Top 20 Terms Coxswains Should Know: Washing Out

Previously: Rush(ing) || Body angle || Pick drill || Suspension || Skying the blade || Quarter feather || Pin || Run || Lunge

What part of the stroke/stroke cycle does it refer to

The finish.

What does it mean/refer to

Washing out happens when instead of drawing through horizontally at the finish, you instead pull/feather down into the lap (which in itself can also be a result of a loss of suspension). This results in the blade popping out of the water as you finish the stroke with the arms.

Related: Top 20 terms coxswains should know: Suspension

Relevant calls

A lot of these are fresh in my head because when I was coxing in Cocoa Beach, I found myself making a lot of calls for holding the blades in (which we’d been working on), supporting your side, etc. We did some short pieces and there were occasionally stretches where the set was pretty awful but as soon as I’d make one (or several) of these calls, the boat would balance right up and we’d start getting some good run again. About 90% of the time we were down to port so the first call I’d always make would be for the ports to lift the hands and then if that didn’t change anything I’d call for starboards to lower theirs. From there I’d get more specific based on what I was seeing/feeling.

“Support your side…”

“Engage the lats, draw the handle through to your target…”

“Suspend through…”

“Hold the finishes…”

“Elbows up at the finish…”, “Consistency with the hands…”

“Hook, squeeze…” The relevant part of this call is the “squeeze”, which is supposed to remind the rowers to accelerate the blade and keep it buried all the way through to the finish.

Understanding suspension so you can communicate the relationship between a loss of suspension and washing out is also important. The key to speed in any boat is hanging on the handle and maintaining that suspension all the way through to the end of the stroke. The blade stays locked into the water until suspension is no longer being maintained and that moment when pressure is cut off is when the handle is able to come down and away smoothly. Every part of the stroke has to flow dynamically into the next without letting the body weight settle on to the seat. When making calls for washing out, make sure you’re not just reminding the rowers to pull into their targets but to also hang off the handle and stay light on the seats.

What to look for

If you notice this happening early on in practice or when you’re doing long-and-low steady state, start by telling the rowers to look out at their blades and follow its path through the water to ensure it’s staying buried all the way through the finish. Have them do this for 3-5 strokes and then call them back to eyes forward. It’s easy to get transfixed by the blade and start going through the motions so let them watch them for a few strokes before getting the crew refocused.

White water at the finish is a tell-tale sign of someone washing out. As a result of the blade coming out feathered or at an angle rather than fully squared, the extra effort being exerted during the draw through throws water backwards (towards the coxswain) rather than propelling the boat forward (towards bow) and creates that distinctive “whoosh”-ing sound.

From the coxswain’s seat it can be tough to see this but if you’re in the launch, look at the elbow and wrist position at the finish. The outside elbow should be up and out and the outside wrist should be flat, essentially acting as an extension of the oar handle. If the lats are engaged and you’re drawing straight through to your low ribs then this positioning of the arms should happen naturally. Having the elbows too close to the body, feathering down into your lap, elbows pointed down towards the back of your seat, etc. will all result in washing out.

Effect(s) on the boat

The most obvious effect is that it causes problems with the set. If you’re on port then the boat is going to fall towards your side on the drive and then dump to starboard on the recovery (which, to say the least, is super annoying). The lack of connection and suspension that leads to washing out also leads to a loss of power, thus making each stroke less efficient and the boat to experience less run per stroke.

Related posts/questions

(Scroll down to #5.) Hi! My coxing has gotten to the point where I can see the technical problems in my rowers, but sometimes I’m not sure how to call a correction on them. For instance, I know if someone is skying at the catch I can call the boat to focus on direct catches and “hands up at the catch” and things like that for stability…but there are others I’m less sure about. Would you please touch on good ways (positive reinforcement, they hate the word “no” in the boat) to call for the following problems in a rower?

I rowed for three seasons and I have been asked to help cox a crew for a race thing in the beginning of September. A lot of the people haven’t rowed much/before and we are allowed 12 on water sessions before the race. The coach has said that I need to coach more since I can sometimes see more from the coxswain seat than they can see from the coach’s boat, except I’m not experienced enough with coxing to know what to look for other than obvious timing issues etc. Do you have any tips?

The Kiwi pair does this really incredible thing where they take their oars out of the water SO FREAKING CLEANLY and I am having such a hard time trying to do it, I can never tell if I’m throwing water around when I feather my blade and IDK if you know what I’m getting at but yeah help?

To see all the posts in this series, check out the “top 20 terms” tag.

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