This week’s video is a good opportunity for coxswains to learn what to do when there’s two separate pieces happening within one race. You’ll notice that after Mass Ave. Harvard’s got a solid length’s lead on the other two crews. If you’re the Navy or Penn coxswain, what do you do? You obviously don’t want to keep telling your crew that you’re a length or more down on Harvard and continue the increasingly futile attempts at chasing them down, so at that point you have to, in a sense, concede that race and focus on the one you can still win, which in this case would be the one between Navy and Penn.
Basically what I’m saying is that you have to recognize when you’re racing for first and when you’re racing for second. First place was established about 500m into the race but 2nd is still up for grabs, so the focus should shift towards the crew you still have a chance at beating. There’s some psychology behind this that you’ve got to wrestle with but ultimately you’ve got to recognize the situation and understand that you lost this battle but you can still win this other one, and then in the midst of all of the racing you’ve got to get your crew to buy into that within the span of 3-5 strokes.
In that same vein, if you’re the Harvard coxswain, what do you do? You’re not racing anyone anymore, so how do you keep your crew from getting complacent? Just as you have to work hard to keep them engaged when you’re a boat length down, you also have to work hard to keep them engaged when you’re a length up.
In one situation, you’re behind and you’ve got to claw your way back to the top. The rowers can’t see anyone behind you so they know they’re behind and that creeping feeling of “shit, we’re losing” is taking over. The bodies aren’t quitting yet but the minds are. You as the coxswain have to shut that voice up, eight, sometimes nine, times over. In the other situation, you’re ahead and the rowers can clearly see they’re ahead. This gives them an opportunity to think “well, we’re ahead, we clearly have the lead … let’s back off a bit, save some energy, and coast through the finish line”.
At regattas where you’re part of a progression and you’ve got to go through heats and semis before reaching the finals and you’ve established a solid lead during your heat, yea, you can back off a little. That’s on your call though, not theirs. Make sure that is established ahead of time. You want to save your energy and your best rowing for the final so backing off a bit in the heat once you’ve secured a spot in the semis or finals is fine. When you’re in a finals-only race like this one between Harvard, Penn, and Navy though, you should be going all out from start to finish. At the very least, it’s good practice.
If mid-race you find yourselves in a one-crew race you’ve got to assess the situation and figure out what you can do to still make the piece worth something. Yea you might win but what else did you get out of it? If you race all the way across the line instead of coasting across it, that gives you the opportunity to push your bodies so that when you are racing all the way to the end your bodies don’t prematurely give out with 200m to go because you haven’t been tested all season.