Race skills: Calls for when you’re behind

Today I’m sharing one of my two articles that were included in the first issue of Coxing Magazine. The first article is on calling the start and the second is this one, which is on calls to make when you’re behind. To see more of what’s in the first issue, check out the website here. And, if you haven’t subscribed to the magazine yet, read to then end because I’ll be giving a couple copies of away.

When you’re behind in a race (let’s assume “behind” = one length or more of open back) there are three things you can/should do to get back into it and none of them involve invoking some sort of “magical” call. That call doesn’t exist. There are of course great motivational calls that you can have tucked away but you can’t rely on them to be the game changer when you’re down by open water. Skipping the process outlined below and resorting to spouting platitudes for the rest of the race is akin to putting band-aids on a bullet wound – they’re not going to stop the hemorrhaging.

Fix the rowing

If you’ve fallen off the pack then it’s safe to assume that the quality of the rowing has fallen off too. Your first task is to re-unify the crew by getting everyone to take the same stroke at the same time. Presumably you have a solid understanding of technique and the stroke your coach teaches so apply your knowledge of both to what you’re seeing and feeling in order to get the rowing back on track.

“900m in, one length of open back on Columbia. Let’s tighten up the timing and complete the strokes – we got this guys! The race starts right … NOW! Squeeeze through … squeeeze through – that’s it! Hold the back ends and breeeathe through the recovery … now. In our rhythm … let’s accelerate and swing together. Squeeeze swing … hands out together now … hands now … hands now … accelerate swing – there it is … accelerate swing…”

Match the speed of the crews in front of you

It’s hard to move on a crew who’s moving away from you at the same time so before you can start closing the gap you first have to stop them from advancing further. This is where you need to watch the rate and make sure you’re at the pace you want to be at. One tactic I’ve used in the past is raising our rate a beat to match the other crew(s) if it looks like they’re (effectively) rowing higher than us. The risk-reward here is very high so you have to make a quick assessment (mainly, can you raise the rate without spinning your wheels and then sustain that speed/pace for the next few hundred meters) and then commit to executing it.

“1100m in, time to shut ‘em down. We’re at 35 right now, we’re taking it up to a 36 … pick it up together … on this one! LEGS commit, LEGS 36 – right here, stay in this rhythm now and attack … legs loose … legs loose … get stubborn now, hold on to them … legs yea middle four! Trust our rhythm, trust our speed … holding our margin now, that’s it…”

Make your move

The second you sense that the margin is holding, you have to capitalize on it and go. You can’t waste time or meters because by this point you’re probably well into the 3rd 500, which means you’ve got time for maybe one last 20 before it’s time to sprint.

“Four seats of open back now guys, let’s close that gap and make contact over the next ten … ready in twoin one … commit NOW! One go! Two go! Three commit! Load together send … that’s it, WALKING! Two seats back now … it’s yours, take it! Hit it harder with the legs, together in two … one … two, GO NOW! Legs go! Legs go! Do not sit, do not quit … together go! Bow to stern now, bow pair, reel it in! Six bend ‘em! Seven break them! Eight break them! Nine last 500 … ten stay on it!”

If you find yourself falling off the pace of the other crews, evaluate the situation, make a smooth transition to your “Plan B”, and aim to keep the energy high. Making a successful comeback might not always be possible but at the very least you should aspire to cross the line with pride and the calls you make are your best resource to help facilitate that.

If you’re interested in signing up for a subscription, you can use the code 2016LAUNCH and get 50% off the first year, which will make it $36 instead of $72. If you don’t have a copy of the magazine yet or want to check it out before you subscribe, I have five copies to give away to the first five people that email me before 9am tomorrow morning (July 15th). Include your name + address so I know where to send it and who you cox for. (Update: all copies have been claimed!)

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