On the 25th May over 5000 junior rowers and coxes will come together to compete at National Schools Regatta held over 2000m on the Olympic rowing lake at Eton Dorney.
As a cox, it’s your responsibility to lead the rowers down the 2000m stretch in the quickest time possible by steering straight and getting the best out of your crew. If this is your first NSR here is a basic guide on how to give your crew the best chances for the race leading up in the weeks and days before.
Step 1 - Know your race plan and warm-up procedure
Sit down with your coach and split the race down into sections to make it easy to memorise, at Dorney, there are distance markers every 250 metres (counting up in distance from the start) so it can usually be easier if the plan has changed based around those eight markers.
The plan should always start with a productive and effective warmup procedure, your coach will likely have one in mind but be aware that once you boat from the pontoons, there will be lots of other crews moving up the warmup lake so plan to have to adjust this at different times. We recommend a technical warm-up, to begin with, with multiple short high-intensity pieces and a start in race direction. The warmup lake has the ability to do a racing start in race direction, use it!
When in training, analyse each rower in your boat and pick up on points that they frequently lose focus on when they are working hard or getting tired near the second half of the race. This will simply take time and will require you to remember what the coaches are saying to each rower throughout pieces. As a J14 or J15 cox, it might seem daunting to call out one of the guys in your boat, but as forceful as it might feel (picking on one guy in the boat at a time), with a positive spin the call can be very useful.
E.g. If the 3 man called James has a tendency to drop the chest in the third 500m it could be worth giving a call such as “Ok James, moving into this third 500 we are going to lift the chest and accelerate that finish.” A call like this calls out one specific rower, however also sends a message to the other 3/7 rowers in the boat and gives them something to work on technically as well.
Finally, find a relaxed and informative way to cox the start procedure. Lots of coxes tend to elongate their words and focus more on the noise than the information itself. Calls like “draaaawwwwwwww” and “wind” are most popular, however, to stand to your crew, phrases like “in sharp” and “up one, up two, up three” will get the shorter rate build strokes more effective to your rowers. This one is simply trial and error and will be very different for each crew. Have a few attempts and see what works for your crew, even ask them for ideas now and again!
Step 2 - Know your place in the Draw
A few days before the race the draw will be released. This has the full list of crews and race numbers for the time trials in. Your coach will research this thoroughly in an attempt to fine-tune the race plan for the time trial, however, as a cox this is an important document for you as well.
Learn your boat number and the crews around you, the names of who is in front and behind you (and for more experienced coxes, who is around them, in case of scratched crews.)
The draw can have come confusing letters and symbols on it which can be a bit confusing for junior coxes so we have attached a glossary of all the key elements.
J14-18 = Age category e.g. J16
W = women’s event
Other notation = category e.g. 2nd
Number = number of oarsmen in the boat e.g. 4
x = sculling (sweep simply has no ‘x’)
+/- = coxed/coxless
Example = Senior boys championship eight = J18 CH8+
Step 3 - Learn the circulation pattern and competitors instructions
You will be able to find the circulation map and course on the NSR website closer to the race date, and well as on the AllMarkHub post in “UK Circuit” when it is released. Steering is usually seen as a no-brainer for a straight course, however, we will focus on steering in the next post. The big thing to focus on before race day is the circulation patterns for time trials and finals.
Print off the maps and study what lanes are in use and what is “dead”. The marshalls will have a busy day and will not take “the cox in front of me was in this lane” as an excuse for being in the wrong place. Print off the competitor's instructions, which will also be available on the AllMarkHub post. This will not need memorising in full so can usually be read closer to the race.
At all British Rowing and FISA regattas, there is a minimum weight that a cox can be at weigh in. If the cox is under the weight limit they are required to have additional weight to reach the minimum level. At Junior 14/15 there is a 45kg minimum weight limit. At Junior men events from J16 + there is a 55kg minimum weight limit with Junior women events from J16 + being 50kg minimum. If you are under your weight limit you must bring your own weights for these are not supplied by NSR. We recommend 1kg sandbags that you can make yourself (tutorial coming soon), because they are easy to put in footwells and are unlikely to damage the boat, unlike metal plates. Make sure they in multiple sealed bags and are safe from breakages.
More information about weighing-in and how you should handle your weight limits will be in part two!
That is all for part one of the Junior Coxing Course for National Schools Regatta. Keep checking out Instagram and Twitter accounts for part two.
J16, South West