Tag: judging distance

HOCR: The course in meters

Coxing Racing

HOCR: The course in meters

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”

Over the last week I’ve gotten a few questions about whether anything exists that tells the distance that each of the landmarks are from the starting line or from one another and since I wasn’t aware of anything and those of you that asked weren’t able to find anything, I figured I’d just make something.

Related: HOCR: Landmarks along the course

I used RowDistance, a site made by Andrew Campbell, so the numbers aren’t exact but they should be fairly close. You could also do this using Google Earth. I did this three different times and where I found the biggest discrepancy in meters is from the start of the Eliot turn all the way to the finish. My numbers were about 100m different from each other depending on how I laid out that part of the course, which just goes to show how much things can vary depending on what line you set yourself up for.

I also rounded everything up to the nearest -00 or -50 just for the sake of simplicity (although during the race I’d probably just round up to the next closest 100m because otherwise it becomes way too much effort). The first row is the only one that you should ideally know, the rest are just there because I figured “why not…”.

You can either click to enlarge the image above or check out this spreadsheet to see everything.

Image via // @dosdesignsltd

Coxing Q&A Racing

Question of the Day

I read an article by Pete Cipollone and he said coxswains should say “I don’t know” instead of bluffing. In yesterday’s race, I couldn’t see the finish buoys around a large curve and I told my rowers I didn’t know how far was left. This really frustrated my stroke who shouted at me after the race and told me I should’ve made something up. After we docked, rowers in the other 4+ complained their coxswain gave a misleading distance. Was I right to say I didn’t know or should I have bluffed?

So just to preface this, I do think that it’s necessary for coxswains to be comfortable saying “I don’t know” when they truly do not know the answer to something. If you can’t ask your coach for insight or clarification at that moment then it’s your responsibility to say “I don’t know but I’ll figure it out after practice” and the report back the following day. I would expect your stroke seat or whoever asked the original question to hold you accountable to that too. If my boat asked me something that I didn’t know I’d typically wait until we took a water break and then ask our coach if he could explain whatever it was we were talking about that wasn’t clear.

However, this only applies at practice. During a race, if you say “I don’t know” the trust your rowers (and coach) have in you can and probably will plummet since it’s expected for you to know this stuff. I can understand why your stroke was frustrated. As a coach, I would have been irritated too. Personally, I think you should have bluffed but this only works when you’re properly prepared. This involves knowing the course, knowing the overall distance, and being aware of your surroundings. If you’re not it can be tough and you might end up giving a misleading distance, similarly to that other coxswain. This is one of the reasons why I constantly stress studying the course ahead of time, learning the landmarks, etc.

Related: I still have trouble judging distances [m] any tips?

Knowing the total length of the course and where the individual mile markers are can allow you to guesstimate how much you have left based on where you’re currently at. Yes, it involves some quick math but it’s really not that hard (and that’s coming from someone whose math abilities are comparable to that of a rock’s). For example, the Charles course is 3 miles long. During the race there are mile markers between River St. and Western Ave. and right after Newell Boathouse that denote 1 mile down and 2 miles down, respectively. If you’re unfamiliar with the course but at least know where the mile markers are, you can always tell your crew where you’re at.

Related: HOCR: The course in meters

Say you’ve just passed Weeks and your stroke says “where are we”? You already passed the 1 mile marker, you know that the the 2 mile marker is somewhere near Anderson, and that Weeks is roughly in middle. A quick guesstimation let’s you assume that you’re about a mile and a half in. Knowing that the course is just over 3 miles long also leads you to conclude that you’re halfway through the race. This allows you to tell your crew that you’re coming into the second half of the race or that you’ve got 1.5 miles down. Don’t say anything about 1.5 miles left because that’s just mean. During head races I don’t say anything about the distance we have left until we hit the last mile or 1000 meters.

Another thing you can do if you don’t know the distance you have left is tell them the time. This requires you to roughly know your crew’s 5k time (or whatever the applicable distance is). It also requires you to start the timer on your cox box at the start of the race. If you forget to do that then you’re kind of out of luck unless you’ve got a watch and happen to catch the time as you cross the line. If you know that your boat’s time last week was 17:44 for 5000m (roughly 6 minutes per mile) and you’re currently at 15:34, then you can guesstimate that you’re probably close to 2.5 miles in and have roughly half a mile left to go.

In addition to prepping yourself ahead of time, you should also make sure you’re not ignoring what’s happening outside the boat in favor of spitting out the race plan like a robot. If you’re doing this then you’re neglecting one of the crucial rules of coxing which is to always be aware of your surroundings. If you pay attention to what’s around you and think back to the course map that they went over during the coach-and-coxswain’s meeting (or that you looked at on your own), you should be able to find some landmarks that give you a clue as to your location.

Bottom line, there’s no excuse for saying “I don’t know” during a race. It’s unlikely that they expect you to give them an exact distance but it does have to be in the ballpark. They’re going to know (and feel) the difference between half a mile and a mile. It’s the same as saying “last 20” during a 2k three different times – if you do it, don’t be shocked if your crew is pissed once you get off the water.

Coxing Q&A Racing

Question of the Day

Hello! I’m not great at estimating distances but I’m learning and getting better – but my coach told me and the other coxswains on the team that it is better to call the sprint early and then ask for 10 more strokes than to call it a little late and wonder what could have been (strokes used in the race). However, I always feel bad if I tell the rowers we have twenty strokes left when we actually have thirty. What do you think? Is my coach wrong or do I just need to suck it up? Thanks!!

I don’t think your coach is explaining this properly. He’s taking two separate things and explaining it like they’re one in the same. The sprint doesn’t have to do with a certain number of strokes – you’re calling it for a certain number of meters, like the last 250m or something (which is the start of the red buoys to the finish line). Some teams do X strokes at 36, X at 38, etc. for their sprint but they still start it when they cross the last 250. The “10 more strokes” thing comes in if you say “last 10 to the line (regardless of whether you’re sprinting or not)” but it ends up being not the last 10 to the line.

Related: Judging distance

As far as wondering “what could have been”, you’re going to wonder that after every race that doesn’t result in a gold medal. If you aren’t paying attention or “forget” to call the sprint at 250m, don’t call it until there’s 100m left, and then lose by a seat, yea, you’re going to really wonder what could have been.

There’s nothing for you to “suck up”, really. Just keep practicing. At some point or another every coxswain has said “last X strokes” and it’s actually be a few more or less than that. If you can nail it and have the last stroke happen just as your bow ball crosses, rock on, but it’s not an exact science and most of the time you are estimating and hoping you’re within a stroke of what you call for. If you say “last 10” and it ends up being the last 11, it’s not a huge deal. If you say “last 10” and it’s actually the last 20, that’s a bigger issue because by now you should have an idea of how far your boat travels in ten strokes and be able to guess when you’re that far away from the line. Plus, your rowers are trusting the fact that you can see where the line is since they can’t, so they assume that when you say “last 10” you really mean last 10. Like I said though, it comes with practice and consciously making an effort to gauge the distance you’ve traveled in ten strokes, twenty strokes, etc. when you’re out doing pieces.

Coxing Q&A

Question of the Day

I honestly have no idea how to know how many strokes until we finish a race, piece, etc. Like, do I just guess?

Check out the second half of the post linked below. In addition to everything I said there, start gauging the distance you travel over ten strokes at various stroke rates and pressures to get an idea of what the “last ten” feels like. In a sense, yes, you’re guessing, but it’s very calculated guesswork. You won’t always be right but the goal is to be close if you can’t be spot on. It’s always better to say “last 5” and only take three than to say “last 3” and take five.

Related: I still have trouble judging distances [m] any tips?

Pay attention to how much time it takes too because then you can say “10 strokes to go, 15 seconds away from that gold medal…”. SUCH a motivator at the end of a race, especially when it’s close.

Coxing Q&A Racing

Question of the Day

How can I figure out distance in a race? I have trouble figuring out how much is 500 meters, half way and so on. I have a sprint race coming up and I want to have a race plan and do a power ten at half way but how will I know where that it? Is there a sign?

There are typically large buoys that mark the 500m, 1000m, and 1500m marks along the course. The last 100-250m, depending on the course, are also usually all small, red buoys. Even if courses aren’t divided by buoyed lanes they should still have at the very least buoys marking each 500m.

Determining distances was always tricky for me too but I got creative and taught myself how to recognize 50m, 100m, 250m, 500m, etc., which is basically what you have to do. I got a map of the river and plotted out how far certain things were from each other (usually notable landmarks, like the distance from a bridge to the boathouse or this really obvious tree to the marina) and then forced myself to pay attention to how long it took us to go from Point A to Point B when we’d row past those landmarks. By getting a feel for what the distance looked and felt like, I was better able to guesstimate those same distances during races or pieces. It took a lot of time (at least a year or so) before I was really comfortable with it but it was worth it.

Coxing How To Q&A

Question of the Day

I still have trouble judging distances [m] any tips?

I used to have trouble with that too. Practice and racing have been what’s helped me the most in gauging how far I am from something. Nearly every race I did in high school was on a buoyed course and the last 250m were always red buoys so comparing where the start of the red buoys were and where the finish line buoys were helped me learn to gauge what 250m looked like on the river when we were practicing. A lot of it is just carefully calculated guesswork though.

I also try and study the river that I’m on to get an idea of how far apart the major landmarks are from each other and then I convert the distance in miles to meters. On the Charles there are a ton of things you can use for landmarks but on your home course it can vary. My coach in high school, who was also a coxswain, taught me that trick and while it’s time consuming, it helped a lot. As I got used to what 50m, 400m, 1000m, etc. felt like it almost became like muscle memory to me so it’s gotten a lot easier to judge distances the more experienced I’ve become.