Question of the Day

Hi! Since the spring races all start boats at the same time, do you have any tips on steering straight? I can tell when I’m veering off my lane, but for some reason, I can’t/don’t know how to fix it! I remember you saying it’s all about the small adjustments, then straightening out, but I can’t seem to get it. [Ex today: all 3 boats lined up, me on the outside, I end up too far out away from the other 2]. Tips? Thanks!

For most races in the spring, if you’re lucky, you’ll start with stake boats and race down a buoyed course. God’s gift to coxswains is a buoyed course – trust me on this. The key to steering straight is picking a point in the distance while you’re at the starting line. Once you’re gotten your point and are lined up straight down the course, pick something that is right off your stroke’s ear or shoulder. When you start, make sure whatever you chose is always lined up on that spot on your stroke. If it’s not, don’t panic – just move the rudder to whatever side needs the adjustment and then move it right back. Remember though that the faster the boat is going, the smaller your adjustments need to be. When you’re racing if it seems like you’re not pushing the string forward enough, you’re probably already pushing it as far as you need to go.

Related: How to steer an eight or four

The other key to steering straight is to know when not to steer. If you steer too often or are constantly (sometimes unknowingly) pushing the strings back and forth, you’ll end up all over the place. Know when to hold the rudder straight (which should ideally be about 99% of the time.)

Another strategy, and the simplest one when you’re on a buoyed course, is to just look at where the buoys converge (think of the “vanishing point” concept in art…) and keep your stroke’s head right in between where the two buoy lines come together.

Related: Hi, I’m going to start coxing the novice men for this upcoming season, as well as rowing myself, but I’m so nervous about my first outing – do you have any tips? I’m mainly worried about the steering, spacial awareness, and other boats.

When I would race other crews during practice, I knew going into them that steering was the one thing I needed to work on so to force myself to get better I would purposefully line myself up in the middle of the other crews. I’d use my peripheral vision to determine where I was in comparison to them and then rely on the point I’d chosen before the start of the piece. The added pressure of knowing I had $40,000 in equipment on either side of me was a HUGE motivator to not veer out of my lane. I’d suggest trying that the next time you do pieces with other crews and see if it helps.

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Question of the Day

Coxed a varsity boat today for the first time. I felt awkward, I didn’t know what to say to them other than to make the calls. Normally with my novices I know what techniques to tell them to change/fix but it’s awkward with the varsity. Also, what’s a ratio shift? My stroke today told me to call it so I did. It’s just another way of saying “down on the recovery,” correct?  Do you have any tips? Thanks!

Don’t be nervous with the varsity boats. Unlike novices, they know how to row (presumably) but, like novices, they still need to be told what to do. The only reason it was probably awkward is because they’re not a crew you’re used to so you don’t know their tendencies. Next time you go out with them get a quick rundown from the coach or the coxswain who has been with them before and get some info on who does what so you’ll be able to make your coxing less “auto-pilot” and more personalized (if that makes sense).

A ratio shift is normally called if there’s a lot of rush happening on the slides or slide control is just nonexistent in general. Standard ratio is 2:1 or 3:1 (2 seconds on the recovery, 1 on the drive), but if there’s rush or something else happening it can shift to 1:1 or 1:2, etc. A “ratio shift” calls for the rowers to lengthen out the recovery and shorten the time on the drive. Unless the rush is really bad and you’re getting whiplash from it, it’s not always something the coxswains can feel (although sometimes we can see it) so communication with your stroke is imperative – they’ll almost always know when it needs to happen.

Related: There’s a lot of like, I don’t know how to describe this really, lurching in the boat? Because I think the girls slide forward to fast and that makes us go back instead of forward if that makes sense. how would you correct this? Thanks!

When you do call for it, you just say “let’s take a ratio shift in two … that’s one … and two, on this one”. I like to throw in a “lengthennn boom” or something similar on the first stroke of the shift to help them accentuate the slides and really take the catch. You’ll feel a bit of an increase in power when you do this too due to the quicker drives.

Definitely don’t take your stroke telling you to call for it as a bad thing, like they didn’t think you knew what you were doing or something. I mean, it’s possible they thought that, which is understandable since you’re a novice, but they were most likely just trying to help themselves by helping you. That’s one of the reasons why I liked coxing the varsity as a novice because the rowers, particularly my stroke seat, taught me a lot about technique and what to feel/look for.

Question of the Day

Let’s say I want to be recruited onto a D1 college team. I just emailed the coaches, how long should I expect to wait until I get a response back? Will they email everyone back the first time or only the ones they’re interested in?

When I was emailing coaches I think I heard back from the schools I was planning to visit within a few days but all within two weeks max. I don’t know if that’s because they were interested in me too or if it was because I’d mentioned I was going to be on campus and would like to meet with them or what. Everyone’s experience is different and it really depends on the coaches you email but I’d say give it at least two weeks. Just be aware of when during the season you’re emailing them. If they’re preparing for a big race (like HOCR, Sprints, conference championships, etc.), traveling, on a training trip, etc. then the response time may be a little longer.

Related: Hey, I’m a senior in high school. I’m a coxswain and my coach said that I should email coaches to let them know that I’m interested in joining the team, do you have any advice as to what I should do/say in the emails?

One thing you can/should do that would probably get you a faster response is if you filled out the recruiting forms that are on the school’s athlete website (usually on the team page). They’re just gonna ask you to fill it out anyways so doing it before you email them just saves time and shows the coaches that you’ve done your homework and looked into the process, the team, etc. before reaching out.

Video of the Week: Google Talks with James Cracknell

Google Talks posted this interview last week with James Cracknell and his wife, Beverley Turner. If you don’t know who James Cracknell is, he is a former Olympian for Great Britain who competed in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics in the coxless four. Both times he won the gold – in 2000 he was in the boat with Steve Redgrave (when he won his fifth consecutive gold) and Matthew Pinsent, who was also in the 2004 boat.

Related: Video of the Week: Gold fever

This interview that he did at Google with his wife focuses on a lot of different things, but it spends a good amount of time talking about the accident he suffered in July of 2010. He was on an “adventure-quest”, as I’ll call it, to row, run, cycle, and swim from Los Angeles to New York in 16 days. While cycling through Arizona, he was hit from behind by a petrol tanker, a crash that resulted in a serious skull fracture that lead to an even more serious brain injury. His recovery is an ongoing process and it is noted that he may never fully recover due to the nature of the injury he sustained. If anything, his accident should encourage you to always wear a helmet while riding your bike since the helmet he was wearing is probably the only reason he’s still alive.

The video itself is about 55 minutes long but it’s worth the watch when you have time. He’s moved on from traditional rowing but has found many other exciting endeavors to fill his time with. What is it about rowers that leads us to partake in such crazy (but thrilling) adventures?