A Language of Our Own

April 7, 2015

I recently had the opportunity to teach a new rower. When I say new – I mean “I’ve used the rowing machine at the gym, but know nothing about what you do” type of new.

The thing that triggered me to write this stream of consciousness is that when I was going through the intros, the boat safety, the equipment, and all the rest of this “stuff” – I realized, that we really do speak a language of our own.

This article may cause some controversy – there will be disagreement – that’s okay – I’d like to hear it, and I’ll update this as needed.

I will be adding pictures and video to this – throughout the season… Or if you have a great example video/picture – please send it!

I will present here, the basics of our sport’s language, with explanation, by going through the steps we take when getting a group of people(crew) onto the water for a regular practice.

To start, when I show up to one of our practices, one of the first things I do is check the water. What am I looking for? Is it too rough to row? Bigger swells and breaking waves aren’t rowing friendly. We row in these tiny vessels – some barely the width of our bodies. Rough water will help me decide if we can use small boats or larger boats.

Single – a small boat. Rowed by one person. This person would control 2 oars. When looking at a race schedule, singles are often shown as 1x. Think of the ‘x’ as criss-crossed oars. The oars used here are called skulling oars.

Double – also a small boat. Rowed by two people. These people each control 2 oars. So 4 oars for the boat. A race schedule would show this as 2x.

Pair – also a small boat. Rowed by two people. These rowers each control one oar. So 2 oars for the boat. A race schedule would show this as 2+. The oars used in the pair are also bigger than the oars in the single or double. These larger oars are also called sweep oars.

Quad. Medium sized boat. Rowed by 4 people. These rowers each control 2 oars. So 8 oars for the boat (the smaller oars). A race schedule would show this as 4x.

Four. Medium sized boat. Rowed by 4 people. These rowers each control 1 oar. So 4 oars for the boat. The oars used in this boat are the same as the oars used in the pair. A race schedule would show this as 4+.

Eights. Large boat. Rowed by 8 people. Each rower controls 1 oar. So 8 oars for the boat. A race schedule would show this as a 8+.

Is it high tide or low tide. This will help me figure out where we can go. Which way is the wind coming from. This also helps me determine where the water would be the calmest.

Ideally, I’d like high tide, with no wind and flat water – but that’s just me.

Let’s say that the water is fine, and we will be practicing on the water. We either select a boat, or are told which boat to take. Let’s say we are going to take out a 4+. When the practice is run by a coach, the coach decides where the rowers will sit. Period. No questions. No second guesses. Seat Numbers start with 1 and go up to the number of rowers in the boat. So for our 4+, we have the following seats 1 (typically referred to as Bow), 2, 3, 4(in this boat #4 is typically referred to as Stroke). The ‘Stroke’ is responsible for setting the cadence in the boat – the stroke rate – I’ll touch on this below.

Most boats are called shells. I’ll switch back and forth, without realizing it – sorry.

In order to row a 4+, we need:
– a 4+ – the actual boat
– 4 rowers
– 1 coxswain (aka cox) – the person who a) is responsible for the safety of the boat, b) steers the boat, c) executes the practice and/or race by telling the crew what to do, d) motivates the crew.
– 1 cox-box. Device used to amplify the cox’s voice through the speakers in the boat. It also displays information about the stroke-rate. Stroke rate typically describes the number of strokes per minute. You might hear someone say “the Italians row at a 42!” Or “we started at an 18, and at the end sprinted at a 36” – they are talking about the stroke-rate.
– 4 sweep oars (2 starboard oars and 2 port oars). The end of the oars (blades) are curved and offset from the shaft (long round pole part of the oar) They are designed to only work on one side of the rowing shell. Starboard and port sides of a shell are always the same regardless of which direction a rower is facing. I say this here as many people say ‘well port is the left’….this isn’t the case. There are 2 points of reference on a shell for rowers the bow and the stern. The bow is front of the boat, or the part of the boat that cuts through the water when you are rowing forward. The stern is the back of the boat. Rowers face the stern and have their backs to the bow. From a rowers perspective, the port side will be on their right. Starboard to their left. From a coxswain’s perspective, port is on their left. Port oars will have a red marking and a starboard oar will have a green marking.

Besides the boat,rowers, oars, coxswain and cox-box(optional) – you may want – water bottle, socks, water shoes. The coxswain should also have a wrench with a float on it. Rowers with long hair may want a hair-tie. Sun lotion. Bow and stern lights. REFLECTIVE CLOTHING. Very important in both regular light and low-light rowing (dawn and dusk). We have been lucky at our club, and haven’t had problems however, other crews haven’t been so lucky. Recently on an early morning row, a fisherman cruised by and complemented our crew for their choice of colors – saying “Thank you! We can see you!”.

Okay here’s how it goes… I have a mental checklist to get onto the water. Oars, Gas, Launch – (motorized boat, used if a coach is going to be following you), radio, boat. I have it in this order on purpose – based on our launch area, and where our equipment is. By the way, we launch from a beach, not a dock. Here is why I have it in this order – and someone please let me know if we can be more efficient… I want to be as economical as possible with the time we have at a practice. We bring our oars and a gas container down first, place the gas in the launch, and the oars on the beach. Oars go near where we will be launching. I keep the oars close together, as there may be other crews trying to launch. on the way back up the beach, we will bring down the launch. If there is a boat dolly (small trailer to help move the launch, we will use it – otherwise, with enough people, it may be just as easy to carry the boat to the waters edge. Before placing the launch into the water – check to make sure the ‘plug’ is in the bottom of the boat. The plug lets water drain out (from rain and such) – it will also let water in, if you don’t put it in at all, or don’t put it in tight enough. By the way its not fun when you forget about the plug. With the order we just did things, you only make one trip to the waters edge to set your self up. The only thing left is the boat. Back up to the boat storage area. Make sure to get a radio (if needed. I like to have one, in case of emergencies). Now to the fun part. Moving a boat from the ‘racks’ to the water. The racks are structures that allow many boats to be stored in a small space. Some boat houses have racks the allow you to stack 5,6,7 boats up. Think of them a shelf supports. Our boats are stored outside, on racks that look like ladders. with long poles jutting out from the sides. The boats are stored on these poles.

Even our smallest boats are over 26 feet long. This presents issues when trying to move around tight quarters. It is very important to make sure to NOT bang into anything or anyone (boat vs. human head? Boat will win, head can concuss – Sorry A.I. – you know who you are). The boats are as fragile as egg Shells (get it? Shells? Dang I’m funny.) I’ve seen holes created after the slightest of touches against immovable objects. As a rower, you will be guided by the coxswain on when and how to move the boat. It is the coxswains responsibility to guide the boat safely.

The coxswain may assume that the boats are not tied down/strapped down. Our boats are stored outside, and are effected by the weather – especially wind. We strap-down/tie-down the boats at the end of every practice. It is very sad to come down to a practice and see a rowing shell smashed on the ground at the bow and strapped nicely at the stern. Oh – and the boats are quite expensive. When I un-tie or unstrap a boat, I place the ‘boat strap’ on the rack – I do not let it fall to the ground. This assures me that when I finish up my practice, I have the boat strap readily available, and its not covered in sand/dirt, which could scratch the boat.

Quick convention – and I’m sure you all will comment here… Commands give when the rowers are not moving – would typically be give as immediate directives. Commands given on the water, when the rowers are rowing, are typically preceded with “In X strokes, we will BLAH BLAH. Thats 1, thats 2, thatsxxx, on this one, BLAH.

Coxswains call for a boat at eye level…In order (I hope)..

HANDS ON – this tells the rowers to go to their relative position (Seat number) in the boat, and literally place their hands on the boat. This boat is at eye level, so the rowers will all face in the same direction, and place one hand under the boat to the far side, and one hand under the boat on the near side. The rowers will be grabbing the gunnels.

UP-AN-INCH – this tells the rowers to left the boat slightly. Remember, there may be other boats on this rack, also the rack ‘above’ is close, so you cant just left the boat up.

AND OUT. SLOWLY. WATCH THE RIGGERS – this tells the rowers to carry the boat away from the rack – you will be carrying it perpendicular to the rack. the boat usually has ‘riggers’ attached that extend beyond the edges that your hands are on – it is important to make sure that the riggers do not touch the boat below, and also that the riggers from the boat from above doesn’t touch your shell.

PORT SIDE GO UNDER – (sometimes it might be starboard side) – this tells the rowers to continue holding the boat but that the selected side should go under neath. When you took the boat out – everyone was on one side. A little awkward to carry.

When the rowers go under, they typically will just put the boat onto their shoulders – this is true for both sides of the boat at this point. Otherwise, the coxs might say ‘ONTO SHOULDERS’

WALK IT FORWARD – this tells the rowers to walk the boat away from the rack area. I like to see the people on the ‘rack-side’ of the boat walk with their outside arms extended. This assures the rowers, as they walk, that their riggers have enough room to clear any other boats.

SWING THE STERN (or BOW). This tells the stern to move faster than the bow . For our rack area, we might say SWING THE BOW towards the gate.

WALK IT FORWARD – we did this one already.

When bringing the boat down to the water on a beach, rowers should make sure that they watch where they are walking. Although our beach is very sandy, there is driftwood, and debre on our beach – and you don’t want to cut your feet.

SWING THE BOW (or STERN). Here the coxswain will want to position the boat parallel to the water.

INTO THE WATER – the rowers will walk the boat into the water at least to their knees. At our beach, at low tide, there is a steep drop-off. rowers should know where this drop-off is. It goes from knee deep to 8ft deep in one step.

OVER HEADS – READY-UP – when the rowers hear OVER HEADS, they will brace themselves to lift the boat – you guessed it – over their heads.They just had the boat on their shoulders – they will place one hand on each side of the boat, and on ‘READY-UP’, they will, in unison, raise the boat until their elbows are locked.

ROLL-IT-IN-GENTLY-WATCH -THE-SKEG – the rowers will gently roll-the-boat towards the water, right-siding it, and hopefully put it into the water without a splash. Also, in the stern, there is a ‘fin’ that protrudes from the hull. this piece adds stability to the boat, and is very fragile. if the boat is placed into the water, and the skeg hits the beach floor, it could break off or bend. In which case, you will have an early end to your practice.

So – a recap. We’ve brought oars, gas, launch, and now the shell down to the water. Now – we need to get the oars on the boat, and get the rowers into the shell.

For an 8+, I like to see the coxswains have one side of the boat get oars, and the other side return them. For the 4+, I like to see the middle-pair (seats 2 and 3) get and return the oars. This allows the bow seat, and the stroke to hold the boat off of shore – protecting the skeg, and bow of the boat.

So – you would hear something like:

ADJUST STRETCHERS – MIDDLE PAIR – GET OARS. The rowers may need to move the foot-stretchers (shoes mounted to the bottom of the boat) forward or backward, depending on the height of the rower. For novice boats, I like to see the foot stretchers brought as far to the bow as possible – so that when a rower is sitting – with their legs fully extended, the seat wheels are about 1 to 1.5 inches from the end of the slide.

As the rowers are adjusting their foot stretchers, the coxswain should be hooking up their coxbox to the wiring harness in the boat.

As the rowers bring the oars to the boat, they will be putting them into the Oar Locks (plastic and metal components that keep the oars in place. The rowers will loosen the gate, place the oar into the oar lock, making sure the oarlock is facing the stern, and the collar of the oar is on the boat-side of the oarlock. The rowers swing the gate down, and tighten them – just so much – not too much – but not to little either. You don’t want the oar coming out of the oarlock during practice or during a race. But if you tighten too much, you will have a hard time getting the oar out later.

Once the oar is on the boat, the rower must NEVER loose control of their oar.

Now we need to get the rowers from water into the boat. For a 4 person boat, we can get 3 of the rowers into the boat, while having the coxswain and one other rower hold the boat off the shore.

For a boat that has the coxswain in the Bow (Bow-Coxed), the stroke seat will hold the boat with the coxswain, while seats 1,2,3 get into the boat.

For a boat that has the coxswain in the stern of the boat (stern coxed), the coxswain and the Bow seat will hold the boat, while seats 2,3,Stroke get into the boat.

The boats are fragile – did I mention this already?- remember – shells? And as such, there are only certain areas where a rower can place their feet when climbing into the boat. These are usually identified with no-slip pieces of tape. In our boats, most of these strips are white. You cannot stand on the foot stretchers, and you can not stand in the foot-wells. If you do, you may break through the boat. Rowers will push their sliding seats to the bow, put one foot up on the no-slip tape and climb into the boat. You will hear something like:

2, 3 and Stroke, UP AND IN. The rowers will get into the boat, holding onto the oar. They will put the oar handle in their laps reaching over the oar and get their feet into the shoes mounted onto the foot stretchers.

The coxswain may also say “CHECK YOUR TOP-NUTS”. This is a common item forgotten until its too late. The top-nut allows the oarlock to pivot around the pin. If the top-nut is loose, it could fall out while rowing, in which case, the oar can become disconnected from the rigger, and become essentially useless.

As the rowers tie in, and become ready to row – they will call out their seat number, starting in the bow. So in our example, if the bow person is holding the boat, and 2 seat is ready, they may say “TWO”. Then if 3 seat is ready, they would follow with “THREE”, and hopefully the stroke is ready and they will say “STROKE”. Three seat waits for two seat to shout “TWO” before they shout THREE- so the coxswain can keep track.

Finally, we need to get the coxswain and the Bow seat into the boat.

BOW-SEAT-UP-AND-IN-PUSH-AWAY – the coxswain and the bow seat will climb into the boat, and push the boat away from shore at the same time.

The Coxswain can now have the middle pair maneuver the boat safely away from the launch area, as the bow seat ties in. When Bow seat is ready, they can shout ‘BOW’ to let the know they are ready.

We have successfully launched the 4+!

Couple of things for the rowers here… No Talking in the Boat. You can talk to the coach and the coxswain – but do not have a conversation with your mates unless you are asked to do so by the coach or the coxswain. Got it? Good. Now – the main reason for this is safety. If a coach or coxswain needs to get you out of harms way (rouge wave or fisherman, another shell coming at you, maybe a tug-boat with a barge) you need to be ready to execute those commands right away. Here is a less dramatic example – wind. If your shell is drifting, the coxswain may need to ask one or more rowers to TAKE A STROKE. those rowers need to be ready to execute quickly. There are objects in the water to avoid – buoys, docks, No-Wake signs. If you are of jabbering, you may not hear the command, and you have just put yourself and your crew at risk. Hopefully we don’t have to say no texting while rowing – that should be obvious. The other reason – you may pick something up while the coach is instructing the other rowers. If you are talking, you and your mates wont get that one nugget of info that can put you on the medal stand…

Your on the water – what’s next?

As a rower – you need to understand a couple of commands.

SIT AT THE FINISH – rowers sit with legs straight, arms into the body, leaning back about 45 degrees.

SIT AT THE CATCH – rowers sit with their legs bent – shins are at 90 degrees, arms fully extended. Opinions vary as to the position of the oar blade.

OARS SQUARED AND BURIED – Oar blades are Up and down NOT Flat on the water.Oar blades should be in the water. You can tell when your oar is squared in the oarlock – there is a flat part on the collar of the Oar. This flat part will sit nicely on the oarlock.

SET THE BOAT – the rowers use their oars to keep the boat level. There are several ways to do this. Here is one – I’ve heard this called Active Set. The rower sits with their legs bent – the oar handle in their lap. The rowers Inside hand ( the hand closest to the rigger ) will be over the oar, holding onto the rigger where the rigger meets the boat. The rowers outside hand will be palm-up, gripping the oar handle at the end. This puts the rower in a good position to be able to press up with their outside hand and/or legs to help lock in a level boat.

Lets put together some commands that you will hear and dissect them:
I will attempt to describe the Stroke Progression drill that many crews use to warm-up with.

Who is going to row, where do they start the stroke. How much of the stroke will they execute. The coxswain will have a natural cadence to the command. Typically pausing longer with a new crew. By the time the coxswain says ‘Ready’ rowers should be in the appropriate body position, and be prepared to execute the stroke as requested. It also allows the rowers to ‘sync up’. The better the timing of the crew, the better the boat will move. When the coxswain says ‘Row’ – the rowers will execute. They should continue with the drill until told otherwise. ARMS ONLY – this drill has the rowers use their arms only, sitting with their legs fully extended, leaning slightly back, and using their arms only. ON THE SQUARE – this is used in many rowing drills. Essentially, the blade of the oar will be perpendicular to the water (Up and Down) sitting on the flat spot in the oarlock.

Working off of the ARMS ONLY that rowers were executing, they are ‘in motion’. The coxswain needs to give the crew a heads-up that the drill is going to change. Number of strokes until the change, and what is the change. So – from the arms only drill, once the coxswain sees/feels the stroke finish, the will say THATS ONE, and after the second stroke THATS TWO, and the rowers should execute the ARMS AND BACK stroke on the immediate next stroke. Experienced crews will flow from one drill to the other without throwing off the timing. Beginning crews may need a couple of strokes to get their rhythm back. ARMS AND BACK – this is an add on to the ARMS ONLY. Rowers are still sitting with legs fully extended. Arms will go away from the body and be fully extended before you swinging forward from your hips. And then the reverse, swing from the hips towards the bow – with arms still straight. Once you are leaning back, stop leaning, and finish the stroke with by pulling your arms into the body.

Again, the rowers are in motion, so a heads-up…In two strokes, the drill will change. Strokes are counted from the finish, and boom – you are on the next drill. Quarter slide – after you swing forward in the ARMS and BACK drill, you will bend your knees slightly. Thats it. So now, you are sitting with arms away, body over, and knees slightly bent. the stroke would then be Legs first, back second, arms third. Then reverse. Arms away from the body, Body over (Back), quarter slide (knees bent).

IN TWO GO TO HALF SLIDE… THATS ONE…THATS TWO…HALF SLIDE. Getting it now? Heads-up, the drill is going to change in 2 strokes, we are going to add in a half slide. Here we go.

IN TWO GO TO FULL SLIDE. I think you got this.



WEIGH-NOUGH – The rowers should stop rowing, and leave their oars on the water.

At this point, the coxswain would have another set of rowers execute the stroke progression until the entire crew is warmed up.

Navigation/Steering Commands.

There are often times when the coxswain will want to turn the boat around or change the direction of the the boat. The commands below are common.

BOW ROW IT AROUND – The rower in the last seat will row until asked to stop (weigh-nough) – this pushes the boat away from the side where the oar is in the water.

TWO SEAT GIVE ME A STROKE – The rower in the 2nd to last seat will row until asked to stop. This pushes the boat away from the side where the oar is in the water.

Notice that for two commands above, I did not say port or starboard. Many clubs set up a boat so that all of the even number seats are port rowers (Oar in the rigger on the port side of the boat) and odd seats on the starboard side. But there are clubs that don’t. There are many ways to Rig the boat. When listening for your commands – be aware of your seat number – and follow the coxswains commands.

PORT SIDE HOLD WATER – All rowers with Port oars will square their blades, and put the blades into the water, holding that side of the boat. this has the effect of pulling the boat to the port side or away from starboard. When holding water – be sure to have a firm grip on the oar. If you loose your grip, the oar can swing quickly into your ribs (sorry P.W. – you know who you are)

STARBOARD SIDE HOLD WATER – getting the hang of this yet?

PORT SIDE ROW, STARBOARD BACK – when done correctly, a boat will turn-around in place. I can hear the commentary starting already… Let me explain it the way I learned it. Then read the comments and make your decision… This drill should be done with arms and backs only. And this is why – when we are having one side row, and the other side back, the natural motion of the rower is stronger and faster rowing ‘forward’. For this drill to work correctly, the rowers rowing forward are swinging to the bow – as are the rowers rowing backwards – the difference being that the rowers that will be backing the boat have their oars out of the water. And when the rowers rowing forward are swinging towards the stern, their oars are out of the water, while the rowers rowing backwards will have their oars in the water – pushing the water away. So – let me see if I can explain this again. All the rowers swing to the bow and swing to the stern ‘together’ its whether or not your oar is on or in the water that is different.

STROKE HOLD WATER – the person in the stern of the boat will square their blade, and put it into the water. This has the effect of pivoting the boat towards their side of the boat.


HARDER ON PORT – there are many reasons why a coxswain might make this call. They may want to adjust for wind. They may want to make a turn. They may notice that the boat is stronger on starboard.

HARDER ON STARBOARD – alight – I hope you can see the pattern now.

Congrats. You’ve successfully launched the 4+, and have gotten through a progression drill. We’ll leave the core of the practice for another time. For now, lets get the crew and our equipment back up on land.

Lets take for granted that the coxswain was able to navigate the waterways, and you are now headed back to the launch area. I’ll try to explain the ‘docking’ calls used when coming back to a beach.

The goal here is to get the crew and the shell to the beach without damaging the shell or the rowers 🙂

The coxswain will attempt to bring the shell to shore by having various rowers Row, Hold Water, Back-It and possible Skull-it-around.

Coming in at a 45 degree angle to the shore, the coxswain needs to remember that the boat is long, and that there is a skeg. Lets bring our PORT stroked 4+ in, with the beach on the PORT side. Here is what the coxswain might say.

STERN-PAIR-DROP-OUT – this tells the stroke and 3 seat to stop rowing. The should now Set the Boat.

BOW-PAIR-ARMS-AND-BACKS – the Box and 2 seat will now row with their arms and back.

BOW-PAIR-WEIGH-NOUGH-THREE-SEAT-HOLD-WATER – the bow pair stop rowing, oars on the water – setting the boat. The row in 3 seat will hold water, pivoting the boat away from their blade, pushing toward the beach.

BOW-SEAT-GET-READY-TO-JUMP-IN – kind of simple -right? Well, lots going on here. The boat is still moving, and the BOW seat will need to jump up and out of the boat, get into the water, hold the boat from going further, and also keep the bow of the boat off of the shore, so a little advanced warning is helpful. Also, the bow seat needs to get their feet out of the stretchers – and put on water shoes (maybe).

BOW-SEAT-UP-AND-OUT – the rower in bow seat puts their feet on the no-slip-strip, lifts themselves up, and gets into the water – all while maintaining control of their oar. Sometimes, the rower might have two seat hold their oar for them.

So – the boat is now at the beach, the bow seat is holding the boat, we need to swing the stern further toward the beach.

THREE-SEAT-BACK-IT – this tells the three seat rower to row backwards – typically, this is arms and back only. This also lets BOW seat (in the water) know that there will be some force on the boat, and they should hold on.

As the boat swings in to shore, the stroke seat should get ready to get into the water – they will need to keep the stern off of the shore – remember the skeg?

STROKE-SEAT-UP-AND-OUT. Stroke seat puts their feet on the no-slip-strip, lifts themselves up, and gets into the water – all while maintaining control of their oar.

MIDDLE-PAIR-UP-AND-OUT. Do I really need to say this again?

We are at the beach – almost done.

MIDDLE-PAIR-BRING-UP-THE-OARS – each rower will take their oar out of the oar-lock – and close and tighten the oarlock gate. 2 seat will take bow and 2 seat oars up the beach, 3 seat will take their oar, and stroke seats oar. Stroke seat and Bow seat will hold the boat at the beach. This should be done quickly, there may be other boats coming in.

HANDS-ON – all rowers face the same direction, and also use the same hand on the outside gunnel. And by default, the same hand on the inside gunnel 🙂

OVER-HEADS…READY…UP – the cadence of this call is important – OVER HEADS is what they will do – ready, gets them ready, UP – execute the command. The rowers will lift the boat out of the water.

SHOW SPLIT – since all rowers are facing in the same direction, the rower facing away from everyone will tilt their head towards either side of the boat. In the 4 they should tilt their head to the side without the rigger. Then each rower in succession will tilt to the opposite side.

DOWN TO SHOULDERS…READY…DOWN – again, the cadence is important. DOWN TO SHOULDER is what they will do. READY, prepares the rowers for the command. DOWN – all rowers, at the same time, put the shell onto their shoulder opposite their tilted head.

Now the shell is out of the water, ready to be brought back to the rack area. The coxswain should position themselves to lead the boat up the beach. They are still responsible for the safety of the crew and the shell. Let’s say the coxswain is at the bow.

BOW – START WALKING UP THE BEACH – STERN TO FOLLOW. As the crew starts walking the shell up the beach, away from the water, the coxswain should alert the crew to any trip-hazards or sharp objects.

SWING THE STERN – at our beach there is a narrow path that the shell needs to be aligned with. Swinging the stern allows the rowers to get the shell perpendicular to the path.

As the shell gets into the rack area, the coxswain is responsible for setting up slings – we place shells into slings so that the shell can be washed down. You can wash boats on the racks – however, you can only try that on outside racks and any sand/crud you wash off will wind up on the shell in the rack space below. Lastly, it’s hard to get to both sides of the shell when it is in the rack.

Slings are typically made of metal and fabric.
You can put a shell into slings either GUTS-UP or GUTS-DOWN.

GUTS-UP – the seats, stretchers etc face he sky. GUTS-DOWN – the seats foot stretchers etc face the floor.

If you are carrying the shell on your shoulders, the crew will need to go OVER-HEADS to get the shell into the sling, GUTS-UP.

Once the shell is in slings – the coxswain will wash down the boat and the crew will get the coaches launch up from he waters edge and bring the launch safety bag, gas container, and oars up to the boathouse area.

Almost done. The coxswain needs to get the shell back into the correct rack, put their coxbox away, and log any problems with the shell.

Pretty easy – right?

I’ll stop here – you’ve been through enough. Let me know if you would like more/less…

Coach Mike (mike@portrowing.com)


2014 Row for the Cure

July 30, 2014

June 1, 2014 – Poughkeepsie, NY, Row for the Cure.

The Port Rowing Masters entered this race for the second year in a row. This race is in its 8th year, and has raised over $50,000 for Breast Cancer awareness and research. For the Port Washington Masters, this is the kickoff of our summer racing season.

The beginning of the day saw our Women’s Masters 1x ladies, Tara Passoni and Linda Poll take 2nd and 3rd place.

The Port Rowing Masters also had 3 boats entered in the Womens Masters 2x category. This race was slightly delayed, to allow for barges to pass the race course. The Hudson River is an active waterway – boat traffic and racing must co-exist. The race from the start was very tight. At the finish it was 1st Place – Port Rowing (Linda Poll/Tara Passoni), 2nd Place – Port Rowing (Brittney Flynn/Sara Levi- +9 seconds), and 3rd place – Port Rowing (Laura Santala/Mary Small +13 seconds).

Port Rowing Masters raced one boat in the Womens 4+ category. They may not have won, but they had an amazing race. As a coach, you hope that your team is prepared. That the training(early mornings,late nights, drills, bad weather, good weather, ice cold water, blisters, track-bites etc.) has put your crew into the best possible position to row well. One rogue wave changed that in an instant for the Women’s Masters 4+ (Chris Nadalone, Mary Small, Laura Santala, Sara Levi and Brittney Flynn as coxswain). The swell hit them 10 strokes before the finish line, and stopped their boat dead in its tracks. It took them a couple of seconds to regroup – but it was too late. The race results do not reflect what an awesome row they had. It merely says that the 2nd place boat came in 4 seconds after the 1st place boat. There is no mention that at the end of this particular race, the 1st place boat had 3 ladies bellied-over, gasping for air – prompting the USRowing referees to check on the health and welfare of that boat. It doesn’t show the control and poise that Port Rowing had throughout the race and through the finish line. I am more than proud of these ladies. They trained hard. Were ready to race. And executed extremely well. The results say 2nd – but that’s only part of the story.

Port Rowing also entered 2 boats in the High School categories. A Women’s HS 4+ and a Men’s HS 4+. These crews showed very nicely, with the women winning their race, and the men taking 2nd.

Overall, this was a great venue, with great weather. Port Rowing had a great day, entering 8 boats and taking home medals in each and every one.

Port Rowing’s Masters program offers both structured and unstructured training. If you are interested in getting involved, we hold scheduled classes on Monday and Wednesday nights, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and Ad-Hoc classes on weekends.

There are also summer sessions for students. If you are interested in Rowing – at ANY experience level – or if you would just like to get involved with our programs, please contact us. For our High School Programs and general information – steve@portrowing.com. For our Masters Programs, mike@portrowing.com or darren@portrowing.com. For our summer programs, darren@portrowing.com.

Where did I leave my race plan?

February 11, 2014

I attend several indoor races each year. Some that I race in, some to watch the races.

At the races I tend to notice the different prep routines of the racers. Some warm-up as individual,some as a team. There is the stretching running in place, and the ‘erg warm up’. The index cards of race-plans and coxswain notes.

Sometimes, I’ll overhear a coach discussing the ‘race plan’. And often, I’ll hear some athletes talking to each other about their lack of race plan.

There are many many plans. The fly-and-die, the get-faster every 250, the 4×500, and many more.

The important thing, in my opinion, is to understand your goal for the race (PR? A specific time? Win? Finish?), plan your race (with some contingencies) and race your plan.

The last point is key. Race your plan.

I’ve seen racers get jostled in the beginning of a race when a competitor starts out really really fast – has that racer trained hard enough to keep that pace? Remember your goal – your plan.

I’ve also seen racers get beat out in the last 50meters – that probably wasn’t the plan – do you have that contingency in your plan? Should you update your plan?

I’ve seen racers stay within 20meters of the leader almost the entire race and row through them in the last 100 – that was their plan – that’s what they trained for.

And I’ve seen many rowers start their race without a plan…

In the heat of battle, your mind can play tricks on you – be confident in your training, and stick to your plan – don’t let someone else dictate your plan (unless that’s your plan 🙂 ).


Write-Up from this past fall

March 14, 2013

Port Rowing’s Masters program had a great showing at the HOPR (Oct 13, 2012) coming in 2nd in the Masters Womens eight race. Many of the rowers from the successful ‘Four’ that rowed in Saratoga increased their racing experience rowing in this eight. The rowers (Christina Nadolne-bow, Mary Small-2, Brittney Flynn-3, Laura Halll-4, Deirdre Suanders-5,Tara Passoni-6,Laura Santala-7,Susan Steinberg-Stroke) were extremely grateful to have a multi-season high school coxswain join their crew for this race. Alex Herron stepped up, reviewed lineups, analyzed his athletes, reviewed coaches notes, and coxed the race as if he had been in a boat with these women all season long.

Port Rowing’s Masters Learn-to-Row had another successful session this past Sunday (Oct 14, 2012). 6 new rowers, accompanied by 2 current Master rowers learned the basics of sweep rowing. The program included on-land review of water/boat safety, on-land rowing technique using Concept2 ergs, how to carry a rowing shell, and lots of terminology. The group employeed all they learned as they launched into Hempstead Harbor, enjoying a calm comfortable October Morning. The High School team stepped up again, with varsity rower Phylicia Waskover helping out as coxswain.

Coxswain Clinic Outline – 26 May 2012

May 29, 2012

Here is the outline of the Coxswain Clinic that was held on May 26, 2012.

It was presented by Sarah Obernauer – s.obernauer@gmail.com

I. Safety
-#1 job
-Observing traffic patterns
-Handling wake
-Always parallel to wake, never perpendicular

II. Steering
-Always look ahead; Watch for hazards to avoid large steering changes later
-How to steer- small motions; Less is more
-When to steer?
-Blades in v. blades out
-Tell crew “on the rudder”
-Picking a point
-One on port, one on starboard: keep your boat in the middle
–Or, pick a center point on the horizon
-Working with other coxswains
-Coxswain on the right sets the course unless otherwise instructed
-Communicate regularly re: points, starting pieces, bringing boats even, etc.
-Keeping boats together: why is this important?

III. What to say?
-Practice v. racing: You get out what you put in
-We v. you
-Command v. conversation
-Confidence & ownership
-Speak clearly & controlled
-When to speak
-Embrace the silence
-Technical calls
-Identify. Correct. Assess. & What. How. When.
-Speaking to individuals v. boat
-Kick, send. Rhythmic calls
-Motivational calls
-Internal v. external coxing
-meters, time, rating
-Moving on crews; Taking seats

IV. Demeanor
-How do you want to be n [by teammates, other crews, coaches, etc.]?
-Element of professionalism & composure
-How your attitude affects the team

Which crew do you want to be a part of?

February 15, 2012

When I was racing – I used to go to a lot of different water-fronts. I met a lot of people. And I saw a lot of different crews. I saw how they operated, and how they interacted within their crews, and with other crews.

One of the great things about our sport is the high standard that we hold ourselves to. That’s one of the things that got me hooked on crew. We expect a lot of ourselves, and from our crews, and from other crews.

My crew was amazing. On land we were a huge family. We did everything together – classes, meals, studying – and we pushed each other in the gym too. On the water – we had a very simple goal – Make the boat go fast. Work hard – and “prove it on the water”.

Here is where my crew and some crews that I observed differed. We wanted our boats to go fast on the water. We wanted every other crew to have the opportunity –on the water – to try to beat us. If that meant helping a crew with a broken rigger, seat or oar – well – we were up for that, whatever they needed to get onto the water, we were always willing to help. We were going to “prove it on the water” – which meant – they had to get on the water. Hey – this is rowing – if you want to win – you have to row.

With some other crews – I didn’t see that same attitude. Those crews were happy with a ‘win’ if they were the only boat in the race. They were happy with the ‘win’ if another crew couldn’t get to the starting line on time.

Which crew do you want to be a part of?

Rowing that Last Meter – Rowing that Last Second

February 5, 2012

I have discussed this several times with the early group this winter – and it deserves to be said a couple of more times…

If you are racing, or erging, or working out – you need to ‘go after’ that last meter, that last second… If you don’t – your competition will be glad to have it. On the erg – if there is 1 second left on your monitor – or on the water – and there is one meter left to the finish – you push yourself – and take it.

That’s your meter – that’s your second – don’t give it up to anyone – they don’t deserve it – its yours.

Don’t let up on that last second – don’t let up on that last meter. Your boat can’t glide into the finish, and your erg can’t coast that final stroke.

When you leave the race course, or get off the erg – you need to know in your head, that you went for that last meter, went for that last second. After the last boat is docked, after the last competitor gets off the erg – you need to know in your head, that you gave it your all. When you go check those race results, when you check your 2k time – if you come up 1 tenth of a second off – 1 meter shy – you need to know in your head, that you went for it. You can’t get back on the erg, you can’t go back and take one more stroke – that opportunity is gone.

That last second – that last meter – it could be the difference between 1st and 2nd place, it could be 1st or 2nd boat, it could be making a national team or not. Make sure that if it is 2nd – it isn’t because you eased off that last second, that last stroke.

That last second – that last meter – is more psychological than physical – your head needs to be stronger than your body.

That last second – that last meter – how will you handle it?

Thoughts? Comments?


Coach Mike