Since last year was the first year that I was coxing Head of the Charles I wanted to learn as much about the course as possible so I went to Yaz Farooq’s clinic that she hosts the Friday before racing begins. If you aren’t familiar with Yaz, she’s a former collegiate (walk-on at the University of Wisconsin) and national team coxswain who competed at both the ’92 Barcelona games and the ’96 Atlanta games, in addition to four world championships. If you watch the Olympics you’ll recognize her voice since she’s one of the commentators for the rowing events for NBC.
While the clinic is highly recommended by the HOCR officials, it isn’t mandatory to attend. There is no official HOCR coaches and coxswains meeting though so it’s entirely up to you to familiarize yourself with the rules and the course on your own time. HOCR does have a video that goes over the starting procedures, the course itself, and what to do after you finish the race so at the very least you should sit down and watch that. I went over it in two parts last year, which I’ve linked to below.
During the clinic Yaz goes over video from her HOCR races, how to handle the turns, how to steer a bow loader during the race, etc. The head official/chairman of the Regatta & Rules committee, John Lambert, is also there and spends a good amount of time going over how to handle traffic through the bridges, what the different penalties are and how they’re assessed, etc.
I took a lot of notes last year so I’ve posted all of them below. I’d consider this a brief overview of what is discussed at the clinic and not an actual substitute for going. A lot of my notes are in shorthand and not actual sentences (I was writing fast) so if you want/need clarification on anything, feel free to ask.
24 official referee stations along the course (if something happens, someone will see it)
Preparation – look for opportunities
Row a clean course; learn the course, the crews in front of/behind you, practice passing beforehand
Minimize excess steering … have as little effect on the balance as possible
Share details with your crew so they’re mentally prepared
Weld = halfway
If you get to the basin inside 15 min to your race –> straight to the chute
Chute = easy place for accidents; be aware!
Odd # bows = Boston, even # = Cambridge
Hug Cambridge shore/green buoys; watch at Magazine Beach, buoy can get dragged out from SADL launches, will still get penalized if you’re inside them
WATCH FOR CREWS LAUNCHING AT SADL
How to pass: make intentions obvious when within one open length, yell what side you’re taking, make it obvious, point bow to that side, use bow for reinforcement, no swearing at other boats (typically OK for your own though)
Related: How to pass crews during a head race
If crews are being defiant, tell them they’re risking a penalty; be firm but not a jerk
When another crew panics, recognize it, let your boat know, help other crews by instructing the other boat what to do to give way to passing crew (you)
Increase pressure/rating when you think you can get ahead of a crash, if you’re gaining on a crew and need to pass before a bridge, and/or if you’re gaining on a crew and want/need to get inside of a turn
Decrease pressure if you’re being passed or forced to the outside in order to get a cleaner line or if you’re barreling up on crews going through a bridge that can’t accommodate all the crews (WEEKS)
Goal = fastest time
Passing strategy when being passed: make intentions obvious before giving away faster course
Along Powerhouse stretch, select arches based on traffic; Cambridge arch vs. center arch =
Exit Western (Weeks setup): point on outermost edge of buoy line then change point to the blue dome at Harvard (Lowell House). As you close in the dome will disappear behind the trees. Begin turn to the port when level with the turning tree.
Ease onto medallion from turning tree then crank it
Traffic strategy at Weeks: if on the inside, be ahead of crews on starboard otherwise you may be forced too close to port abutment; make sure you have at least half a length of open between bow and stern. If on the outside, give yourself half a length of open so you’re not t-boned by the inside crew if they underestimate the turn. If you’re level/behind crews on inside, corner will be fine i you maintain headings (you can cut across their wake if they go too wide). Drop to half-pressure for a few strokes to cut across and clear stern/bow.
Communication with crew: let them know major turns coming up, tell them when steering, tell them when you need power, tell other side to power down if needed, tell when to go back to even pressure
Coming out of Weeks, be pointed at center arch of Anderson
At Anderson, turn to starboard, need to immediately get set for “the big turn”
Exit Anderson, point to right side of tall white apartment building; do not follow the shoreline
250m from Anderson/Newell = start of Eliot turn
Point to outermost buoys, gradually follow turn
Eliot: steer sharp to port before the bridge to get line through center arch (starboards); should take five hard strokes from starboard to get you around, might need more depending on the wind. No blades over the buoys, just hug it.
When launching from FALS, come thru turn slowly by fours or pairs
Traffic strategy: pay attention to crews on starboard side, must get ahead or fall behind
Eliot headings: go through diagonally port –> starboard, hug the buoys hard by Belmont dock, get buoys under the riggers
Finish line: last 500m, aim for center of the finish line buoys. Boardwalk = 20 strokes to go. Paddle all the way to the end of the buoy line to avoid penalties.
All the information below is from John Lambert and is on rules, penalties, etc.
Be familiar with the rule book and any changes before racing
Athletes given benefit of the doubt, minor blade clashes = not a penalty
Bow #1 is the only bow with the opportunity to have a perfect race
Are responsible for safety first and foremost
Umpires are at every bridge and turn, are there to ensure fairness, safety, determine violations, assess penalties
Travel lanes: do not interfere with other races; double buoys between Weeks, Eliot; stay between white buoys and shoreline. Buoy violation = 10 seconds/buoy if hull is outside travel lane. Interference with another race by hull or blades = severe penalty or disqualification
Buoys: orange (continuous) = Boston, green (occasional) = Cambridge; 10 second penalty/buoy if hull goes over. Buoys can change depending on depth of river, wind, waves, etc. Blades can also get caught in buoy lines.
Violations: disregard for safety = 60 second penalty = even during practice on Friday
Get to the finish line as fast as possible based on the circumstances you’re given
Passing: passing boats have right of way; yield must begin when there is one length of open and closing (failure to yield = 60 second penalty). When passing, can’t force crew off course, when yielding can’t cut buoys.
Non-yield interference: 1st = 60 seconds, 2nd = 120 seconds, 3rd = DQ
Do not press luck when passing and force a collision; cannot do anything blatantly unsafe. USE YOUR COMMON SENSE.
If there is a severe collision (injury, hull damage) = 60 second penalty; impossible to credit crews who are effected by collisions
Conduct: personally abusive language = penalties; not directed at anyone = no penalties
60 second penalty for no bow number
If late to start, report to any official, don’t jump in (be polite, follow instructions immediately)
Boats must finish with coxswain aboard (…duh?)
Communication with bowman when in bow loaders: they should tell you what side you’re being passed on and how fast; when passing, tell when clear to steer at will to avoid cutting off crews. Discuss in advance.
Tl;dr: be prepared. Know what you’re getting into and know that whatever plan you have is probably going to change before you get to Magazine Beach. Be prepared for the unexpected and know how to handle every situation when something happens. Never panic. Make it to the finish line in one piece. Have fun.