How to Cox an Eight Person Shell
Being the coxswain of a rowing shell is an important job. As the coxswain, you are responsible for getting the boat from the boathouse to the water and back again- along with everything in between! Your rowers rely on you to be the eyes and ears of the boat, and to motivate them to go as fast as they can, while steering them to victory!
Call "hands on" to get everybody ready to lift the boat.If the boat is on a rack on or under shoulder level, get four rowers on each side of the boat- two at the stern, and two at the bow. Stagger the rowers so when you go up and over heads, people don't run into each other. If the boat is significantly above the rowers, get all the rowers under the boat (four at the stern, four at the bow) and call up and over heads. You may need to go to low heads at first to keep the boat from hitting the boats above.
If you have sliding racks, tell the crew to pull the boat out on its rack, minding the riggers of the boats above and below.After you do this, or if you do not have sliding racks, call up an inch and walk the boat out of racks. Once you have the boat out of the racks, call the rowers to show sides and split if you were over heads, or to go up to shoulders if you were carrying the boat at waist level.
With you holding onto the stern, you should get the crew to walk the boat out carefully, minding the riggers at all times.You should instruct each rower to watch the rigger in front of them. Once the stern is clear of any obstacles (normally the boathouse bay doors) you can call "clear" to let the crew know that they can start to swing the boat without fear of hitting the bay doors, and walk the boat right down to the river. Do not start to swing the boat until after you are clear of the bay doors. Make sure to walk it straight out. Continue to watch for obstacles as you walk down to the dock.
If you are at a race, you will need to have the rowers on one side drop down to waists while the rowers on the other side continue to hold the boat at shoulder level so that the official can check heel ties, etc.When the official gives you the all clear, call the boat up to shoulders again.
Get the crew to walk the boat, now the right way up, to the edge of the river.Then call "up and over heads" and then "toes to the edge/ready to roll/and roll" make sure that the rudder (or the skeg in smaller boats) is well clear of the dock, because if it breaks off, you will not be able to steer the boat.
Call for half of the rowers to get oars and half to stay and unlock oarlocks.A good way of splitting is to say "ports get oars, starboards get oarlocks" or something like that. One person from each pair (1 and 2; 3 and 4; 5 and 6; 7 and 8) should get oars for the whole pair, while the other person stays and unlocks the oarlocks.
Make sure all of the oars are in so that they will not fall out (on the blade side of the part that goes into the oarlock, not the handle side) Tell the rowers to count down from bow when ready, 1-8.
Call "one foot in" and then "and down." Make sure that your rowers keep one hand on the dock.
Once everyone is in the boat, call to push off the dock.This would be said "one hand on the dock/ready to shove/and shove" If needed, have the bow, dockside oars push off the dock with their oars. Make sure only the bow rowers do this!
Have bow four row to get away from the dock, and let stern four fix their feet.
Once stern four is ready, have them start the pick drill, or other drills, and have bow pair fix their feet.Then, switch to bow pair.
Continue to row, following whatever practice the coach tells you.When making calls, call "weigh enough" when you want the rowers to stop. It is helpful to call "in two/one/two" when you want the rowers to do something, like weigh enough or put pressure. if you want the boat to go to the left, call starboard pressure. If you want the boat to go to the right, call port pressure. Stay to the right side of the river, close to the shore. Watch out for barges and motor boats.
Call some power tens.If your rowers are seeming sluggish, call a power ten. You can also call a focus ten, a timing ten, etc.
Spin the boat.When you are ready to spin, you should have all the rowers in the direction you are spinning towards check their oars and the rowers on the other side row. Then row the boat across and do the same thing on the other side.
Dock.When you are docking, pay attention to the way the wind is moving and come in slowly, with only bow pair rowing. If there is someone on the dock, they can help to pull you in.
The essential calls
These are the first calls you will need to know before you take a crew out on the river:
- "Count down from bow" When the crew is getting ready to get in the boat, you should not get in the boat until everyone is ready. Therefore ask rowers to shout their number out in order as they become ready. Once you hear "stroke" you can get in the boat.
- "Sit ready at the catch... Ready... Go...!" The rowers should come up to the catch. Wait for them to get into position and make sure the boat is balanced before setting them rowing with an assertive "go!".
- "Weigh Enough, let it run" The rowers should stop rowing with their blades off the water. The boat will continue to glide forwards until you ask for the blades to "drop" at which point you should call "down".
- "Weigh enough" Blades go in at 45 degrees and slow the boat down gently.
- "Weigh enough, check it down!" This is your emergency brake call. Blades go in at 90 degrees. It is the fastest way of stopping the boat.
- Coxing is great fun but can be nerve-wracking at times. Your first outings will be a bit stressful as you battle with which is bow-side, which is therefore stroke-side and which way to push the rudder. But it gets easier and whatever you do, don't let a few mistakes put you off! Here's some advice to make your first few outings as enjoyable as possible:
- Do stick to your side of the river. But don't panic if you see that you have drifted to the middle and another boat is heading your way. Keep a cool head, stop the boat and use bow pair and maybe 3 and 4 to maneuver yourselves out of the way.
- Novice rowers tend to respond a little slowly, and novice coxes tend to make calls a little late. This of course gets better, but try to make calls as early as you can.
- On a similar note, if you feel yourself drifting towards the bank or the middle of the river, make adjustments to the steering as soon as you become aware of it. Steering early for corners is essential.
- Make sure your voice is clear and loud. It may feel weird at first, but you have to be authoritative from the moment you get in the boat and rowers will appreciate being able to hear you all the time.
- To straighten up the boat, it can be a good idea to use stern pair. If your bow is pointing to your right, getting stroke to "take the run off" will bring it back round so you are pointing straight again. If you are already stationary "backing it down" will have the same effect.
- Getting your calls in time with the stroke will help get the rowers in time and get a good rhythm in the boat. Tell the crew what you would like them to do, then say "ready" and call "go" as they come into the finish (as the blade comes out of the water and the oar handle is back in the backstops position).
- When spinning, make sure you have plenty of room. Getting wedged between two barges whilst attempting to spin is troublesome and embarrassing! Paddle up to where there is ample room and then spin quickly. Always watch your stern and get bow to make sure you have room at her end too. Get stroke side to "check it down" and bow side to take strokes alternately.
Video: How to be the perfect cox | #Henley2015
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