Tag: racing

HOCR: My race plan

Coxing Racing

HOCR: My race plan

Previously: Getting to the starting line || Steering through the bridges || Landmarks along the course || Steering around the turns || Race plans

This is the general race plan I’ll be using on Saturday for my race.

From starting line thru BU Bridge: High 20 + lengthen 10

Out of Magazine Beach to start Powerhouse: 10 to start the stretch, maybe another 10 if we’re close to another crew to try and make a move

River Street: 5 to jump on the top 1/4 of the slide

Western Ave: 5 to squeeze into the finish

Weeks Bridge: 5 out of the turn to lengthen back out, regain seconds in the flat

Anderson: 20 out of turn to lengthen back out, regain seconds in the flat

Before the start of the Eliot turn: Focus, get ready to go

Eliot: 20 under the bridge, driving for the Belmont-Winsor dock

Last turn: 10 if necessary (i.e. we’re close to another crew)

Start of the docks: 5 to build, sprint to the end

Stay up to date with future HOCR-related content by checking the “Head of the Charles” tag.

Image via // Navy Blazer Club
HOCR: Race plans

Coxing Racing

HOCR: Race plans

Previously: Getting to the starting line || Steering through the bridges || Landmarks along the course || Steering around the turns

One of the most important things you can have during a race is a plan. Things might not necessarily go according to that plan, but at least you’ll have one. Creating race plans aren’t nearly as difficult as they sound and for races like Head of the Charles where you’ve got multiple landmarks to work off of, it’s relatively simple.

Related: Landmarks along the course

The first third of the race should focus on technique, the second third split between technique and motivation, and the last third all on motivating your rowers to pour everything they’ve got left into the last mile around around Eliot.

Pick out 3-5 landmarks throughout the course to do Power 5s, 10s, 20s, etc. at. and decide what those bursts will be for/what their purpose is.

Determine 2-3 spots that you’ll use specifically for “making a move”.

Develop a list of “special calls”, i.e. calls that resonate specifically with your crew.

Have a list of “stock calls” to use in between your bursts and special calls. These are your regular every day calls that shouldn’t take any effort to come up with.

Know your rower’s tendencies and what they want/need to hear so you can develop calls based around that.

Prior to racing, have a map of the course on hand so you can look at it and determine the best spots to do your bursts. Practice your plan when you go out before the race and make sure you share the plan with your rowers. On the way up tell them what the plan is, where you plan on executing your moves, and what your goals are.

Next up: My Head of the Charles race plan

Image via // @globetophrapher
HOCR: Steering around the turns

Coxing Racing

HOCR: Steering around the turns

Previously: Getting to the starting line || Steering through the bridges || Landmarks along the course

Taking the turns on the HOCR course is all about setting yourself up right. If you position yourself properly as you enter the turn you’ll all but guarantee a smooth exit, thus taking a load of pressure off of you and ensuring your crew has it’s best possible shot at the next part of the course.

Alongside each photo (aka Google Maps screenshot) I’ve included a difficulty rating ranging from 1-5 based on my experience with the turns, which 1 being the easiest and 5 being the hardest. As of writing this post I’ve been coaching and coxing on the Charles for about six months so while I anticipate these turns becoming easier to steer over time, this is how I’m rating them given the limited amount of time I’ve spent on the river thus far. If HOCR is your first time on the Charles or you don’t row here on a regular basis, this should give you a good idea for what to expect.

Keep in mind too that the lines drawn below are not 100% accurate – they’re just there to give you a rough idea of where the buoy lines are vs. what your ideal course around the turns should like look. Buoy lines are marked by thin green or orange lines and the course line is a thick purple line.

Magazine Beach // Difficulty: 1

Coming around the turn through Magazine Beach there will be buoys marking the shallow areas along shore, as well as the area where the singles and doubles will launch from (SADL). This is a fairly wide turn, even if you hug the buoys, so you should be able to get around on the rudder with no trouble. If you take it TOO wide, then you might need to have the starboards power down and let your ports drive you around for 1-2 strokes.

Remember, as you finish the turn and come into the Powerhouse Stretch you want to be aiming for the center arches of River St. and Western Ave. Set yourself up for Magazine Beach so that when you come out, you can look directly through both of those arches.

Weeks Footbridge // Difficulty: 4

The trouble I’ve had with Weeks isn’t getting a good line or coming out right; it’s been knowing when to start turning. As you come out of Western Ave. you’ll want to start aiming for the blue tower of Lowell House.

You should be parallel-ish to the buoy line coming down the last part of the straightaway (you can be next to it but there’s no need to be right on top of it) and then as you pass “the turning tree”, that’s when you want to start going hard to port. Have your ports power down and tell the starboards to really lay into it. It should take anywhere from 3-7 strokes, depending on the strength of your crew. The goal is to be about 90% finished with your turn as you come under the bridge.

If you have a port stroked boat, your 2-seat’s oar should be THISCLOSE to the left abutment of the center arch at the end of the turn if you’ve executed it properly. When I’m steering the turn and think “OH SHIT, I’m gonna hit the bridge…”, that usually means I’ve done it right. If you experience that momentary second of panic, congrats, you just nailed Weeks (figuratively speaking … literally hitting it would be bad).

Anderson Bridge // Difficulty: 2

As long as you come out of Weeks with a point on the left abutment of the middle arch of Anderson this turn will be a piece of cake. 90% of this turn happens under the bridge and it should only take maybe 2-3 hard strokes from ports to swing your bow around before you even back out.

One thing that coxswains get fixated on is this idea that they have to take the inside of every single turn without giving any consideration as to how that’s going to effect their next turn. Anderson is one such turn where you want to be on the outside of it – if you split the center arch in half and designated the left side as the Boston side and the right side as the Cambridge side, you’d want to go under on the Boston side of the center arch. That’s going to give you an easier line to the inside of the turn around Eliot, whereas if you go through on the inside (the Cambridge side) you’re more likely to get pushed to the outside in front of Newell and it’ll take that much more work and steering to get over to the buoy line before the start of the Eliot turn.

As you come out of Anderson, be aware of where the buoys are – they will pull you off the straightest course so do not follow them as you come past Newell. The boathouse is set back into a little bay of it’s own and the buoys follow that bow in the river. Don’t let this fool you. Coming out of the turn you’ll want to pick up a point on the tall white apartment building at the start of the Eliot turn.

Eliot Bridge // Difficulty: 3-5

Eliot is a half-mile long turn whose difficulty is wholly dependent on how close you were able to get to the buoy line, your speed, and whether you’re coxing an eight or a four. In a four I’ve always been able to do the entire turn completely on the rudder but in an eight I always need to call on the rowers to adjust their pressure once we hit the apex of the turn. (On the map that would roughly be about where the Route 3 sign is on the Cambridge shore.)

Having the ports power down and the starboards hit it hard is key to making it around here – you cannot do it with extra starboard pressure while ports continue to row full pressure. I typically have the ports back off to about 3/4 pressure and the starboards take no more than five hard strokes as we come around the first part of the turn, even pressure for one or two, and then one or two more hard strokes to finish it off.  This may vary depending on your speed and position relative to the buoy line but there’s no need or reason why you should have your starboards pulling you around the entire turn.

Think of this turn like an exit ramp off the highway. The faster you’re going coming into it, the harder you have to break to get around the turn without flipping your car. If you coast into a 25mph exit at 30mph, you’ll be fine coming around with minimal braking. If you take it at 45mph though, you’re going to have to hit the brakes before you make the big turn. Analyze your crew’s speed ahead of time to see what you need to do and if you have the opportunity, practice practice practice how you plan to take this turn.

As you’re coming around the turn, you want to set yourself up so that as you look through the bridge you’re pointed diagonally towards the far corner of the Winsor-Belmont Hill dock along the Cambridge shore. Note that if and when possible, the ideal course through this bridge is to enter it on the left side of the center arch and exit it on the right side. 

Final turn // Difficulty: 1.5

As just mentioned, coming out of Eliot you’ll want to be pointed at the far corner of the Winsor-Belmont Hill dock. Grabbing the inside of this turn is key to saving 8-10 seconds (at least) on your final time. It’s recommended to get your riggers over the buoys if you can or at the very least, your oars (but not your hull because that’ll be a 10 second penalty). Depending on how many crews are around you, it might beneficial (and safer) if you hold off for a stroke or two before shooting for that line. Once it’s open, take it.

This final turn is to starboard and can easily be done on the rudder with no additional pressure from the ports. There are no buoys on the inside after that last turn so you can get as close to shore as you want. Be careful of debris and low hanging trees though. When you start to see the river bowing to starboard, do not follow the shoreline – you want to hold a straight course and aim for the two yellow buoys that mark the finish line. It’s going to feel like you’re coming out towards the middle but you’re not so don’t let this throw you off. Once you’ve got your point set on the finish the only thing left to do is haul ass across the line.

Next up: Head of the Charles race plans

Image via // @outside_the_cavern

Coxing Racing

HOCR: Steering through the bridges

Previously: Getting to the starting line

For those of you that row on the Charles you should already know most, if not all of this. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the river and it’s many twists and turns, pay attention. With the exception of this video you won’t hear much about the bridges, penalties, etc. since there’s no official coaches-and-coxswains meeting. Knowing what arches to go through, what penalties can be awarded, etc. is crucial to your crew’s overall time and experience at HOCR. I’ll discuss steering the course in another post – for right now I’m just going to talk about the bridges and penalties.

First, the penalties. Penalties can be issued for any of the following:

Safety violation – time at the discretion of the jury
Hull on the wrong side of the buoys – 10 seconds per buoy
Right hand arch of Anderson – 60 seconds
Failure to yield – 1st infraction, 60 seconds; 2nd infraction, 120 seconds; 3rd infraction, DQ
Severe collisions – 60 seconds if your crew causes the collision, plus additional safety violation penalties
Unsportsmanlike conduct – time at the discretion of the jury up to 60 seconds

On to the bridges – fast forward to 9:15, which is where we’ll begin.

Once you are staged and in the chute, the starting marshal will begin bringing you to the starting line. You should paddle up and try and maintain an equal distance between you and the crews in front of and behind you. As you near the start line, the official will tell you to build it up to full pressure. You want to be at full pressure BEFORE you row across the starting line. When your bow gets close in line with the BU launches at the top of the dock, you should begin your build. The middle of the dock is where the starting line is located, so you want to have already begun your start sequence by the time you get there. When you’ve crossed the starting line you’ll hear the announcer say “XYZ, you are on the course!” Sometimes they’ll say something nice, like “have a good row” or “welcome to Boston!” if you’re from out of town. They’re very friendly up there.

BU Bridge

Preferred arch:Left arch (second from the right), the one with “DEFY THE ODDS” written on it

Although the video here says that the right hand arch can be used with caution, the rule book states that you will incur a 60 second penalty if you go through here. Unless you are in an unavoidable situation (which is practically impossible to get into 200m from the starting line), there is no reason for you to need to go through this arch. Stick to the left hand arch and you’ll be good.

Passing is allowed prior to the bridge IF it can be done safely. If you try and overtake a crew and force them into one of the bridge piers, you will be the lucky recipient of a safety penalty. Safety penalties are mandated by the HOCR jury and can vary in length depending on the severity of the penalty. Disqualifications for unsafe maneuvers are not unheard of. Be smart. If you can see that your crew is going to overtake another crew, just wait until you get through the bridge. Don’t risk it and think you’ll be able to make it to the bridge first. That is a race you will never win. Have your crew back off and then as soon as the other crew is through the bridge, hammer it through and walk by them.

Post-BU Bridge

Once you’ve passed the BU Bridge, you’ll see the orange buoys on your port side and the green buoys on your starboard side. The first turn is a turn to starboard, so you’ll want to hug that buoy line as closely as you can during this straightaway. Doing so will save you a lot of time in the end. Remember, your oars can go over the buoys but at no point can the hull itself cross over. If it does you’ll receive a 10 second penalty for every buoy you’re over. For a single or double, this isn’t a big deal, but in an eight or four you will surely go over at least three or four buoys before you can make it back onto the course. The buoys are there for safety purposes – it’s extremely shallow right there and there may be tree limbs or rocks under the surface that could take your fin off if you get to far to starboard. Respect the buoys..

Magazine Beach

I’m just going to go ahead and call this area “Clusterfuck Central”. As you begin coming around this turn, you’ll see the Singles and Doubles Launch Area on the beach. There will be a course marshal here directing them across the course into the travel lane so that they don’t interfere with anyone’s race, but as most scullers are apt to do, there will be those few that don’t listen and DO get in the way. Despite it clearly being their fault, they’ll probably yell at you and tell you you’re an idiot. They’ll be disqualified, but that doesn’t do much for your time. Stay composed coming through here but be alert to your surroundings. Know where the scullers are and be ready to steer off course if necessary.

Powerhouse Stretch

Hopefully you’ve made it through the stretch without incurring any loss of sanity due to erratic scullers. The Powerhouse stretch is a straight 1200ish meter-long stretch of course so this is a good spot to shave seconds off your time. If you end up being passed though, make sure you yield to the overtaking crew. If you do not yield, a) that’s just poor sportsmanship and b) you’ll be given a 60 second penalty. Make sure you’re still watching the buoy line and keeping an eye out for any crews launching or returning to the Riverside boathouse.

River Street Bridge

Preferred arch: Center arch

As you come fully around the turn and past Riverside, you should be able to see straight down the stretch if you’ve set yourself up properly. You want to begin aiming for the center arch on the River Street bridge. The right hand arch is open as well but you shouldn’t take this arch unless you are trying to avoid a collision or a cluster of boats.

There’s a lot of debate over the center arch vs. right hand arch line, so it will be up to you and your coach to determine what line to take coming through the stretch. Be aware though that that plan could change during the race. Some coaches think that you should take the right hand arches because it sets you up wider for Weeks and limits the amount of swing coming out of Magazine Beach while other coaches think that you should stick to the middle. The middle is the “true” course, so ideally that is the course you should take. Officially though, if you steered a perfect course then going through the right hand arches would only add one extra meter to your course according to HOCR officials.

Western Avenue Bridge

Preferred Arch: Center

Western Avenue is exactly the same as River Street – both the center and right hand arches are open, but the center arch is the preferred course.

Weeks Footbridge

Preferred arch: Center

You want to be aiming for the middle of the center arch coming into Weeks. The right hand arch is available but should only be used as a last ditch effort if you’re trying to avoid a collision. It swings you incredibly wide and will add many additional meters and seconds to your overall time. Keep in mind that coming out of Weeks you have a 90 degree turn to port, so you want to already be turning by the time you get to the bridge. If you wait until you get there, it will swing you around wide and make it hard to get a good line coming into Anderson.

Anderson Memorial Bridge

Preferred arch: Center

Coming out of Weeks, you want to line yourself up with the abutment between the left and center arch . The only available arch through this bridge is the center one. Going through the right hand arch will tack on 60 seconds to your final time, so be sure that you have a good line coming into the center arch.

Post-Anderson Bridge

Once you’ve come through the bridge, look ahead for the white apartment tower . Instead of following the buoy line, which pulls you into the Newell “cove”, aim instead for those apartments. This will be another semi-high traffic area due to traffic coming and going from Newell, but since there is no need for anyone to cross over, you shouldn’t have to worry about anyone getting in your way.

Eliot Bridge

Preferred Arch: Center

This is it – the big one. In order to execute this turn properly, safely, cleanly, and quickly, you need to correctly set yourself up for it well before you go into it. How you execute this turn will ultimately be dictated to you by the race – how many crews are around you being the most obvious detriment to getting a good line. The far arch is available but shouldn’t be used unless you’re trying to avoid a collision. This is the only TRULY likely spot where it is conceivable for you to need to use the non-preferred arch and that’s only because of how tricky this bridge is to navigate.

Once you’re through Eliot, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve conquered all the bridges. All that’s left is the final turn to starboard and you’re in the home stretch.

Next up: Landmarks along the course