That novice boat should have been disqualified and given a serious talking to by the regatta officials with their coaches present. (Supposedly they only received a 20 second penalty.) This goes way past your standard novice screw-up. The blades of the two boats were overlapping which means they were probably less than 10 feet apart. This was almost a head-on collision between a varsity four at full race pace/pressure and an eight that appeared to be rowing at least by bow 4. It doesn’t matter that they’re novices, “oh they weren’t going that fast”, “they probably just didn’t know where to go”, etc. … NO. Not buying ANY of those excuses.
Coxswains, I implore you to use your common sense and pay attention to the traffic patterns so you know where the travel lanes are and where the actual race course is. I don’t care if you’re a novice or varsity – pay attention. Varsity coxswains (and coaches, because … it’s your job …), you should be asking the novices multiple times if they understand the course, the traffic pattern(s), etc. so that there is no question that they’re prepared when they go out on the water and aren’t going to be at risk of putting themselves or another crew in danger. Novices, you need to suck. it. up. and get over being intimidated by asking questions and ask someone if you don’t know where you need to go. There are plenty of people on land that you can ask, in addition to regatta officials and other crews on the water. You should also have your head on a swivel at all times so that situations like this don’t happen.
There’s really no question with regards to how the coxswain from Marietta College handled this. Given the nature of the situation, I think he did well. I mean, what else can you do other than make a split second decision to either try to get the other crew’s attention and/or drastically alter your course? He was loud, made a good effort to get the coxswain’s attention, got his crew right back into it afterwards, and didn’t appear to have to make any steering adjustments. Saying “way off course, coxswain” is pretty much the tamest thing he could have said in that moment so props to him for not losing it on the other crew. Trust me, as much as you’d probably want to in that situation … don’t. Find the regatta officials afterwards and talk to them or go find the crew’s tent/trailer if you know what team they’re from and let their coach know what happened. It’s not about throwing them under the bus or trying to get them in trouble so don’t use that a reason to not say something later. The only way situations like this are going to be prevented in the future is if people speak up and give the coaches/officials a chance to address with the coxswains where they need to be on the water, either again or simple more effectively this time.