College Coxing High School Racing Recordings

Coxswain Recordings, pt. 7

Oxford vs. Cambridge 2011 Boat Race

This is a short clip of Sam Winter-Levy (Oxford) and Liz Box (Cambridge) from the 2011 Boat Race. The thing to listen to is their tone and how they’re communicating their calls to each of their crews. One spot in particular is right at the beginning when there’s a clash of blades – nothing changes with her tone, she doesn’t fall apart, she just communicates what’s happening and moves through it without any loss of focus.

Abingdon vs. Belmont Hill 2009 Henley Royal Regatta princess elizabeth cup Quarter-final

At the start, good job telling the crew what’s happening as far as when your hand is up, when it’s down, that your timer is ready, etc. I feel like this helps keep the crew focused and prevents any surprises (like, “oh shit, we’re starting now!”). Maybe – maybe – overdid it by telling them about Belmont’s coxswain but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal considering there’s only one other crew there. Personally I probably would have just focused on what I was doing and only said “both coxswains’ hands are down” when I saw that we were both ready but it’s really not that big of a deal. I don’t think any crew has ever complained about their coxswain giving them too much information.

Right when the marshal says “attention”, you can see Belmont bury their blades just a tad. Look at their blades at 0:43 compared to 0:45. This is a good habit to get into practicing with your crew just so you can be positive that the blades are fully buried at the start and you’re able to get as much water on the face of the blade as possible. It also drastically reduces the likelihood that you’ll wash out on the first stroke.

The intensity in his voice off the line is solid. Take note guys, this is how a good start is called. The intonation at 0:57 when he’s saying “one, send, two, send…” is spot on. The catches are called with a sharp bite to them while the recoveries are a bit drawn out, just enough to remind the rowers to keep the slides long. Similarly, notice at 1:13 that coinciding with the shift in pace is a shift in his tone of voice? The intensity is subtle but it’s there even though the volume isn’t as high as it was a few strokes ago. Don’t get so caught up in coxing that you forget to talk to your crew.

At 3:33 he makes a call for a “…concerted effort for one minute…” If you remember Pete Cipollone’s HOCR recording, this is exactly like what he says when he calls for that one minute commitment through the Powerhouse Stretch. I think this is a great call – you should never be afraid to ask for, or at times demand, a commitment like this from your teammates. This is a strategic call though and not something you should just randomly call out for because you think it makes you sound like you know what you’re doing (novices). You’re essentially asking them for a power 10 except over the course of 60 seconds – it’s not always an easy thing to do which is why this should be used sparingly and only when necessary. Later when he says “level, now walk“, that’s where you finish the job that you started with the one minute commitment. If that was where you started to break them, this is where you finish it. Once you’re level, you don’t give up a single inch to that other crew. Commit and go.

I love the call he makes at 4:04 – “they went too hard, fucking punish them…” I obviously respect the crews I’m racing against because when it comes down to it we’re all doing the same thing but you can bet when we’re racing that I’m sure as hell not going to feel bad for them. If they make a mistake and I see it, I’m gonna nail them on it and do my absolute best to make sure it haunts them long after the race has ended. Watching the other crew(s) in addition to your own can be tough but it gives you the advantage of seeing when someone else messes up, which then gives you the opportunity to say “punish them” and really mean it.

Another thing to pay attention to is when he’s telling his crew where the other crew is. Abingdon is down for the majority of the race but I doubt any of the rowers ever felt defeated by him saying where Belmont was on them. Several times he’d say “they’re up half a length” or whatever the margin was but I don’t recall him ever saying that his crew was down. Other times he’d just say “half a length” without saying “up” or “down” at all. There’s a subtle bit of psychology there that I think is important to think about. If you hear that someone else is up it’s like, “ok, time to do some work to close the gap” but if you hear that you’re down it’s like “ugh, dammit, how are we gonna get out of this”. Think about the words that you’re using (another reason why recording yourself and planning ahead is important) and see if there are any subtle changes you could make that might affect your crew differently.

The last thing is at 4:45 when he calls for the “magna shuffle”. You can hear him at 4:46 call for the bow pair to get in quick and for the middle four to “lift”. Calling for the bow pair to go in quick isn’t necessarily saying “go in before everyone else”, it’s more so about being so spot on with the timing while erring towards being just the tiniest bit early (less than a nanosecond-tiny) in order to get the bow out of the water right at the catch. Lifting the bow like this makes it easier to accelerate the boat, which is what he’s asking for when he calls for the middle four to “lift”.

Another thing that helps “lift” the boat is making sure everyone is sitting up tall and is light on the seats. Lightness is key. Generally when the boat looks or feels heavy it’s because the bow isn’t coming out of the water at the catch (for whatever reason), which results in the rowers feeling like the load is heavier. Think of the bow being lifted up like you walking on your tiptoes through molasses. The lighter you are and the less you’re touching the molasses the easier it’ll be for you to traverse it, whereas if you were walking normally with your feet completely flat on the ground it’d be very difficult for you to move because there’s more surface area for the molasses to attach itself to which in turn increases the load you’re working against in order to move. Watch this video of the USA men’s 8+ and pay attention to the bow of the boat. Look at the difference between when they’re paddling and when they’re on. See how at the catch there’s just a little bit of daylight under the bow of the boat? That’s what I’m getting at.

Other calls I liked:

“Swing the waists into the headwind…” Good job reading the wind here and telling the crew how to react to it.

“Loose, long in the wind…”

“Now we’ve broken them, go, go, go…”

“On bowman, finish the fight…”

“I’m coming for you Belmont!”

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

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