Question of the Day

Can you explain the hand raising process at the start? Like you raise hand while getting point and keep it up till you’re done? If you’re on the line, how do you fix your point so you don’t cross the line and have to back? I heard of scull/row…(???) There’s no stake boats, just a regular start. What’s the stake’s purpose?

Raising your hand indicates that you aren’t ready to go yet and are still getting your point. If your hand is down, the officials assume you’re all set so best practice is to have your hand and your bowman’s hand up for the duration of the time that you’re getting your point (which you should do as quickly as possible).

The rules have changed slightly (at official USRowing events, maybe not at smaller regattas) where they won’t recognize hands during the starting countdown, only before. Whereas before you could still have your hand up and be getting your point when the officials were counting down or polling the crews, now you have to be done before they start that. So, back to your question, yes … hand up while getting your point, don’t put it down until you’re done but keep in mind it won’t be recognized once the countdown or polling starts.

Related: Hi! I will be doing a 2000m race with my crew tomorrow. I’m my team’s coxswain. It will be my second race, but my first 2000m race. I understand steering and such, and I know what calls to make for technique, and I know our starts, but my coach hasn’t really gone over the race itself, I guess. What I’m trying to say is that I need some guidance on how the race should go. Also, stake boats terrify me. Any help you can give me would be amazing!

The officials/coaches who are lining you up will start the crews maybe a boat length away from the start line to account for the current, wind, etc. as you get your points. Sometimes you’ll naturally drift across and they’ll have to bring the other boats up but they’ll rarely have you back it down during a floating start. (If they do have you do that, they’re just making it harder for everyone.) It messes up your point too much and then you’ve got to re-align yourself and it just takes too much time. Floating start races tend to end up being slightly shorter than 1500m (or 2000m) simply because there’s no way to ensure you aren’t moving with the wind and/or current.

Sculling it around is when you have 2 take bow’s oar or 3 take 2’s oar and have them take shorter strokes to straighten out the boat. It’s very simple to do but I wouldn’t break it out for the first time at the starting line if you can avoid it. That’s not the best place to try to explain how to do something new to your boat, particularly if you’re coxing novices or less experienced crews.

The reason you scull it around is because the strokes are short and choppy and the boat moves a very small amount to the side with each stroke, whereas if you used bow or 2 to get your point like you do in most regular situations, not only would it pull you forward but you run the risk of overshooting your point and then having to spend more timing correcting it.

The purpose of the stake boat is to make sure everyone is starting perfectly aligned. You don’t have to worry about the wind and/or current pulling you forward because you’re locked on to a fixed object (that being a small overhang off of a larger dock or platform that has someone laying on it to hold your stern).

Related: Racing skills: Pre-race prep

With floating starts, it’s never exact – no one is ever perfectly aligned and the race is hardly ever the distance it’s supposed to be. It’s a longer process overall because you’ve got to keep moving people forward, adjusting points, etc. whereas with stake boats, the official just has to say “Lane 3, out one foot. Lane 4, back 6 inches, Lane 5, out three inches.” and boom, it’s done and you’re aligned.

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