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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