At Pairs Head we released an article on the basics on steering the Tideway. As Fours Head comes around, we have written a more detailed version with more tips and tricks for both novice and more experienced coxes. Our final part will be released in the lead up to the HORR, WEHORR and SHORR.
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 article goes further in-depth than the previous one, however it will contain all of the basic information. This article will also inform you of all the racing rules (e.g. overtaking). A final full in-depth article will be released for the HORR week in March, where coxes do all of the steering over (apart from some of the fours and quads at SHORR), unlike here at fours head where a multitude of boats are coxless.
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. For more experienced crews, a rule of thirds is more required during the second two-thirds of the course.
From the Start to Barnes Bridge, a central line is needed, and with the crew at a higher pace the less rudder movements you make will be key to having a good starting pace. Race centrally under Chiswick bridge, then enter Barnes bridge slightly right of central and leave the bridge left of central.
Hold the the left side down the northerly straight to Chiswick Pier, with one third of the river to your left and two thirds of open river to your right. This will stop you from accidentally ending up on top of the flats on the eastern side of that bank. As Chiswick Eyot approaches, the left section of the river moves behind the island, to counter this move back into the centre of the river, and hold this round the bend to Hammersmith Bridge. The final section of the course has many more markers to work on.
Coming up on Hammersmith bridge, you should aim to let the boat pass beneath the central arch and the steersmen and coxes 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 too 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). Follow this line down the course, focusing on each red bouy in line, this will keep you out of the slow moving water of Fulham Flats on the North Eastern bank.
This race is taken from Chiswick Bridge to Putney Pier.
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’, however the rules are slightly different at Fours Head so read the quote carefully.
"Overtaking: ALL crews have a responsibility to avoid a collision whether they are overtaking or being overtaken and may be penalised or disqualified if judged to have contributed to a collision. Crews which are being overtaken: ● Should maintain their course. They may give way to a faster crew if they can do so safely. ● MUST NOT alter course to impede an overtaking crew. ● Should make their cox aware of any overtaking crew, particularly if they are in a bow-coxed boat. Crews which are overtaking: ● Should establish their intended overtaking line as early and as clearly as possible. ● Should not expect slower crews to give way although such crews may do so. Note: this rule is different from most head races where the slower crew must give way. This is because of the mixture of boat types (including bow-loaders) within the HOR4s."
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, due to a large amount of bow-loaded boats. 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. All crew members in the boat have a responsibility to warn others of a danger.