew but saying whatever split you’re at isn’t gonna cut it when you’re a length or more up on the other crew (aka you’ve clearly been doing something right) is probably not the most effective way to get them to hold off a charge or keep increasing their lead. Obviously you should always be on alert and not too comfortable with whatever lead you have but phrasing can make a big difference. “1:46, we’re a length up, let’s keep moving out and pushing that split back down to 1:45…” or “Three seats of open, sitting at 1:46, 1000m to go … let’s not get comfortable, we’re gonna take five to press together and hit that 1:45 with the legs, ready … now” says pretty much the exact same thing but in a more focused, unified (and positive) way. Granted, there are definitely situations where you need to get in their faces and be like “this is not good enough, we need to do better now” but having a couple seats of open water on the field typically isn’t one of them.

Also, I’ve beaten this horse to death multiple times but stahhhp with the “I need”, “you guys”, etc. Once in awhile is whatever, fine but not every single call. It’s not “I” and “you”, it’s “us”, “let’s”, “we”, etc. You’re part of the engine moving the boat so stop making calls that make it seem like you’re sitting behind some invisible barrier that separates you from the work.

Other calls I liked:

“Take us to Thursday…” When you’re in a multi-day race situation like Henley, Youth Nats, IRAs, etc., a call like this is a solid one to start a move off with. It’s one I’d probably save for the latter half of the race, especially if it’s close, but I like how she used it here.

You can find and listen to more recordings by checking out the “Coxswain Recordings” page.

Coxing Video of the Week

Video of the Week: Disqualifying Sydney Rowing Club

Everybody got so pissed that Sydney got DQ’ed but what the ump said to the stroke is exactly right – “You are the stroke, you can see me waving the flag, I waved you over. It’s your responsibility if she (the coxswain) can’t hear…” and then he trails off but to continue that thought, if you’re the stroke and  you can see the umpire waving a flag behind you, it’s your job to communicate that to the coxswain. You bear just as much responsibility for any negative outcome for not communicating what the ump is saying as the coxswain does for making poor steering decisions in the first place.

Video of the Week

Video of the Week: Joe Burk, 1938 Henley Diamond Sculls

“Burn developed a unique, personal style of sculling that took him years of experimentation to perfect. He engaged the arms, body and legs simultaneously at the catch, and rowed at unusually high stroke ratings for an entire 2000 meter race, over 40 strokes per minute.”

Doing that in an eight with seven other people for a full 2000 meters sounds arduous enough … imagine how taxing, both mentally and physically, it is doing it by yourself in a single.

Coxswain recordings, pt. 40

Coxing Racing Recordings

Coxswain recordings, pt. 40

Thames vs. Barge 2015 Henley Royal Regatta Thames Challenge Cup Semi-Final

This coxswain is #goals AF.  Listen and learn because she puts on a clinic here.

This is a great race from the 2015 regatta and a solid example of a style of coxing that most of us in the US aren’t accustomed to. The biggest difference is in how we call the starts. Our style is very regimented most of the time but this style is a little looser and focuses more on the technical side (“nice and loose off the back end”, “let’s start pushing that finish”, etc.) rather than calling out 1/2, 1/2, 3/4, full, “complete, complete, lengthen, full” or whatever your traditional starting sequence is.

I’ve called starts like this and I do like it but it requires a lot of focus from the crew because they don’t have you in their ear calling the starting five, power 20, lengthen 5, etc. The coach I did it with always referred to it as a more “mature” way of racing because it forces everyone, coxswain included, to be that much more tuned in to the race plan and what’s happening on each stroke, even if/when it’s not directly being said out loud.

Also, note how at 1:40 she says “here comes the wind”? You can see the texture of the water is different in front of the boat in the subsequent few seconds after she makes that call (in comparison to the calmer water in front of them as they came off the line). If you’re new to coxing or are trying to get a grip on how to alert your crew of where the wind is, this gives you a good visual of what the water will look like as you encounter, in this instance, a headwind. Remember, if it’s blowing towards you, it’s a headwind, if it’s blowing with you it’s a tailwind, and if it’s hitting you at an angle it’s a crosswind.

Related: 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 15 seconds between 2:25 and 2:40 show exactly how you should communicate with your crew during a race, particularly one where you’re down. Her tone is level, she’s calm, she makes calls that keep the crew focused, and she doesn’t give them any reason to worry when she says where they are relative to Barge. She makes the call for “our rhythm”, which is always a great go-to call, and follows it up with calls that emphasize what she wants, not just in their direct meaning but also in how she says and annunciates them. She ends it by saying “they’re just sitting there … let’s start trucking through … we knew we’d be down off the start”, which is a good way of saying we knew this was going to happen, it’s OK but now it’s time to buckle in and get moving. There’s no sense of concern or anything there, which can admittedly be tough to master as a younger coxswain but it’s a skill that can really elevate you from just being mediocre to being good.

That move between 2:50 and 4:10ish is flawless. THAT’S how you make up 2/3 of a length between you and another crew. You can bet too that when she said “half a meter off their stern and they have no idea what the hell happened here”, that’s exactly what they were thinking.

When she slaps the side of the boat as she calls “now” at 5:38, you can see and almost feel the energy in the boat pick up. I’ve seen lots of coxswains do this and have done it myself too but be careful if you do – slamming your wrist into the gunnel hurts like a bitch.

One of the (many) things she does well is giving them super specific position updates – i.e. “we’re a meter and a half off their cox”, “we’re a meter off their bow ball … we’re a foot off their bow ball … bow ballll!”, etc. Don’t underestimate how motivating this is to the crew, especially if you can count it down like she does as they’re coming up on bow to stern.

Crossing the line, “we’re gonna act like this means god damn nothing, they should never have come over here” … like, damn, could you make a more savage call at the end of a race? I aspire to have that much ice in my veins.

She makes a great point though, celebrating wins is fine and normal and whatever but you should have some decorum when doing it too. My coaches always told us to save it for the final. Heats and semis were the battles but the final was the war and you don’t want to look like a dick by shouting, slumping over, etc. just because you won something as inconsequential as a qualifier, no matter how good of a race it was.

Other calls I liked:

“Let’s cruise now, tap it along…”

“In two … next stroke … now…” I like how she calls this. It just sounds crisper than saying “in two, one … two…”.

“You’ve got momentum Thames, we’ve got to keep moving…”

“Gimme five strokes holding the back end through…” Super basic call but she said it so succinctly and didn’t waste any time getting it out – one breath to make a call that that helped them take a seat over those five strokes.

“Hang and send…”

“Keep squeezing me away…”

“Whole crew, sit up now…” Another basic call but I like how assertive she is in calling it and how she gives them direction on when to do it. Little, little details like this add up.

Australia Men’s 8+ training row

This is a long recording (22 minutes) and there’s not much specific that I want to point out, rather I think this is just another good example of how to execute a long row – occasional technical comments but largely letting the rowers feel out the piece and process the changes that need to be made while giving the coach(es) plenty of opportunities to jump in if they have feedback to offer.

This is something you can/should discuss with the crew and your coaches too. I’ve been in boats that hated this much silence between calls and I’ve been in others where this amount of coxing was just right. Similarly, some coaches are content to let you take control and do the majority of the talking/coaching, others want to use this time to provide as much feedback as possible. Both can be annoying for the coxswain because long rows like this require a bit of forethought so you’re not just winging it with your calls but at the same time, it’s really annoying when you get talked over or interrupted every time you go to say something.

Conversations like this will obviously do a lot for making practice more effective but my end game with having them was to just save myself as much hassle and frustration as possible. There’s nothing selfish about that so don’t think you’ll look bad if you bring this up, particularly if dealing with overly talkative coaches on the water is a problem you’ve encountered in the past.

Team USA 2012 M8+ 10 at base pace

This is a quick and simple video that shows the eight going through some strokes at base pace. I don’t think this is Zach Vlahos coxing them so if anyone does know who it is, let me know. (Update: Asked Zach, it’s Ned DelGuercio.)

One thing he does that everyone should do at the end of the piece is say “clean paddle”. Just because you took a few hard strokes doesn’t mean you can row like shit now just because you’re not at pressure. That goes for coming off of longer pieces too. A small dropoff in technique is fine but you should still be at like, 90% when it comes to how proficient your strokes look. Anything less is just lazy.

Also, check out that docking. Drops pairs out on the approach, tells them to watch their oars, when to lean, to watch out for the corner … seriously, if you guys do those four things as effortlessly as he did them, you’re docking will improve tenfold in one practice. None of that is hard either so don’t equate “effortlessly” with the fact that he’s a national team coxswain. If you have functioning eyes and common sense it’ll be just as easy for you as it was for him.

Other calls I liked:

“Stabilize here…” I use this one a lot as a full-stroke call (“stabilize” at the catch, “here” at the finish”) if/when the boat’s off set.

You can find and listen to more recordings by checking out the “Coxswain Recordings” page.

Coxswain recordings, pt. 30

College Coxing High School Racing Recordings Rowing

Coxswain recordings, pt. 30

MIT 2015 IRA Men’s Varsity 4+ Repechage

I haven’t posted any of our recordings on here (they’re all on YouTube if you wanna listen to them) but I wanted to post this one because I think it was our varsity coxswain’s best recording of the season and I’m really damn proud of that for more reasons that I can count. I wish I could remember everything I pointed out to him when we initially watched this after the race but that was a month ago so below is a recap of what I assume I told him.

The whole starting sequence – start, high 20, transition to base – was really well executed. He started off the year/season drawing his calls out to really annoying and unnecessary lengths so to finish the season really crisp like this is a huge improvement. I also really like how we started doing the shifts down to base. I honestly don’t remember if this is something we talked about or if he just started doing it on his own but adding in that second shift really helped clean up that transition and make it a lot smoother.

It still annoys me (in the most minor of ways) that he calls a “ten to establish (the rhythm)” right after the start but if you’re going to take a ten for something at that spot, calling it for rhythm isn’t the worst thing to choose. (As long as it’s not for power – you have no idea how much this makes me rage.) One of the things we/I really harped on this season was not relying on 5s and 10s to get across whatever you wanted them to do. Instead of calling numerous 5s for catches, finishes, legs, etc. just make the call for a few strokes and then move on. You don’t need to take a burst just to get them to do something. My point there is that instead of calling a 10 to establish the rhythm I would have just gone straight into “legs long, legs loose” for a couple of strokes because just counting out the strokes doesn’t establish the rhythm, you’ve gotta actually back it up with legit calls.

Prepping the crew for an oncoming wind gust is always smart so I like that he saw the gust coming at 1:16 and said “wind gust on this one”. This is probably the best footage I’ll be able to get from a coxswain’s POV of what the wind looks like so if you’re still trying to figure out how to read the wind, look at the ripples in the water immediately before, during, and after he makes that call. The wind had been picking up throughout the reps (there were three total) but it stayed pretty much a cross-head the entire time. You can tell it’s a headwind because the boat is going into it (vs. a tailwind where you’re going with it) and the diagonal pattern of the ripples indicates that it’s a slight crosswind, meaning that the wind is going perpendicular-ish to the course instead of straight with the lanes (in which case it’d just be a direct head or tailwind).

A couple strokes later you can hear BU’s coxswain say “I’ve got bow ball”, which could easily have been disastrous for us (and if it was earlier in the season it probably would have been). I like how he handled it though. He’ll probably say that he didn’t hear her or wasn’t paying attention, thus what I’m about to say is totally irrelevant but I like that he just said where they were on BU, that they were walking, and to stay relaxed and poised. From there he makes the call to get the boat set (the crosswind wasn’t helping us there) and they immediately took a seat back on BU. The calmness in his voice throughout that segment is not something I would have thought was possible a few months ago, or at least not something that could be executed that well, so I’m really, really proud of how he handled that. (But like I said, he’ll probably say he had no idea what BU’s coxswain was doing so I’ll just pretend that what I said was his plan all along.)

As they come into 750m and he says “let’s walk up and pass, I’m on 2-seat, get me bow man…”, that’s a perfect way to call that and is another good example of what I mean by simplifying your calls. All you’ve gotta do is tell them where you are and where you wanna be and that’s it. The only thing I wish he would have done after that five was to tell them whether the move worked or not (by either saying “got the bow man” or “they held their margin” or something easy like that).

At 1000m I like the shift in his tone. I was getting a little worried initially when I listened to this that his usual fire during the body of the race wasn’t going to be there but it came out here and stuck for the rest of the race, which was good. All his calls through this section are great, especially the “now keep the attack” that he finished off with. I also, obviously, love the “that’s bow ballll” call. That 20 plus the small moves for each pair that he followed up with are, I’m convinced, what secured our position for the rest of the race. Couldn’t have asked for better execution here.

The “five for each pair” move is something we’d been working on throughout the season and it was getting to the point where I was so frustrated with it that I almost told him to just stop doing it because he could just not go from pair to pair without freaking monologuing between each one. It was driving me nuts. (You can hear this in the Sprints recording I think.) He did a great job calling it here though. I love the transition from stern pair into all four with the “establish dominance, 5 strokes for open” call. (400ish meters ago we were down two seats and now we’re going for open … can’t ask for much more than that.)

The ten for length at the 500 was kinda the only thing that I wasn’t super happy with, only because his calls didn’t match up with what he was asking for. Taking a ten for length there is a great idea and something we definitely needed but if you’re gonna call it for length your calls have to match that and his were a little all over the place. I liked his tone and everything, just not the words themselves.

When he made that “drop them” call at 5:31, this aggression was what I was waiting for and he brought it out at just the right timeThe end of the race always makes me a little nervous because he’s not the most reliable at calling the finish – sometimes he nails it, other times he’s way off (ahem … Princeton) – but he did fine here. In any other situation casually calling the extra two like that probably wouldn’t have worked, especially if the race was close, but we were ahead by enough that it didn’t make a difference. We were in a position to advance by open water so whatever. Not something I’d recommend though – if you’re gonna call last five or last ten, make sure it’s actually the last five or last ten. Practice this whenever you do pieces so you can get used to gauging the distance between when you make the call and when you cross the line, that way there’s no question on race day that you’re calling the correct number of strokes to the line.

Kent School Boat Club Women’s Varsity 8+ at st. andrews

This coxswain sent me her audio a few weeks ago so below is part of my reply to her. This is one of the better recordings I’ve listened to from this past season so definitely check it out.

“Tone, volume, intensity, calls, etc. throughout the entire race were solid. I wouldn’t change a thing. You got a little repetitive with the “twist” call but I think you had a good enough variety otherwise that it doesn’t matter too much. In the future you might consider incorporating in some alternatives to “twist” (“rotate” is one that I use a lot), that way you’re still communicating the same thing just with a different word so as to not get too monotonous or repetitive.

Another thing is it seemed like you stuttered over the names of the crews a couple times when you were giving the girls your position – if you’re not 110% sure of who is in each lane then just say their lane number. When I race I only call the name of the top one or two crews that we consider our biggest competition and everyone else I just refer to by their lane #s, that way I don’t risk tripping myself up in the middle of a call if I can’t remember who is where. I feel like when you’re in a groove of coxing and then you stutter over something like a crew’s name it can throw off the momentum a bit (or at the very least knock you our of your zone) so that’s always something I try to avoid.”

At 2:56, I love how she called “No mercy one, no mercy two“. The intensity is great (there’s nothing like a good “no mercy” call to really stick the knife in) but I like that she sandwiched them between counting out the ten. Making simple but occasionally deadly (for the other crews…) calls like this are a great way to get just a liiiiittle bit of extra punch on each stroke.

Other calls I liked:

“I just lit the fuse…”

“You don’t mess with us ’cause we’re the best…” (Cocky? Hell yes. A great call? Oh hell yes.)

Oxford Brookes vs. Brown University 2014 Henley Royal Regatta Temple Challenge Cup Final

I got an email about this recording a couple weeks ago asking my thoughts and it said: “Both my crew and coach love the coxing here, but the other cox at my club, who’s very experienced and has coxed the [redacted the very prominent team name] eight, doesn’t think the coxing is great – he reckoned they would have won regardless. I wondered what your take on it is?” This was my reply:

“Personally I do like this recording. I think the other one (the Abingdon – BH one) is better but this is still in the upper echelon of recordings that are out there. Something I’ve heard a lot of people say is that he was a little over the top and should’ve acted like he’d been there before, which I definitely see and agree with (to an extent). At this level I think having a coxswain like him can only add speed to your boat so regardless of whether they would have won or not, I don’t think that should really change how he’s coxing them. The only real thing that I didn’t like was he was a little repetitive for me, although I think that’s just a general difference in style between the UK and the US.”

Now, make no mistake, I love this recording. Our V8+ coxswain even borrowed some calls from it this season. The main thing I hear people have spirited discussions about is how over the top he gets and like I said, I get that and can see how it might annoy people but to me it’s not the kind of “over the top” that is offensive or asshole-ish. There are PLENTY of recordings I’ve posted on here where you can argue that the coxswain is being “over the top” during the race but sometimes that’s just part of coxing. As long as you’re not being unsportsmanlike, does it really matter how into it you are as long as you’re still steering straight and communicating clearly?

The takeaway for coxswains from this recording is the Beyonce levels of flawlessness in the execution of the race plan. They grab the lead right from the very beginning and just pile it on from there. The bladework at the start is excellent and the gradual build in volume he has as he’s calling “legs loose” really sets the tone early. You can tell they have a plan going into this because the moves and his calls just flow really well throughout the race. It doesn’t feel like anything he’s saying is being come up with on the spot, which is rare since you’re not usually in a position (at this level, let alone at this regatta) where you’re far enough ahead of the other crew(s) that you don’t have to worry about deviating from your race plan.

He makes a lot of rhythm calls (and announces them too…), in addition to encouraging the rhythm by the way he makes the calls so if that’s something you’re looking to work on definitely listen to this. There are lots of spots throughout the recording where he does this and they’re very easy to identify. (Plus, you should be able to pick this stuff out on your own anyways without someone else pointing it out to you.)

I like how he said “Take it all in, feed off of it…” as they’re coming through the spectator area at 6:56. This is a great call for those regattas where you can feel the energy from the spectators and you can hear them screaming as you approach them. Never underestimate the power of the crowd to give your crew an extra surge at the end. Bring that energy into the boat and make it work for you.

Last thing is that “end them now” call at 7:45. I love this but what really seals the deal is the finger point he does as he says it. I did this once and my coach told me it was the most demoralizing thing he’d ever seen a coxswain do to the rest of the field so I’ve always had an affinity for psychological fuckery like this. Wisco’s V8+ coxswain did this to our eight when we raced them back in May and when they came up to collect their shirts I told him in front of our coxswain how much I respect coxswains that have the balls to make moves like that. Luckily our cox knows me well enough to know that it wasn’t a dig against him so it was cool. Laughs were had later.

To me, stuff like this is the ultimate sign of confidence. Some people probably/definitely think it’s cocky and it absolutely is but it does waiver between being the good kind of cocky and “you look like a dick”. Being cocky is fine (and necessary) to an extent but at some point it crosses the line from being legit to being compensatory and it’s always obvious when you’re compensating for something (usually a lack of confidence more than anything else). No coxswain would ever do the “shut them the fuck down now” finger point if they weren’t 10000% sure that their crew was executing everything exactly the way it needed to be done and that their position in the race was unquestionably secure. This isn’t one of those things that you can do every race though. This is one of the ones that you do once, maybe twice in your career. The moment’s gotta be right otherwise you do just look like an asshole.

Other calls I liked:

“Legs loose…”, mainly the way he says it

“Stay relaxed as we hit the gust … stay loose … stay loose …

“Keep moving in this rhythm, in your rhythm…”

“10 months, every erg, every session, together, for this one fucking moment…”

“Drop the knees…” Good alternative to most “legs” calls.

“200 remaining, ready … steady … go for the Temple win!

You can find and listen to more recordings by checking out the “Coxswain Recordings” page.