Question of the Day

One of my coaches was a coxswain and I got switched out the last third of practice to be in the launch with her. OMG BEST TIME EVER. Every time I had a question she’d answer it so well! More coxes should become coaches! One thing she was talking about was watching the wind patterns – like the dark patches in the water to let the crew know. I understand the concept, but I’m not really understanding why. Like, I tell them that a wind/wake is coming to prepare them?

The type of wind that you’re encountering will determine what you tell the rowers and how they should adjust their technique.


Lay back just a little bit more than you normally would. If you look at a protractor and visualize that sitting straight up makes a 90 degree angle, your normal layback should be about 110 degrees. In a headwind, you want to layback just a little farther, to about 115-120 degrees. The reason why is because if you think about rowing into the wind, it’s going to slow you down regardless, but if your body is up high, it’s essentially acting like a brick wall and slowing the boat’s movement even more. When you layback a little more than usual, you’re allowing the wind to flow over you, which results in the boat not being slowed down as much.


The tailwind is going to push you along so you’ll be moving faster than you otherwise would, which can give the rowers the sense that their blades aren’t gripping the water like they should. Quick catches and maintaining connection will be important technical focuses here. The boat might be a little tougher to set up too so you can also make general reminders for that as well.


Crosswinds are the worst, in my opinion. Depending on how strong the wind is, it can actually push the boat into another lane or into the shore, regardless of how hard you steer. Crosswinds can also knock the boat offset so if I can see a gust coming on starboard I’ll say something like “gust on this next stroke, ports hands up…”, that way the “push” the boat will get from the wind will actually keep it even.

When I’m out I’ll watch the ripples on the water to see if a gust is coming or which direction the wind is blowing and then alert my crew and adjust my steering as necessary. If they’re going side-to-side or at an angle, it’s a cross wind, if they’re going in the same direction as us, it’s a tailwind, and if they’re coming towards me, it’s a headwind.

Question of the Day

I was wondering if you have the same four people & same cox and raced them over 2000m in a quad and a four, assuming they had equal technique in both sweep and sculling, which would move fastest? I tried Googling it but found nothing! I was wondering as my crew is to race a quad in a four race (by invitation) for racing practice. The opposition is older and train more but are the least good in their squads while my boat is younger but top of our squad. I was just interested in what we should expect.

If everything else is the same the quad would move faster because you have four additional oars to generate power with. I don’t want to go so far as to say that a quad’s power is equal to that of an eight’s since they both have eight oars, because in general more rowers = more power, but in this case the power of the sculled boat would most likely result in them being faster than the sweep one since they have extra oars to aid in their power production. I think it could be similar to an 8+ racing a 4+. If you take experience and training levels into account on top of all that, I’d say you still hold the advantage.

Question of the Day

Is it better for a cox to be feared or loved?

To quote Machiavelli…

“Here a question arises: whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse. The answer is, of course, that it would be best to be both loved and feared. But since the two rarely come together, anyone compelled to choose will find greater security in being feared than in being loved.

It is much safer to be feared than loved because … love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

I had to write a paper on this question for a philosophy class I took in college and even though my professor had no idea what I was talking about, I used coxing as an example, supported by Machiavelli’s quotes from “The Prince”.

I used slightly contradicting but still relevant examples from Julius Caesar as well. He was loved by members of the army but wanted to be feared by the general public and senate, whom he didn’t trust. My professor described this part in layman’s terms as “if they aren’t with you or if they won’t follow you, at least they’ll be afraid of you”.

To summarize, I agree with both Machiavelli and Caesar. It is safer to be feared because the thought of disappointment or punishment in return is stronger than the obligation of love, BUT it is also better, to an extent, to be loved by those closest to you (via a sense of loyalty or camaraderie) and feared by those who aren’t with you (say, an opposing team or boat). I hope that makes sense – love with a healthy sense of fear from your crew and 100% fear from your opponents.

You could also take the Michael Scott approach…

“Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”