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The ORC Rec Guide to Being a Coxswain on the Ottawa River

·8 mins

Created by: Peter Aubin with contributions from Lauren E and myself

Congratulations, you’re in charge. Your rowers expect you to be clear, prepared, and commanding - speak up!

Responsibilities #

  • Provide clear, loud, and commanding instructions to rowers
  • Navigate and steer the boat

Required Items #

  • Cox box and headset - found in upstairs office, make sure cox box turns on and headset fits into cox box
  • Life jacket (Bay 2), whistle and lights (your own)

Delivering Instructions #

General Principle: Make sure your rowers understand the instruction before doing the action!

On-Land and Stationary #

  • The general format is: “Ready to ______, [pause], and ________”
    • i.e. “Ready to lift, [pause], and LIFT”
  • This applies on land and when boat is stationary (i.e.“Ready to row, and row”).

On-Water #

  • When in motion, give all instructions “In Two [Strokes]”
    • “In two, ______. This is one, [wait for a stroke], two, [wait for a stroke] and ________”.
    • i.e. “In two, let it run. This is one [stroke], two [stroke], let it run.”
  • In case of emergency, call for immediate actions (“LET IT RUN!” or “HOLD WATER!)

From Boathouse to Dock #

  • Your crew should be waiting for you at the boat having brought already brought down oars - make sure you have eight rowers
  • Check to make sure that the bow of the boat faces the bay doors (this affects the direction you swing the boat, you want to be on the dock with bow facing Parliament)
  • Directions may vary slightly depending on what rack the boat is on (if higher than waist height, rowers can just get underneath, otherwise bear-hug and under is required) - sample below assumes waist height or lower
  • At any point if there is a delay (e.g. because boats are ahead of you) it is most comfortable for the crew to be waiting with the boat at waist height (i.e. “Down to Waist”)

Specific Instructions #

Specific Instructions: Boathouse to Dock #

  • “Hands on the rack. Ready to pull, and pull.”
  • “Bunch up bow and stern” (make sure rowers are grouped tightly/shoulder-to-shoulder to reduce load)
  • “Hands across (bear hug)” (bear hug only applicable when waist height or lower)
  • “Up an inch, ready and up”. (keep an eye so that the boat does not hit anything above it. Boats are tight)
  • “Walk it back” (to get to middle of bay) “Up to Waist” (if not at waist level)
  • “From bow, split under the boat.” (Call out names of people to go under, if you can)
  • “Hands on your side”
  • “Up to shoulders on Prime Minister’s side, ready and up”
  • (check the outside of the bay to avoid collisions) “Heads-up” (loudly)
  • “Walk it out” (instruct to move right or left if needed to ensure that riggers clear the door)
  • (When clear of bay door), “Let it run. Up to shoulders on Parliament, ready and up”
  • “Walk it down”
  • As rowers reach the ramp, “Swing left” [or right, if for some reason stern is facing outwards]
  • “Let it run” (at this point bow should be facing Parliament, upstream and parallel to the edge of the dock)

Specific Instructions: Getting the Boat Into the Water and Away #

  • “Toes to the edge”
  • “Up Overhead, ready and up”
  • “Roll to waist, ready and roll! Reaching out and into the water” (watch the fin of the boat near the stern to make sure it does not catch on the dock)
  • “Go get your oars, check your oarlocks, seats, and footstops”
  • While they are getting oars, plug your cox box in and test the speakers/microphone
  • A coach should assign seats at this point, flag one down if they have not
  • Rowers should make adjustments to oarlocks/seats/footstops unless dock is busy, in which case they can be made on the water.
  • “Starboard oars across, [pause] one foot in and down” - wait for rowers to get in, then get in
  • “Number off from bow when ready”
  • “Hands on the dock. Lean away. Ready to shove, and shove”
  • If necessary, “2 seat please push us off the dock” (if any port oars still touching the dock)
  • Get “bow pair to take a few strokes” to get clear of the docks, then go into warmups

Specific Instructions: Docking and Getting the Boat Out of the Water #

  • Under the Macdonald Cartier bridge, “Stern Four drop out” (alternatively, ask Bow Four to drop out if they are less experienced) to slow down the approach to the dock
  • Try to angle the boat gently into the dock - a sharp approach can cause damage to the bow ball. Give instructions to bow pair or stern pair to help get your angles right.
  • Ask crew to “lean away from the dock” as you get close
  • Coxie gets out first
  • “One foot on the dock, ready and up - starboard blades across”
  • While rowers are removing blades, remove cox box assembly from boat
  • “Bunch up bow and stern”
  • “Right hands across, ready to roll up to waist and UP! Up overheads, ready and UP!”
  • “From Stern, split to shoulders.”

Specific Instructions: Putting the Boat back into the Boathouse #

  • Make sure the stern of the boat goes into the boathouse first - this may involve getting rowers to “turn and face the bow” and “Walk it down” until the stern is in line with the ramp. Then get the rowers to “turn and face the stern”.
  • “Swing it up the ramp” until the boat is about to reach the bay doors then “Let it run”
  • “Down to waist on Parliament, ready and down” then “Walk it in”
  • Once the bow is fully in the boathouse, “Let it run” and “Down to waist, ready and down”
  • You want to put the boat back on the same racks, so [as necessary] “bear hug” and “from bow, cross under”
  • [As applicable] “Down to ankles” and “Walk it on” - watching the top of the boat and riggers
  • “Check for riggers” - the rowers will tell you if the riggers are touching the racks, and then make the appropriate adjustments
  • “Bow Pair wipe it down, the rest get oars”
  • Return the cox box, microphone, and any lights back to the office then return for debrief

Steering (adjusting course while boat is in motion) #

  • Try to make gradual adjustments for hazards/obstacles while they are still far away
  • Rudder controls are diagrammed below > they are only effective while the boat is moving with some speed.
  • You can always get your rowers to assist you - asking for “Hard on Starboard” will help you get towards port etc. Don’t forget to go back to “Even Pressure” when you’re done.
  • Stay close to shore as much as possible to avoid traffic from cruise boats and power boats

Rudder controls and equivalent calls

Normal Practice Patterns #

  • Warmups are done between the bridges, then technical/drill work while on the Quebec side and power/pyramids on the way back.
  • Normal stopping places are: before the Alexandra Bridge, after the Macdonald Cartier Bridge, before the Gatineau River, at the tip of Kettle Island, the Airport, and ONEC - try not to stop the boat while in front of marinas or in front of the falls.
  • You can always consult with coaches or your stroke seat if you have any questions.

Map of Traffic Patterns

Normal Warmups #

  • Warmups should be done with all eight, and they should be balanced and in time with each other. If you can see anyone who is out of time, call them out by seat number (“three seat you’re late” etc)
  • “All eight from the finish, arms only - ready and row” (continue for 20-25 strokes)
  • “In two, arms and body - this is one [stroke] two [stroke] arms and body” (20-25)
  • “In two, half-slide - this is one [s], two [s], half-slide. This will normally take you up to the turning point to cross the river- give the rowers a second to adjust feet and grab water, then complete a turn and then continue again at half-slide until you get across (i.e. “From the finish, half-slide, ready and row”)
  • Once on the Quebec side, you’ll want to start at half slide and then transition into full-slide (i.e. “in two, full-slide, …”)
  • Once you cross the Macdonald Cartier Bridge, “let it run” to wait for other crews and coaches.

Turns (i.e. while stationary) #

  • The majority of turns or spins will be turning the boat 90 degrees to starboard (your right)
  • “Holding on Star and Tapping on Port, ready and tap”
  • Continue until pointing in the correct direction
  • Minor adjustments when stationary can be made by asking bow seat or two seat to tap.

Calling Power Pieces #

  • Power pieces and pyramids are a large part of the practice. You should be able to feel the rowers putting power on (let them know if you can’t) and the stroke rate should still feel controlled.
  • General format is the same: “Hard 10 in two, this is one, two, ten hard - one, two, three …”
  • Pyramids are sequential power pieces (5on-5off-10on-10-off-15/15/10/10/5/5 etc)
  • You should count all of the strokes for pieces of ten strokes or shorter - if fifteen or more, count the first five or ten, then give them a warning every five strokes until you count off the last five or ten.
    • e.g. for 30 strokes, count off the first ten, “this is fifteen” at fifteen, and count off the last ten

Adjusting for Bad Water or Weather #

  • When water is wavy, get rowers to start at half-slide and then go into full slide (if possible, otherwise stay at half-slide)
  • Try to warn your crew when a large wake is coming in (“wake coming in on starboard”) although you alternatively say “sit up tall and relax your shoulders” to help relax your crew instead of making them tense up.
  • If you see lightning or hear thunder, regardless of whether a coach is with you or not, turn the boat around to go home.