Question of the Day

During my novice boat’s pieces with some varsity boats, I found my point before starting and kept it with minimal rudder use throughout each piece. Despite maintaining a relatively straight course, I noticed a gap developing between my boat’s oars and the closest boat’s oars during some of the pieces. There wasn’t a crosswind pushing us away, just a light headwind. Is it more important to keep a straight course or the boats close together?

Both are important for safety reasons but my coaches always stressed that it’s more important to keep a straight course when you’re doing race pieces. Obviously it’s a little easier to do when you’re on a straight stretch of water vs. having to deal with the bends of the river, but racing/pieces = straight course, always. If you’re just rowing along or doing steady state, keeping the boats together is a little more important than how straight you’re steering just because it’s easier for the coaches to monitor and observe everything and it’s just safer overall.

This is a tough question to answer though because both have to be priorities, regardless of what you’re doing. If you’re steering a straight course but there’s three horizontal lengths between you and the other boat … nobody cares that you steered in a straight line. That’s another thing to keep in mind too, you can steer a straight line and still be off course which is why it’s important to establish a point with the other coxswain before you start your piece.

Related: 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?

In this situation, if you know you were steering a straight point and your coach didn’t say anything, don’t worry about it. Worry about your boat and let the other coxswains worry about theirs. If your coach is concerned you guys are getting too far apart they’ll say something but until then, just steer your course and don’t worry about the other crews unless their course starts interfering with yours.

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