Steering the Tideway: The Basics

Pairs Head 2018

Whether you're a steersman or a cox, the Tideway is fiendishly difficult to navigate. Keeping the racing line is crucial and one does not want to crash into another boat, bridge or buoy. This post is a beginner’s guide to the Tideway and is an essential read for those that wish to improve their time in their race. This article will also inform you of all the racing rules (e.g. overtaking). More in-depth articles will be released for the HORR week in March, where coxes do the majority of the steering over the 3 days, unlike here at pairs head where all boat are foot-steered.


Essentially, the fastest line is the part of the river that is deepest. Therefore, a rough guide is to stick to the middle. Novice steersmen would expect the fastest line to be the shortest line, by cutting the corners. This is wrong. The faster water is further to the outside of the bend so do not worry about it being marginally further. Another reason to keep in the middle section of the river is that marshalling crews or crews paddling back to their boathouses will be on the inside of the bends, therefore moving into their water could get you penalised.

The final part of the pairs head course race is key to a good final section. The Hammersmith Bend is notoriously difficult to tackle and can be dangerous. If one drifts too far wide (towards Middlesex), the crew is at danger of being swept towards the Pier by the currents. A 50/50 middle of the rover place will work well round the Eyot, holding wide approaching the bridge. Coming up on Hammersmith bridge, you should aim to let the boat pass beneath the central arch and the steersman should aim their bows for the second lampost from Surrey Side of this central arch. Put simply, slightly on the inside of the middle arch. However, the turn should not be made whilst going through the bridge as this would place the boat out of the stream and far to close to the Surrey bank. Once straightened up, the bow of the boat should continuously be pointed towards each red buoy. Stay as close to the buoy as you can (however unless a seriously experienced steersman we recommend leaving 1 blade width gap, to account for wash or wind gusts that might put you off course).


This race is taken from Chiswick Bridge to Harrods Depositary.
One races with the stream and should always be in the middle of the river and pass under the middle arch of each of the three bridges; Chiswick, Barnes and Hammersmith. When starting, you must give the boat ahead sufficient room or the marshalls will call for you to stop, disrupting your rhythm. When overtaking, you have the ‘right of way’. This means that the crew in front of you should move out of your way. However, you cannot expect the other boat to comply with the regulations. Therefore, you may still have to turn round a crew in front of you. When being overtaken, you should move out of the way of a faster moving crew. It is strictly against the rules to impede another boat, this will result in disqualification. All crew members in the boat have a responsibility to warn others of a danger.


Check out our Important Information article for all competitors information including links to maps and start orders.



1 comment

  • Sam

    Great article thanks a lot, really helpful

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