Tag: steering

Coxing Q&A

Question of the Day

I went to school to cox for guys but due to an incident that happened a few years ago regarding another coxswain, I only got to cox first semester a few times and not at all the next semester. The coach had me switch to the girl’s team, which is great but I feel very out of practice. I have had really great practices when I have gone with assistant coaches but the other day I went with our head coach and top 2 coxswains. I was in the middle boat (a boat on each side) and had a truly horrible practice. It started off badly when I bumped one of the other boats on the first couple of strokes because the power was uneven. Later, as I have just joined I did not know a drill so I was slightly behind the other coxswains because my stroke had to tell me the sequence. Then after we did a 15, as other coaches have had me done before, I stopped thinking out coach would want to weigh enough after it. Then when doing ss, he had us do a pause every stroke while the other coxswains went ahead, they ended up moving to the right but my boat was so far behind I didn’t see and just went straight. He ended up yelling at me because the other coxswains were in the other sides then he said stop moving that way and I only heard stop so I weighed-enough. Apparently he never yells.

After that the rowers began to tune me out completely and no one was really even “trying”. The whole team talked about how bad my coxing was after. One of the coxswains literally came up to me and said she heard from everyone how the coach never yells and how bad my coxing was. How do I recover from this? I felt very novice-y and I need to manage practice better, how do I accomplish this? Additionally, when I steer I feel like I am constantly moving the rudder slightly? This sounds so silly but how do I just go straight? Should I be making constant adjustments? I have coxed for over three years and while I have put every ounce of energy into working really hard to be the best coxswain (and even won my final at Nationals), I feel like I am still not a great practice coxswain and steerer. We also have 10 coxswains on our team and I have never not been able to work my way to the top. My coaches aren’t big on communicating/advising/teaching the coxswains so I am struggling to get guidance on how to achieve being a more effective and efficient coxswain. Thank you so much.

How much time did you spend prior to going on the water with the top two coxswains and/or the head coach to figure out what the practice plan was, how that coach likes to run practice, asking questions about drills/workouts you’re unfamiliar with, and gather intel on the boat you’d be coxing?

I get what you’re saying about coaches not being big on communicating or teaching coxswains and I’m not saying that that isn’t a valid problem but unless you’re actively and consistently taking the initiative to talk to them yourself and gather all the info I just listed before you go out (which is practically the bare minimum of what your communication with your coach should be anyways), you’re discrediting almost immediately any argument you make about why practice went poorly (in this context). It’s one thing if you do all that and you’re ill-prepared because they give you ambiguous, brusquely explained instructions but it’s another if you’re straight up unprepared because you didn’t make the effort to talk to them in the first place and then stepped in the boat unsure of 17 different things.

Related: Coxswain skills: Running a smooth practice

cannot stress this enough that you have to be the one actively seeking this information out because it’s rare you’ll find a coach who just freely offers it up to you. Some definitely do and they’re awesome for doing so but they’re also the unicorns of the rowing world. And especially if you’re feeling out of practice and/or are going out with a coach who you don’t normally practice with, that doubles – maybe even triples  – the importance of you communicating with them rather than waiting for them to come to you.

Recovering from this will probably be a long process if things went as poorly as you said. I say that because when I’ve worked with (or been coached by) coaches who “never yell” and then something happens that causes them to react uncharacteristically, that coxswain tends to stay on their shit list for awhile before that coach feels like they can trust them again (or at all, if they’re a coxswain they haven’t really worked with before). The length of time can be accelerated or prolonged too depending on the coxswain’s willingness to admit fault/responsibility (and then actually do something different) and the rate at which they do so. There’s a big difference between apologizing immediately after practice and waiting a few days to do it. Your situation might be different but that’s how it’s played out in my experience 99% of the time.

Moving past this starts with you apologizing to your coach, the other coxswains, and your boat for having a negative impact on the quality of practice that day. And not in that fake way where you emptily say “I’m sorry” 830592 times thinking the more you say it the more people will believe you. (See the “don’t apologize” bullet point in this post and the second paragraph of the post linked below for more on that.) From there, you need to get in the habit of talking with whatever coach you’re going out with (or at the very least, the other coxswain(s)) as soon as you get to practice every single day so you can hear what the plan is and ask any questions that arise before you launch.

Related: The overall point of this whole story are my questions: do you have any tips on how to improve my coxing over the summer (during which I’m not doing any sort of summer rowing programs)? And, are there any specific things you think I should do to help gain the varsity coach’s trust back? I want to prove to him that I’m good enough for second boat or for the lightweight V8 even as a junior with only a year of experience because I really think I’m not that bad of a coxswain now and that any sort of improvement could boost that. Anyway, thank you so much for this blog and for whatever answer or advice you can give!

As far as on-the-water practice management, there’s a lot of stuff in the “practice management” tag that I’d encourage you to read through. Obviously it’s impossible to incorporate everything that’s pointed out or suggested in there so start off by picking 2-3 things that are relevant to the areas you’ve struggled with and incorporating those changes into your coxing.

Related: Coxswain skills: Steering, pt. 2

For steering, check out the post linked above – it covers the exact question you asked about whether or not you should be making constant adjustments. One thing that I got in the habit of doing whenever I’d take out a boat I hadn’t been in before was just playing with the rudder and strings while it was still in the racks. This helped give me a good idea of how big or small my “small adjustments” needed to be in order to actually get the rudder to respond, which in turned helped me understand the difference between making constant adjustments vs. anticipating what adjustments needed to be made. I got into more detail and try to explain it a little more thoroughly in that post I linked to though so definitely check that out. I also find that how you hold the strings makes a big difference so check out the photo and middle few paragraphs in this post for an explanation on what’s worked best for me.

How to steer through wake

Coxing How To Rowing

How to steer through wake

Steering through wake is a pretty common thing you’ll have to deal with while coxing. Whether as a result of the elements, other coaches, or powerboats, you’ll probably encounter some form of wake a couple times per practice (at least). It’s also dependent on the time of year – Canadian Henley week on the Charles is a lot different than early October or mid-May when it comes to wake generated by launches and other crews. It’s something you should always be on the lookout for though so your crew’s not caught off guard when the boat starts to roll with the waves.

Related: Coxswain skills: Awareness

If you think back to your earth science class in middle school, you’ll recall that there are two parts to a wave – the crest, which is the top, and the trough, which is the bottom. The larger the distance between the crest and trough, the bigger/taller the waves and the tougher they’ll be to steer through. The general rule of thumb is that if you can see both at the same time (i.e. they’re spaced out, lower than the gunnels, etc.) you can continue rowing. It might still be a little bumpy but nothing too distracting – it’s important though to give the rowers a heads up though by saying “little bit of wake on starboard side on this next stroke…”.

If you can’t see both/when in doubt, you should stop. The reason why is because if the boat is suspended on the crests of the waves, that empty space between the crest and trough isn’t providing any support to the hull and could cause it to crack or snap. Basically, if you could see daylight under the hull at any point, you need to stop and wait for them to pass. If the waves are due to the weather and stopping isn’t an option and/or would be unsafe, you’ll want to position yourself as close to shore as you realistically can (you can always go another oar’s length closer than you think though) and avoid turning the boat whenever possible, even if that means rowing agains the traffic pattern (which is another reason why you want to be super close to shore and something I talk about more down below).

In normal, quick-to-pass situations (like a launch zooming past you at a close range), you’ll want to stop and position the shell parallel to the wake so that you’re minimizing the surface area of the hull that isn’t supported by the water (going back to what I said before about it being suspended on the crests of the waves). In most cases you have enough warning time, especially if you’re just sitting there between pieces or listening to your coach, that all you’ll need to do is tell bow + 3 (for example) to take a couple strokes so you’re angled with the waves. Tell the rowers to “lean away” (not drastically, just enough that the water’s not going to end up in the boat) and keep the oars flat to provide as much stability as possible until it passes.

If you weren’t already rowing you’ll probably need to readjust your point and/or row back out from shore since the waves will push you in but otherwise, this ultimately isn’t something to worry about. It’s annoying and can be disruptive if you get waked out in the middle of a piece but it’s one of those things where I just roll my eyes, think “dude, seriously??”, and move on within a stroke or two once the wake is past us. If we’re stuck in the waves and have to stop to allow them to get ahead of us or flatten out, that’s even more annoying but again, not a big deal and not an excuse to let the focus/power completely fall off.

In not-quick-to-pass situations like strong winds and whitecaps, you don’t want to stop, like I said before, because that could potentially pose an even bigger safety threat. I always defaulted to my coaches here rather than making a call on my own (which I could do in situations like the previous one I mentioned) – if they said “keep rowing, angle across, row by sixes and do not stop“, I kept rowing, angled across, went down to sixes, and didn’t stop … even if it made me wince every time a wave would hit a rigger. Rowing through wake like this is the ultimate test of staying cool under fire though and even though it can be challenging, there’s nothing to do except do it.

I’ve rarely encountered this type of wake from other boats, it’s always a result of the weather. If you’ve been in the basin in early spring, you’ll know what I mean – once you get past the BU bridge going downstream it’s a shitshow. That was one of the very few downsides of our boathouse being by the Mass Ave bridge because the Charles is, for the most part, relatively protected but once you get past BU, you’re out in the open and there’s not much you can do other than limp through it and take it one stroke at a time. I can recall a couple specific instances where we’d come out of the bridge and just get smacked by insanely strong wind gusts and waves and in order to avoid swamping the boat, we’d have to angle across in front of BU from the Boston side to the Cambridge side and row against the traffic pattern until we got to the MIT lane (all without stopping) rather than rowing up the Boston side to the crossover point (near-ish the finish line), stopping, turning, rowing across, spinning again, and then rowing up the MIT lane.

(If you’re not familiar with the Charles, check out the maps in the post below to see all the landmarks I just mentioned and get an idea of what I’m talking about.)

Related: Navigating the Charles River

This morning on Twitter I saw a sculler call out a coach for waking people out in the Powerhouse (he actually @’ed them, which I love) and that’s what gave me the idea for today’s post. I’ve said this before but if you get waked out by someone, don’t flip them off or yell at them or whatever else … just let it go, especially if you’re a high school coxswain. College coxswains can probably get away with it more often but still, don’t engage. It doesn’t make you (as a program) look good and if your crew is already questionable about your ability to maintain your composure, this isn’t gonna help your case (I see this come up on evals a lot). If it’s a big enough issue then your coach can/will handle it (by either saying something to them or flipping them off themselves … I’ve been in the launch with coaches who have done both) but you should pick the “really??” GIF of your choice and just imitate that instead.

Coxing Q&A

Question of the Day

Hi there – I’ve just come out of my first racing season and after talking to my crew and coaches, my weakness still lies within steering; more specifically oversteering.

My racing season consisted of Sykes bow-loaded fours (so steering is done with the rod). The steering system is an AEROWFIN. From the other fours I’ve coxed with the traditional square fin, this one is obviously more touchy and responsive (which has its pros and cons). The problem is that at the tip of the fin, (the point on the rudder that is furthest away from the hull) there is a small crease/slight bend in the rudder. I’m not sure whether this may contribute to some of the steering issues I’ve had.

In the eight that I’ve raced once, we have stuck an oversized fin for the Head of the Yarra we do every year and left it on for the whole season. The rudder does not, however line up dead straight with the fin, it is 1-2mm wide of it. At the beginning of the season, I tried lining up the rudder to be dead straight but moving the rod (while on slings) and looking from the stern down towards the bow at the rudder in order to gauge its “straightness”. I’d then mark the point in my seat to which the position of the rod/string corresponds to a straight rudder. However, I struggle to think of a time when leaving the rudder at that point does not stop the bow ball drifting to either side.

The possible factors I see which might be the cause of my oversteering.
– Power Imbalance
– Current/Wind (Although I’ve steered in near flat conditions and it still occurs)
– Rudder Defect(s)

Often when we train, I’m autopiloting the steering aspect because the river is very simple with gradual turns. But come race day on a buoyed course, it becomes pretty awful. Talking to my stroke, he said that it wasn’t like I was changing the direction of the rudder every three strokes, but it was more of a gradual snaking which was costing us metres. The four I cox have spent a lot of time in the 4- and tbh can steer straighter than I can (although this is an example of a different occasion, with different conditions and a different body of water).

The fact is that I’d like to rectify my steering issues, the next few months will be primarily Winter Training or Head Racing. How do I do it? Do I start from scratch and focus all my attention on steering? What is a good way to know that you’re steering straight (because it seems like I’m steering straight on home territory however as soon as we hit the buoyed course it becomes awful)? Some coxes have the liberty of training on rivers/lakes with buoys all year around whereas the river we row on doesn’t have this, how can I practise? Thank You Very Much!

I love the Aerowfin. We switched it on to one of our Empachers in the fall and it made taking the tight turns on the Charles so much simpler.

Related: Taking the Weeks turn with the Carl Douglas “Aerowfin”

I was texting with one of the MIT coxswains last week about similar steering issues and my first question was whether or not she’d checked the equipment. Not to shirk responsibility or anything like that but because even though 99% of the time the problem is us, that 1% where it’s the equipment can be really validating if you feel like you’d been doing everything you were supposed to in order to steer a good line. (Her problem ended up being an issue with the cables.) It sounds like you’ve already done the leg work in that area so I’d bring that info to your coach and/or boatman and have them look at to confirm if that’s the problem. Very rarely, borderline on never, do I suggest looking at the equipment first instead of yourself as being the problem but the fin having a bend in it and the rudder being a few millimeters out of alignment makes me think that it’s the problem, not you.

Related: Coxswain skills: Steering, pt. 1 (Oversteering)

I don’t think you need to start from scratch but maybe talk to your coach about taking out a different four to see if you have similar issues in that boat as you do in this one. If you do then the problem is clearly you and you’re gonna have to spend some time at the drawing board evaluating how you’re steering now and what adjustments you need to make. If you don’t have any of the same issues then that most likely will confirm that the other boat is the problem.

Not having a buoyed course or unobstructed straight water to practice on is the most played out excuse for why coxswains can’t steer straight. It is highly unlikely that whatever body of water you’re on doesn’t have at least 100m of water with no curves that you can practice “steering straight” on. Those are opportunities that you’ve gotta open your eyes to and be aware of so that as you’re coming up to them you can say to yourself “OK, this is the only time today I’m gonna have to practice my race steering…” and then do whatever you need to do to work on that. Tell the rowers too that you’re coming up on the part of the river where you want to practice your race steering and then afterwards, ask your stroke seat how your point looked – did it seem from their vantage point like you were snaking around or did it look relatively straight?

Related: Coxswain skills: Steering a buoyed course

Autopilot is fine when you’re warming up, executing drills, etc. but every so often you’ve gotta snap out of that habit (especially during steady state or pieces) and pay attention to every single aspect of your steering, from your hand placement to if you’re reacting to the boat’s movement and knocking the rudder, etc. All those things add up and are super easy to ignore if you’re not making a conscious effort to pay attention to them.

Related: Coxswains skills: Race steering

You’ve gotta use every practice as an opportunity to work on your steering. If you only decide to work on your steering when you notice there’s a problem (or worse, a rower or coach points it out) then it’s basically too late because now you’re hyperaware of it and that tends to exacerbate the problem. Steering is not that hard. It just isn’t. We overthink it and make it hard, which is what tends to be our downfall 99% of the time.

Coxing Q&A

Question of the Day

G’day! Just an upfront thanks for the help this blog has been to me so far – it is really a god send!

Recently our coach took us on a road trip to a ‘still’ body of water to do our time trials, however the weather was absolutely horrendous that day (strong winds and rain). This left us with quite the time trial. In regards to the steering, however, I found it very difficult. Generally in practice, I’d look over my shoulder (bow loaded quad) to try and see how the blade work was doing and on top of the glances at the SpeedCoach and calls, it’s generally a handful. When we were doing pieces that day, I’d made the mistake of not prioritising the steering (I just kept the rudder straight) ended up a good 5 or so meters to bow side after the 2K (~ish) piece. On the latter pieces, my line was much better, but required my to be on the rudder a lot of the time.

My question is how do you deal with rough weather? Mainly in regards to cross winds, head winds, tail winds. Should I be constantly on the rudder to maintain my line? Or should I point my line in the direction of the wind in hopes that it pushes the boat back to a straight course? A fellow cox mentioned that they did something similar to this in Rio this year but I’m not a hundred percent sure. Thanks in advance!

When we do seat races or time trials we usually tell the coxswains what arches on the bridge to go through and what they should be pointing at so we can ensure they’re setting themselves up to steer a straight course. If their lines are off and they go through the wrong arch or are clearly not pointed correctly then we have to factor that in to the results because they most likely went over 1000, or 2000m (our standard seat race/time trial distances when we do them by length), which could (and sometimes has) cost a guy his seat.

In my experience rowers tend to get way more pissed about coxswains drifting off course and adding unnecessary extra meters than making small steering adjustments to maintain their original course. It also helps to preface the piece by saying “hey guys, there’s a crosswind coming from the starboard side so I might need to steer a bit if I get pushed off my line”.

Related: How to: Cox a seat race

Usually I’ll point slightly into the wind (like, an arms-only or arms and body-stroke’s worth) at the start if there’s a particularly strong and consistent cross or headwind, that way, like you said, it pushes me back on course. My priority though is to do whatever’s necessary to maintain the straightest course without adding any additional meters. Tailwinds haven’t ever presented much of a problem for me unless it’s a tail-cross but even then it’s negligible so I don’t think my strategy for steering changes much in those conditions.

In a cross or headwind I’ll make as much of an adjustment as necessary and say “on the rudder”/”off the rudder” so the crew knows that I’m paying attention to how the conditions are affecting the piece and taking the necessary steps to ensure we’re impacted as little as possible by them. Once we’re done I’ll tell the coach where/when I had to steer (i.e. about 250m in, 2min into a 5min piece, etc.) and for how long (i.e. a stroke, three strokes, etc.) so they can make a note of it and decide if it had any effect on the outcome of the race.

Coxing Q&A

Question of the Day

I really want to practice making small steering adjustments but my team has the great misfortune of rowing on a river that is in the midst of extreme drought. When I say extreme, I mean we can’t have two boats next to each other because anything but a very specific course in the very middle of the river can break off a fin. Because of the drought, there’s debris everywhere, and coupled with the bridges, I’m basically on the rudder at all times. How can I practice minimal steering in this situation?

I get what you’re saying about wanting to practice but it sounds like you’re at the mercy of the river until conditions improve. I don’t really have any advice unfortunately – you gotta do what you gotta do and in this situation keeping the equipment safe is more important than you practicing your steering, which is a pretty low priority by comparison.

The best I can suggest is to take note of how much you’re steering now and then (off the water) visualizing the course you’d take under normal circumstances and what adjustments you’d need to make between how much you’re currently steering vs. how much you should be steering. That’s a good way to practice without being able to actually practice because by the time you get back on the water (or the river returns to normal) you’ve already got an idea of how much or little you need to steer. Other than that though, just do whatever you’ve gotta do to keep the fin in tact.

Coxing Q&A

Question of the Day

So far finding this blog a great resource, it has helped me so much already so thank you🙂 Onto my question, as a novice cox for maybe a month, the only real thing I am really struggling with at the moment is maneuvering the boat – e.g. moving the boat from the middle of the river off to the side in order not to impede traffic, sorta like parking the boat.

Say if I was in the middle of the river and I wanted to get to the bank and be ‘parked’ in the same position as if the boat had simply moved sideways, how would I go about doing this? My past attempts doing this have involved me steering while bow just rows, then I would just get stern pair to back it. It seems really slow and inefficient when I do it.

Also if the current keeps pushing us towards the bank, to the point where there is barely enough room to take a stroke without hitting the bank what can I do to:

1) Keep the boat off the bank in the first place
2) Get out of a situation like this if it does arise again.

I usually tell bow to tap it on bow side but then the stern just gets pushed in, then I tell stroke to tap on bow and same goes, bow just goes back into the bank. If I tell all 4 to tap in on bow side, the stern will just hit the bank. BTW This would primarily be for a 4x+ as I don’t cox 8s very often, but advice for 8s would also be nice🙂 Thanks!

I’d just keep it super simple and spin the boat 90ish degrees (ports row, starboards back), take a few strokes to get out of the way, and then spin back 90ish degrees (starboards row, ports back) so you’re pointed back where you were before. You’ll be in pretty much the same position, just a few lengths to the right of where you were before. If you’re on a narrower stretch where it’s not necessary to spin a full 90 degrees or you’re just trying to move over a length instead of a few lengths  I’d have the rowers spin it enough that I can take a sharp angle towards shore and then I’ll row it across. I’ve never been concerned with being in the exact same spot along shore as I was in the middle of the river (nor have my coaches) so backing it down just seems unnecessarily tedious.

As far as dealing with the current, that’s one of those things where you’ve either gotta know ahead of time that it’s strong that day thus you’ll need to stay further out from shore or you’ve gotta evaluate it when you get out and know based on the flow what adjustments you’ll have to make to your steering. If you’re sitting well off shore and it’s still sucking you in then the solution is to either a) don’t sit for very long or b) if you’re sitting because your coach is talking to the crew, make quiet calls to bow pair or stern pair or whoever your coach isn’t directly talking to and have them row you out a little. I usually try not to interrupt my coach but sometimes I’ll try to sneak in when he finishes a sentence and just say “hey, can we row it out?”, especially if we’re getting close to the point where we might get stuck or the fin could get damaged.

Related: Should I make corrections to my point (using bow pair) while the coach is speaking? I always feel rude but the boat sometimes drifts off!

The simple and obvious solution to dealing with your bow or stern going back and forth into shore is also pretty straightforward – don’t put yourself in that position to begin with. If the current is strong don’t row that close to shore and if you know you’re going to be stopping definitely don’t row that close to shore. I fully get wanting/needing to get out of the way but you can do that while still giving yourself a buffer zone so as to avoid not getting stuck.

If you do find yourself in an unavoidable situation like that, you have to work quickly without freaking out and losing focus on the steps you need to take to get out of there (which is a common thing with novice coxswains). The boat is naturally gonna pivot around whichever side is taking strokes so if arms + body strokes or full pressure strokes or whatever is too much, try sculling it around by having your 2-seat take bow’s oar and bringing it nearly parallel to the hull while taking short choppy strokes.

Related: How to scull your bow around

Your stern is still gonna move towards shore but it shouldn’t be at nearly as aggressive of an angle as before, so you should have a little more room to then row it out. Again though, this can’t be something that everyone just takes their time with otherwise you will drift into shore and make things ten times harder for yourself.

Ultimately though the best solution is to not put yourself in that position to begin with. Sometimes it’s unavoidable if there’s a lot of traffic or you’ve had to stop or whatever but getting to that point where you’ve gotta execute some ninja-like maneuvers to get out is nearly always preventable if you’re paying attention to the conditions and where you’re positioning yourself on the river.

Also, don’t be afraid to say to your coach “The current’s pretty strong, is it OK to stop here rather than go all the way over so we don’t end up drifting into shore?”. If you’re gonna be sitting for a few seconds before the start of a piece it’s probably not a big deal but if you’re gonna do stationary drills or he wants to discuss something, let him know so that he knows and can be aware of that going forward since it’s not always easy to tell from the launch how the water is impacting your steering.

HOCR: Setting up for Weeks

Coxing Racing

HOCR: Setting up for Weeks

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 || Weeks, Lowell House, and “the turning tree”

Two years ago Pete Cipollone was on the Rowing Illustrated podcast talking about how to take the Weeks turn. I’ve talked about Weeks before in a previous post but if you’re looking for some last minute tips, here’s a few from the guy who’s won HOCR seven times and whose course record still stands (13:58.9, set in 1997 if you’re curious).

Related: Pete Cipollone’s 1997 HOCR Recording

Setting yourself for the turn is easier than you think, provided you give yourself plenty of room to execute it and position yourself in the middle of the course coming down the Powerhouse stretch. Despite what you’ve probably heard from your coach about staying tight to the buoys, this is one spot (of many, tbh) where you don’t want or need to do that. If you’re confident in your rudder system and the strength of your bow and 3-seat then you can hug them a little tighter but the “ideal” position is about a full boat length off the buoys.

Related: Taking the Weeks turn with the Carl Douglas “Aerowfin”

There are two ways to know if you’ve nailed the turn – the first is if you’re done steering before you hit the bridge. If you’re going through the bridge at an angle and you’re pretty much completely off the rudder already, you nailed it. The other visual cue is if your port side’s blades miss the abutment by a foot or less. I’ve talked about this before but for me personally, I know that when I have the momentary feeling of “oh shit I’m gonna hit the bridge”, that’s how I know we’re right where we need to be.

Related: Weeks, Lowell House, and “the turning tree”

The last part of managing the turn is thinking ahead to Anderson, which you should be doing before you even enter Weeks. Coming out of the turn, provided you started it early enough and are done steering before you go through the bridge, you want to be pointed straight ahead at the outside abutment of Anderson Bridge (the one between the Boston arch that contains the traveling lane and the center racing arch).

Related: Steering through the bridges

A lot of coxswains, particularly those who are racing at HOCR for the first time, have a tendency to wait too long to start their turns which then throws them super wide coming through Weeks, which then means they’ve gotta do an S-curve to get back into position to be lined up for Anderson. You can save yourself a lot of stress and steering by thinking a bridge or two ahead so that you’ve got plenty of time to get set up and make adjustments to your course if necessary if there’s other crews in your way.

Image via // hocr.org

Coxing Rowing

Taking the Weeks turn with the Carl Douglas “AeRowFin”

I posted a clip of this on the team’s Instagram earlier but wanted to share the full video to highlight the new fin on our Empacher. If you’ve emailed me at any point in the last four years about not being able to take tight turns with your normal Resolute or Empacher fins, have your coach check out the Carl Douglas “AeRowFin”.

Not to take away from Riker’s steering here because he did a great job but compared to what Weeks looks like with the normal Empacher rudder, this was so much tighter and smoother. Before, even with the rudder all the way over and one side powered down, the turn would take longer and you could still end up on the opposite side of the river which was obviously super frustrating for both the coxswains and the coaches. This Carl Douglas fin though is magical. Definitely recommend checking it out.

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

Some context for the video – we were doing 3′-2′-1′ steady state at 18-20-24spm through the Powerhouse and then built to 30spm at full pressure for 20ish strokes through the bridge.

Shout out to the Radcliffe coach in the launch at the end too.

Coxswain skills: Steering a buoyed course

Coxing Racing

Coxswain skills: Steering a buoyed course

Previously: Steering, pt. 1 || Steering, pt. 2  || Boat feel || How to handle a negative coxswain eval || How to cox steady state workouts || How to cox short, high intensity workouts || Race steering

Today’s post is going to be a super quick recap-ish post on strategies for steering a buoyed course. I’ve gotten several emails about this lately and with IRAs this weekend and Youth Nationals coming up soon, this will hopefully be a good last-minute refresher for anyone that hasn’t had much experience with buoyed courses (which apparently is more common than I thought it was).

I talked a lot about race steering in the last post (linked below) so I won’t regurgitate what I said there but a point that does bear repeating is that if you’re thinking about steering during your race, something has already gone wrong.

Related: Coxswain skills: Race steering

There are four things you can loosely focus on when you’re on a buoyed course to help you maintain a straight course. They include:

A point far off in the distance (like a building or tower on the skyline)

The center line where the buoys meet

The distance that one side’s blades are off the buoy line

The buoy line that’s just ahead of you

When looking at the buoys just up ahead, it’s similar to standing on the street and looking one block up, then you walk a block and look up at the next block. You’re taking it one chunk at a time as opposed to looking down the whole street, or course in this case. I’m personally not a huge fan of this approach because I think it pulls your attention back to your steering more than it should but if the idea of looking straight down the whole course at once is a little daunting, this could be an approach worth trying.

The center-line approach is a commonly used one but coxswains tend to overthink it and freak out because they can’t actually see where the buoys meet because the rowers are in their way. This is where good coxswains separate themselves from the rest because a good coxswain would be able to use their critical thinking skills and common sense (more so the latter than the former, to be honest) to realize that obviously the point where the buoys meet won’t be visible when you’re actually following a straight course. The goal here is to point yourself at the start so that the center line is “hidden” behind the rowers and then to use whatever’s on either side of that point to maintain a course straight down the middle between them.

The last approach is to use your peripheral vision to maintain an equal distance between the blades and the buoy line. This is best used in tandem with focusing on the center-line or a point off in the distance. It’s also easy to practice too when you’re rowing side-by-side with another crew at home (sans buoys) since keeping the crews close without clashing blades is an important part of practice management. The one downside to it is that if you focus too hard on one buoy line it can tend to pull you over to that side. I have a tendency to do this so my go-to is to always look straight ahead and focus on the center-line.

Buoy lines ultimately are not a hard thing to handle, even if you don’t have a ton of experience with them. The last two years at Sprints I’ve seen a lot of coxswains, mostly freshman/walk-ons I assume, nervously asking their coaches what to point at, how to hold a point between the buoys, etc. and it’s very obvious that they’re thinking way too hard about it. Buoys are your friend so don’t think about them more than you need to – they’re there to make your life easier, not harder.

Image via // @merijnsoeters

Coxing Racing

Question of the Day

Hi Kayleigh! This weekend our start pushed us to port and we ended up with our blades about 6-9 inches off the buoys, so I decided to stay along the buoy line and go straight there instead of adjusting to the middle and then going straight. Despite this, the guys who have been watching the GoPro have said that I should’ve gone to the middle of the lane and then gone straight. If you had been pushed to one side or the other off the start, would you have adjusted to put yourself in the middle of the lane or stayed just off the buoy line? Thanks so much!

Yea, I agree with the guys, I would have eased back into the middle for two reasons.

First, if you’re sitting on one side of the lane instead of in the middle then you’re setting yourself up to potentially row in the wake of the crew beside you (i.e. if you’re in lane 3 and you’re riding the port buoys, you could end up hitting lane 4’s wake). I don’t think this is a super common occurrence but I remember talking about it at IRAs last year (though I can’t remember why) so it’s something I remind our coxswains of now to be aware of when we’re on buoyed courses.

Related: Race steering

The second reason is more likely to happen and has to do with the wind. If you get caught off guard by a gust of wind (and let’s be honest, this happens a lot more than we’re all gonna admit) then it can end up pushing you over so that instead of being 6-9″ off the line, you’re now one touch of the rudder away from hitting them for the next 2-3 strokes before you can steer back out. The other scenario though is your blades go over the buoys and you end up interfering with another crew’s race. That’s obviously the worst case scenario (and one you can get DQ’ed for) but it’s still something you have to be aware of.

I know it seems counterintuitive to say that you should steer back to the middle when literally every other piece of advice says you shouldn’t be steering during a race but you have to consider the alternatives (i.e. what I said up above) and how much time you’ll lose if you get caught up in one of them vs. how much time you’ll lose by just touching the rudder for a stroke to reposition yourself.

Related: “Always steering” vs. “never steering”

If you haven’t already you should figure out why your start pushed you to port (starboards out-pulling ports, ports taking a bad stroke, not having a point, the wind pushing you over right off the line, etc.) so that you can address it and hopefully avoid it the next time you race.