Hi there! So I’m in my 5th year of rowing (3 years in high school as a rower on a women’s team, in my second year of coxing men’s collegiate right now) and this morning during seat racing I experienced a problem I’ve never had before. We were in fours, and my stroke seat, a port, was out-powering every 3 seat who switched in, but my bow pair were matching up pressure. It was pushing my stern to starboard a bit, but I was steering to port just enough to keep our bow pointed straight. However, we also had a cross-wind coming from port, also pushing us to starboard. The result was that I held the right point, but my course wasn’t straight because we were kind of skidding sideways while we were going forward. In a situation like that where I need to steer a straight course but I can’t actively cox my boat (beyond telling them stroke rate and position) and I can’t ask them to adjust pressure, what can I do beyond just using the rudder? Is there a way to keep my boat straight without sliding sideways across the water like that?
When you’re rowing into a crosswind the best way to avoid getting your bow knocked around is to angle it slightly into the wind so that when the gusts do hit you, they blow the bow straight and forwards instead of hitting you when you’re already straight and pushing you to the side or off at an angle. Trying to get your point back when you’re fighting the wind is a lot harder than just pointing into it from the very beginning. To anticipate this I’ll watch the water in front of or around us so I know where the wind is coming from and when we’re about to get hit by a gust, that way I can make an adjustment before the wind catches my bow and pushes it around.
Related: 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?
As soon as you get off the water make sure to tell your coach all of that information though – stroke was overpowering everyone who was seat racing, the wind was pushing you around (even though you were pointed mostly straight), you couldn’t ask them to adjust their pressure, etc. All of that is important to the “integrity”, so to speak, of the seat races.
Sometimes weather is a factor and there’s nothing you can do about it so don’t be afraid to bring it up. If the wind or something like that is a big issue when you’re out and it’s hard for you to control the boat in it, don’t wait until you’re off the water, tell your coach right away. It might piss everyone off in the moment (especially if things are already tense due to the seat racing) but if you have to delay racing or row somewhere where the water’s calmer, that’s usually the best (and fairest) option.