Question of the Day

Hi, this is a great resource, thanks for devoting so much time to it. I’m coxing a 5km head race in the UK in a couple of weeks. I’ve raced it before, and am feeling quite confident. One thing I’m unsure of is how best to call the end of a power twenty. Our race plan is to push for twenty at the end of each kilometre. I don’t want to call down pressure at the end of the push, to avoid a sharp drop off in boatspeed, but neither do I want not to call anything, and have my crew pushing for longer than the twenty I’ve asked for. Any help you could offer would be great – thanks!

My suggestion is to not aim to call a “power” 20 at the end of each kilometer, rather call it for something and don’t necessarily make everything 20 strokes. During HOCR this year, which is also about 5km, I only called one 20 and it was at the start of the last kilometer.

Related: Race skills: All about Power 10s

At this point it’s very rare that I actually call something for straight power but when I do I remind them to maintain this as soon as we finish the burst, usually in the form of “yea that’s it, now let’s maintain it, we’re sitting at 1:46 right now, stay on it with the legs and accelerate through the water…” and then I go right into calling a couple strokes for acceleration, giving them position updates, and coxing them like normal. It’s not like I’m calling the end of the burst and then completely falling off with my calls, tone, volume, etc. If you do that then yea, there will be a sharp drop off in speed but if you maintain your voice and immediately jump into like what I said up above then you’re more likely to, you know, actually maintain whatever you just did. If the crew is falling off with pressure immediately after then a) you’re not doing your job, b) their endurance is awful, and c) someone needs to clue them in on the concepts of pacing and flying-and-dying.

As far as having your crew pushing for longer than the twenty you asked for … the phrasing of that is bugging me. I really can’t put my finger on which exactly of the five reasons I’ve come up with for why it’s bugging me but there’s something about how you said that that’s just … off. I’m probably/definitely over-analyzing this but just keep in mind that they should be pushing themselves regardless of what you’re saying and you shouldn’t be calling them up or down. Whenever coxswains say stuff like that I imagine them coxing the race like they’re on a roller coaster, going up and down with the pressure and their voice and whatever else and it makes me wonder how they can possibly think that that’s effective.

If you continuously call for 20s to push (and I’m going with the standard definition of pushing in this context to mean “more pressure”) then you will be coxing a roller coaster race and it’s not effective because the crew will likely do what I said before, which is fly and die each time. If you give each burst a specific purpose, limit the number of 20s you use and instead incorporate in some 5s, 10s, etc., and remind them to maintain whatever feels good during those bursts then you’ll be able to have a much more efficient and evenly-paced race.

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