Coxing FAQ

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What changes under blue flag?

What changes under amber flag?

Coxing status (+ upgrades)

What do I need for experienced status?

At least three full terms of coxing experience. To register as X, it’s not necessary to have coxed ChCh Regatta or bumps. Coxes with more than three terms of Oxford coxing experience can get their captain or captain of coxes to ask to upgrade them without assessment (see below). Coxes may not upgrade themselves, whoever they are. Those with less than three full terms of Oxford coxing experience can get X status by being assessed during an outing.

How do I get upgraded to experienced status?

For those with three full terms of coxing, the captain or CoC should e-mail the OURCs CoC and certify that they’ve had at least three full terms of coxing and is competent to cox without a coach under blue flag conditions. For example:

"John Smith has done three full terms of coxing and is competent to cox unsupervised under blue flag conditions."

Note: You’re still novice status until your upgrade has been confirmed by the OURCs CoC.

Do not put a cox forward for unassessed upgrade if they have registered less than three terms ago, or if they are not good enough. X coxes who break rules or are shown to be incompetent/unsafe will be downgraded to novice again, either temporarily or permanently.

If you don't have the right amount of coxing experience you can request an assessment for upgrade from N to X.

What can I do as an experienced cox?

Go out under blue flag, as well as without a coach.

Note: You’re now responsible for the safety of your crew. Be familiar with the British Rowing Water Safety Code and the OURCs Rules of the River (Constitution chaper 2). Assess the conditions and the ability of your crewbefore each outing, don’t go out if it’s unsafe. If your coxing falls below the standard expected of experienced coxes or if you break ARA or OURCs rules, you may be demoted back to novice status.

What if I haven’t done three full terms of coxing?

You can still be upgraded early, but you’ll need to be assessed during an outing by RQ or the OURCs CoC. During N-X assessments, we’re looking for safe coxing, particularly recognising developing hazardous situations and taking suitable avoiding action in good time.

What do I need for senior status?

A lot more. Senior coxes should have at least 6 full terms of coxing, unless they are exceptionally talented. Senior status is awarded to coxes who are not just competent, but genuinely expert. While we expect experienced coxes to be able to conduct outings safely while unsupervised, for senior status we’re looking for someone who can get the most out of the outing for their crew, without ever being unsafe.

RQ’s e-mail (later further expanded):

Seniority is quite far beyond plain skills.

Senior status is awarded to coxes who are not just competent, but expert. We’re looking for a cox to get the most out of the outing for their crew, without ever being unsafe.

For instance, moving neatly through gaps which are big enough, without wasting time dithering, yet without making any other crew or craft on the river have to get out of the way or stop early. Spotting a log-jam developing and finding a way around it without getting stuck, but without inconveniencing any other crew. Understanding how the movement of water in the river is affecting your boat and adjusting your commands and rudder use accordingly. Knowledge and application of the rules, obviously, but that’s by no means enough on its own. The judgement to apply your skills well in a tight situation and make quick, good, decisions to the benefit of your crew and everyone else on the river.

You need to have a really secure sense of watermanship and good steering/boat handling, be good at observation and aware of everything else happening around you so that you can take avoiding action early and help prevent accidents as well as keep your crew busy with its outing.

You should be able to contribute substantially to coaching, technique and the crew’s improvement during the outing.

Commands must be well given, not just OK, and using the voice tone to improve the mood and reaction of the crew.

Communication with other crews to facilitate the flow of river traffic is crucial.

We aren’t looking for squad-level motivation, or tactics, but an awareness of both is useful. Essentially a senior cox is someone who is good enough at all the coxing requirements to be able to go for one of the varsity squads, but who may or may not suit the mindset of OU coxing. Conversely, coxes can get Blues or half-blues but not seniority because their judgement is erratic and their safety awareness non-existent.


I’ve done a lot of rowing, can you give me experienced/senior status?

Unfortunately we need coxes to have real coxing experience before we can give them experienced or senior status. While many people with extensive rowing experience do a fine job coxing, there have also been quite a few who don’t, and it is impossible to tell which will be which without seeing their coxing for ourselves. Therefore, we don’t count rowing experience, but we’re always happy to assess someone in this situation early for an upgrade.

Also, footplate-steering experience doesn’t normally count for much, since you have a blade to correct your steering with (by adjusting the pressure), although it does add experience of having to work around other crews.

Can you assess me at Radley/Godstow/Wallingford?

No, they have to be on the Isis. This allows us to get more than one assessment done per session, so coxes aren’t kept waiting for upgrades, but also because we’re looking at how coxes react to hazards or obstructions which appear during the outing to determine whether they are suitable for an upgrade. This means that assessments must be done on a busy stretch of river, ie the Isis.

Can you assess me during blue/amber flag?

We can assess for X->S on blue flag, but N status coxes must be assessed on green flag. However, if the river is empty then we may require you to wait until it becomes busier. For that reason, weekday mornings or the busier weekend times are best to choose.

Can I be upgraded before the end of my third term coxing?

Only by assessment. The deadline for unassessed upgrades doesn't move, even if you will do no more coxing before the next term. The only exception is those who manage to get a full Long Vacation coxing for a club, though we will need convincing proof of substantial vacation coxing.

I requested an upgrade ages ago! Why haven't you done the assessment yet?

A lot of captains request assessments for their coxes, but do not follow that up with a list of several suggested outing times. We can't assess you if we don't know when you'll be on the water, so please remember to send us a list of outing times with an upgrade request. Once we've got some outing times, we'll pick one that we can do, and we'll e-mail you to confirm the assessment time.

Where possible we will try and pick a time when the river is busy enough, otherwise your assessment may be wasted. If we do not see the cox having to cope with more than one difficult situation, then we will not grant an upgrade.


Novice registration meetings

Novice induction meetings are held every term, usually two per term. They are scheduled as far as possible on two different days of the week, one in first week and the other in second week, to maximise attendance. They start at 8pm and will take around 1 hour 15 minutes from the time we begin talking (which is often 15-20 minutes after the official start time, because there is some admin to do first.

Coxes coming to registration meetings should bring £3 and two passport-sized photographs. They must stay for the whole meeting, otherwise they will not be registered.

Coxes who come to novice meetings but already have sufficient experience to be registered at X or S status will not have to stay for the whole meeting, though they are welcome to. Where possible we will do a much shorter induction into the local rules during the main meeting, or we may organise to see them at another time. It is essential that such coxes have an induction meeting with RQ or the OURCs Captain of Coxes before they steer or coach at busy times on the Isis or at Godstow. The decision on status will be taken once we have a full coxing CV to look at.

May I go out coxing as a novice before I attend a registration meeting?

Only once or twice, and only with a fully experienced crew, please. Handling novice rowers is difficult for all coxes, and if you're a novice too it can be very dangerous. What will help you is shadowing a more experienced cox: borrow a bike, and go down and listen from the towpath so that you start learning what to do in the boat.

Pre-regatta meetings

Briefing meetings are held before all the big regattas (Torpids, Eights, and Christ Church). Bumps regatta meetings are obligatory for all those coxing (including Rowing On), but those who have coxed bumps before will be allowed to go after the first 20-30 minutes. Novices will be fully briefed in the second section of the meeting. Where possible pre-regatta coxing meetings will be held on the Wednesday of the week before the racing starts (ie two days before Rowing On in the case of bumps, and the week before Christ Church.)

Coxes are requested to bring their coxing cards as proof of ID. Those without coxing cards should report to the main desk on arrival and may need to show other proof of identity.

Any coxes who cannot attend such a meeting should contact the OURCs Captain of Coxes well before the meeting. For very good reasons alternative arrangements may be possible but are not guaranteed. We do not expect coxes to miss two bumps meetings in a row.


I’ve lost my coxing handbook, can I have a replacement?

Yes, you can download it here

What about the A4 sheet with the rules summary and coxing hints?


I’ve lost my coxing card, can I have a replacement?

Yes, drop an email to Rachel Quarrell ( giving your full name and college, and a replacement card will be sent to you.

I don’t think my coxing card ever arrived, what do I do?

First, are you absolutely sure you sent your photographs to RQ, if they were late? And did they have your name on them? Have the other coxing cards for your college been returned or might someone (eg your club captain) be sitting on them? If yes to all three, and if you did stay for a full registration meeting, then contact RQ explaining the problem.

What are 'cox-coaching' sessions?

RQ and the OURCs Captain of Coxes are available to discuss all matters to do with coxing in an informal evening format. Colleges should book by emailing  and suggesting a choice of evenings. Coaches and rowers are also welcome and the format is Q&A so that anything the college's coxes wish to discuss can be covered.