Coxing Racing

HOCR: Weeks, Lowell House, and “The Turning Tree”

Previously: Getting to the starting line || Steering through the bridges || Landmarks along the course || Steering around the turns || Race plans || My general race plan || Yaz Farooq’s coxswain clinic || Race plan “hacks” || The course in meters

You can’t talk about Weeks without talking about the Powerhouse Stretch or Lowell House because how you’re positioned relative to both will have a pretty big impact on how efficient your turn through the bridge is.

Related: HOCR: Steering around the turns

If you’re unfamiliar with Harvard’s campus, Lowell House is an undergrad dorm that is frequently used as an HOCR landmark due it’s tall steeple and bright blue dome that stands out above the tree line along the Cambridge shore. When someone says “point at the blue dome”, this is what they’re talking about. In the picture below they are just to the right of center.

As you come up the Powerhouse Stretch, ideally you’ll be coming through the center arches of the River St. and Western Ave. bridges. You can use the Cambridge arches (the ones on the far right) but the center arches are “standard procedure”. Going through the Powerhouse your point is going to be on the center of the center arches (again, ideally) but as you come out of Western the next big landmark you should be aiming for is Lowell. (There is a “mini”-landmark that you can check yourself on immediately out of the bridge and that’s your position relative to the buoy line – you want to be pointed at the outermost buoy as it begins to turn around Weeks. This should take half a second to spot-check before you shift your focus to Lowell.) If you’re in a good spot then you won’t really need to adjust your point much but if you come out pointing at something else (the bridge, the Cambridge shore, etc.) you’ll have to do a little steering to set yourself up for Weeks.

As you get closer to the bridge you’ll start to see the dome disappear behind the horizon. This is normal and is supposed to happen. Too many coxswains freak out because they lose sight of Lowell, which I don’t really get because … what else did you think was going to happen? As it goes behind the trees, your focus should shift to “the turning tree”. If you go to Yaz’s clinic then you’ll probably hear her talk about this.

Related: Yaz Farooq’s HOCR Clinic

The turning tree is in the photo up above (in the center of the picture on the very far right hand side), although because the leaves haven’t changed yet it still blends in with the shoreline. Usually by HOCR it’s the only tree along that whole stretch of shore that has changed colors (usually to a bright yellow) so it’s pretty easily identifiable. It’s not hard to pick out regardless of what color it is though just because it sticks out over the water a bit, as you can see in the picture.

As you’re rowing towards Lowell you want to stay straight until you get even with the tree and then begin your turn to port to go through Weeks. Some coxswains go when their bow is even with the tree, some go when they are even the tree. I’ve personally found my turns to be more effective when I wait until I’m even with the tree but I think a large part of that has to do with how well your boat responds to the rudder. The start of the turn is pretty easy (AKA it should all be done on the rudder) so you shouldn’t be using pressure from the rowers quite yet but if you wait too long to turn (like until you’re past the tree) then you’ll need to use a lot more pressure from your starboard side to get you through cleanly.

Below is some video I took during practice last week of our two coxswains going around the turn during our most recent “5k Friday” piece. Both did a pretty good job steering through here so this should give you a good idea of how the turn should look.

Image via // @nathanaelleomusic

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