How to scull your bow around

This past weekend we raced at Princeton and during the brief coaches and coxswains meeting on Friday night, Princeton’s head coach mentioned something that I thought warranted a quick recap post of some spring racing “how-to’s”.

We were going over the 2k course, how early to be locked on, etc. and he said that the coxswains should all know how to scull the boats around in order to get their points because the previous week the stake boats were ripped off whatever was holding them in place because (fellow D1 Ivy League) crews didn’t know how to scull their bows around. I saw a lot of crews have issues with this two weeks ago as well due to the wind so I wanted to quickly go over this, that way there’s hopefully no confusion as to how it’s done.

Keep in mind that there’s a big difference between being unable to get your point  due to the wind or current (been there, done that so I can sympathize) and straight up not knowing how and from my point of view (which the officials I was driving shared) it looked like both rowers and coxswains just didn’t know what they were doing (which was not only stressful for them but also for the other coxswains who were able to do it and had to spend 5+ minutes adjusting because they kept losing their point waiting for other crews to lock on and get aligned).

I’ve probably said it a hundred times by now (if not more) but coxswains, SERIOUSLY, if you don’t know how to back into a stake boat and/or scull the boat around to get your point, you need to speak up during practice and have your coach go over it with you and your crew. None of this “I don’t want my coach to think I’m incompetent” or “I don’t want to look stupid by asking a question” bullshit. You have to know how to do this so … suck it up. And coaches, you need to actually teach your coxswains how to do this, especially your novice coxswains. There’s really no excuse to not spend 15 minutes at the end of the day letting them practice backing into your launch or the dock and getting their points.

Below are links to several posts that talk about backing into stake boats, getting your point, etc., in addition to a couple other spring season basics that I think might be helpful. If you have questions on any of this or want/need something clarified feel free to send me an email or leave a comment.

QOTD: 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?

QOTD: A new USRowing rule for sprint starts does not recognize hands at the starting line; they simply wait for alignment and then call the start. At my race today, the marshals called the start before coxswains got their points, which led to us steering into each other’s lanes for about the first twenty strokes fairly severely. How do you let the marshals know whether or not you’re ready without the hand up if they rush the start like they did today?

Stake Boat Tips & Tricks This is a great video that shows and explains how to back into stake boats (in both an eight and a bow loaded four), scull the boat around, and tap it immediately before the start. Rowers, I highly recommend you watch this video as well so you understand what the coxswain is asking you to do. There is no “most important” takeaway from this video because literally everything is important but if you do only take one thing away, for the love of god, please let it be what is discussed at 6:05 – tapping the boat with too many people instead of sculling it. This is one of those things that when I see coxswains doing it I start twitching like a crazy person (seriously though…), especially on windy days when even the smallest amount of common sense would indicate that this isn’t going to effective.

Racing skills: Pre-race prep This post has a lot of information in it that will probably be most helpful for novice coxswains (but also will be good reminders for those of you who are seasoned vets). It goes over getting to the line and staging before the start of the race (both for a floating start and with stake boats) and includes a couple videos that show how to get into starting platforms and what they look like from a stake holders point of view, which is pretty neat.

What happens at a coaches and coxswains meeting Every regatta is different but for the most part, these are the things that the officials will go over with you before you race. I’ve been in ones that last for 30 minutes and I’ve been in ones that last for 5. Our meeting this past Saturday morning lasted about 10 minutes and was about as straightforward and to the point as you can get. The more experience you are the more this will become the norm but in high school regattas especially, the officials tend to operate with an abundance of caution so they’ll usually spend a good amount of time going over this stuff (and thus, you should be paying attention to all of it, regardless of how early in the morning it is or how many times you’ve heard the same thing over the years).

For more how to’s and race skill posts, you can check out their respective tags here and here.

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