Basic Rules for coxes

Safety at Sea – basic rules for coxes

This guide assumes familiarity with the EACRC Health & Safety Guide which all club members are expected to be familiar with.  All Club members are expected to take a turn at coxing.

Learning to Cox really comes through experience on the water, getting used to the boats and crews, encountering different situations and conditions.  The aim of our induction and this guide is simply to give you sufficient confidence and knowledge to build those skills safely.

Captain’s responsibilities:

Every boat which goes out needs to have a named ‘captain’. The captain does not necessarily need to be coxing the boat, but is an experienced cox who:

  • has fulfilled the requirements of the Captain Self Assessment Checklist
  • is responsible for ensuring all EACRC rules and safety policies are adhered to
  • is responsible for ensuring all necessary equipment is aboard before an outing
  • Will make the final call on whether the boat goes out
  • Will ensure the person coxing is experienced enough to do so given the conditions
  • knows the safety and rescue procedures in case of an accident
  • Will ensure all members of the crew are aware of the appropriate safety procedures and that they are suitably dressed.

In line with maritime law, it is still the cox who is in charge of the boat when at sea, so both the cox and captain need be satisfied that the cox is experienced enough for the conditions.

The Cox has many responsibilities, amongst them steering, giving commands, communication, strategy and coaching, but first and foremost is SAFETY.

Also keep in mind the Navigation Rules:

  • Motor gives way to muscle gives way to wind.
  • Keep right (starboard), particularly when entering/exiting harbours.
  • Overtaking vessels must keep clear.


Keep a good look out at all times.

Something might happen in the boat that attracts your attention; someone crabs, a pin breaks, a footrest comes loose etc.  You can’t ignore things like that but be careful they don’t distract you from what’s happening around the boat.

Remember – you’re the only one that can see where the boat is going.


You sit at the back and move the tiller in the opposite direction to the one you want to go in. It is straightforward but there are various factors that affect the steering of the boat:

  • The movement of the oars; forwards, backwards, one side or both
  • The rudder only works when moving through the water (you can be rowing and not moving, you can be moving but not through the water)
  • The speed of the boat
  • The condition and the balance of the crew.
  • Currents and tides
  • The wind; the strength and direction (head, tail, or cross etc.)

Steering – basics

  • The Cox should be still and balanced.
  • You should maintain a direct and constant course.
  • You need to take into account the effect of tidal flow and wind.
  • The rudder acts as a brake, slowing the boat, so keep rudder movements small and subtle.
  • Try to anticipate steering so that the tiller is used occasionally, rather than frequently.
  • Try to make adjustments when blades are in the water, as this affects the balance of the boat less.