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.
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..
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.
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.
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