How do you beach launch? It’s going to be my first regatta and I haven’t beach launched yet. My coach isn’t showing any signs of teaching me. Is it similar to regular launching off the dock? Thanks!
Beach launching, also known as wet launching, is when you walk the boat into the water (usually until the water between mid-thigh and knee deep) and roll the boat into the water like you would on a dock … except when you roll it to waist the water is right there instead of you having to bend down to put it in. The great thing for coxswains is that if you ask reeeeally nicely and your boat reeeeally likes you, they’ll carry you in and out of the boat so you don’t get wet.
When you’re going out, you want to walk the boat in deep enough that the fin isn’t going to hit the bottom and then have four people grab oars and four people get the seats/oarlocks like you would on land. To avoid people having to walk all the way around the boat to get their pair partner’s oarlocks undone (which can be a pain since you’re walking through water and that’s not usually a quick process…), we usually work it out so, for example, 2-seat and 3-seat get oars for bow four and bow get’s their and 3-seat’s oarlocks (since they’re on the same side) and 4-seat gets their and 2-seat’s oarlocks (since they are on the same side). Same goes for stern four. Not only does that keep people on the boat to prevent it from moving around (due to wind, wake, etc.) but it’s just always been the faster way to do it in my experience.
During this whole “getting the oars and putting them in” process the coxswain should still be standing on shore. When you’re ready to get in the boat someone will (hopefully) carry you out and put you in your seat. It’s hilarious and adorable – embrace it, particularly now since it’s not exactly warm out in many places outside of Southern California. During the late spring and summer it’s not as big of a deal to walk in on your own. From there, all the rowers should be standing on one side of the boat. The best way to have them get in is by pairs, starting with bow pair and working your way forward. I personally like starting with bow pair because it’s adds some stability to the back of the boat since I’m already in it up front and keeps the boat from getting pointed into shore as people get into the stern and inevitably swing that end out. When it’s time for the stern pair to get in they’ll usually walk the boat out another step or two before getting in (sort of like a push and shove kind of thing) and then once they’re in I’ll have bow four start rowing us out. Another benefit of starting with bow pair is that the stern rowers can hold the boat relatively straight so that the stern doesn’t get pushed into shore and the fin get bent or broken. I’ve also done it where we go bow pair, stern pair, 3+4, and finish with 5+6. (It’s really up to you how you do it so don’t feel like there’s a right or wrong way to go about it.) When the rowers get in, all they’ve gotta do is lift their leg up over the side of the boat and hoist themselves in (it’s not hard to do at all).
One quick thing, before you walk the boat into the water you’ll want to stop and have everyone take off their sandals and give them to whoever is carrying them back to your tent/trailer for you. Make sure they’re wearing something that’s easy to get off (no tennis shoes or anything like that) and that they’re careful when they walk in the water so they don’t cut themselves or anything else.
When you’re coming in to dock, you’ll want to take note of the wind, current, wake, etc. to determine how far out you need to position yourself. You should never come in with more than one pair rowing though (stern or bow pair is usually fine). Do what you’ve gotta do to get yourself parallel to the shoreline and then have your bow man hop out and pull you in closer, if necessary. Don’t stop so far out though that when they get out they’re up to their shoulders (or more) in the water. I’ve seen that happen so many times where some poor rower will get their legs over the gunnel and then slide out only to end up with water two or three inches over their head. They never expect it either, which is the worst. Anyways, if they need to pull you in closer to shore then can walk the bow in and then as everyone else gets out they can pull the boat in more as needed. Before they start taking the oars out make sure you get out too – you don’t want to be in the boat with no oars to stabilize it otherwise you’ll roll right over. Once you’re on land and they’re getting the oars out you can either have everyone get their own oar+oarlock or do it the way you did when they put them in and have four people do one thing and four people do another. Usually if we’re pressed for time I’ll do that, otherwise everyone will just take care of their own stuff.
When you’re ready to roll it up it may be a little trickier (particularly for novices) since the boat is already at waist level and it can be tough to roll it up over heads with just your arms but most of the time it’s not that difficult. I usually skip the “up to waists” call and go straight to “roll it up and over heads, ready up“. From there it’s “split to shoulders and walk it up” as usual. Once everyone is out of the water, stop for a sec and let them slip their shoes on before walking it up, particularly if you’ve got to walk a ways to get to wherever your boats are. Bonus points if you’ve got a towel that they can quickly wipe their feet dry with too. Walking all that distance without shoes is just asking for someone to step on something and cut themselves so I wouldn’t recommend doing it unless your boats are literally directly across from where you’re launching.
Overall, wet launching is an easy process. It only becomes tricky if it’s really windy and even then it’s really not that bad. Below are a couple videos that should give you an idea of what it looks like … although don’t do what this first coxswain did and get in the boat before the oars are in. Trust me, one clumsy knock of the boat and you’re gonna roll over.