Race Coxing

For more information on race coxing please read the EACRC_Race Coxing Guide.

Extra things to think about when racing – 

Oar Clashes – In races there is sometimes a clash of oars with other boats.  This isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault.  It quite often happens at the start of races when the boats aren’t quite parallel or taking the same line.  Once you’ve started rowing you can suddenly find yourself coming together with another boat that’s pretty much level with you.

Try to steer away if you can, but make sure the clashing oars KEEP ROWING.  For the rowers whose oars are clashing, the first instinct is to stop rowing, to prevent the oars being damaged.  But if they stop rowing and the other side of the boat keeps going, you’ll just turn into the other boat even more.  If anything get the clashing oars to row harder and get the other side to ease off till you’re clear.

Race turns

The rudder isn’t responsive enough for quick turns so in racing we need to use the oars.  The important thing is to turn BEFORE the buoy not at it.  If you wait till you get to the buoy you’ll overshoot by a long way. 


Our experience of racing is that tight turns are the best but the boat slows dramatically.  There may be occassions where a wide turn is preferable; if you have to give way to another boat, rather than slow down to follow them round, it may be better to maintain  boat speed and attempt to overtake on the outside in a broad turn relying on the tiller not the oars.  It has to be said though that such overtaking on the outside is very rare, and where people do gain advantage at a turn it’s usually due to the lead boat going too wide and the following boat being able to sneak inside as the turns finish.

The Turn





Steer in with the rudder, looking to hit the buoy (if safe) between the bow and 2 position. Once you hit the buoy, have one side row and the other stop or dig in.   Remember that when hard over the rudder acts more as a brake, so once the oars are bringing you round it’s better to ease off on the rudder so you don’t kill the boat speed completely. When you’re almost round get ready to count the crew back in. There’s a strong temptation to bring all the rowers together early so you get the boat up to full speed.


If the rowers come together too soon you just head off in the wrong direction and it takes an age to bring you back on course with just the tiller.  Wait till you’re almost on the heading you want before bringing them together, and also make sure to give a warning or count the crew in, even just a call of “2…1…and GO!” At this point the boat will have slowed so much that you’re really off to another start, so similar calls apply.

No two turns are ever quite the same, so it’s very important to practice turns in crews.

Mass buoy racing Turns – establishing RIGHT OF WAY

There’s quite a lot to consider when racing, but there’s one particular aspect that routinely throws up problems so is worth mentioning; multiple boats turning on one buoy.  The fundamental thing to remember is that the Right of Way is established 3 boat lengths AWAY from the buoy:

If, at three lengths from the buoy, a leading boat has clear water on a following boat, then the leading boat has right of way.  That means the following boat MUST give it water.  This is very important.  As mentioned before, turning the boat causes it to slow down dramatically.  If a leading boat has Right of Way the following boat must anticipate that it will slow in front of it and possibly cut across.  It’s down to the following boat to avoid a collision, by either slowing itself or altering course.


However, if there is any kind of overlap at 3 boat lengths out, then the boat on the inside line to the buoy has Right of Way.  If the following boat has the Right of Way then it’s down to the leading boat to avoid a collision by giving water and probably going wide. Umpires should be on hand to call the Right of Way as it isn’t easy for a Cox in a lead boat to judge, and almost impossible for one in a following boat, if at all tight.

This confusion about Right of Way is greatest when there’s congestion with multiple boats arriving at the buoy in quick succession. One of the problems is that the Right of Way, and the actions required, has a knock on effect. A number of boats in turn may cross the 3 boat length mark with clear water between each, so that each boat has right of way over the one behind.  But as the first boat slows in turning, the following boat has to slow in turn and/or go wide to avoid a collision. This then can allow a third boat to catch up with the second boat on an inside line.

In the excitement of a race the Cox of the third boat may well forget that, even though they now have an overlap and an inside line, they DON’T have the Right of Way.  That was determined back at the 3 boat length mark and so the third boat needs to slow or alter course to allow the second boat to turn. If the third boat does slow, that may allow a fourth boat to obtain an overlap, and so and so forth.


At all times remember that your first duty is for the safety of the crew.  Even if you have Right of Way, if someone is bearing down on you in flagrant disregard for the rules, take evasive action.  An appeal can be made to the umpire later.