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 Swim Tests

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  • It is the responsibility of clubs to ensure that their club has safe practices including requiring all rowers and coxes to be sufficiently proficient at swimming. The rules laid down by OURCs and COUR are designed to assist clubs in best practice but will be enforced. OURCs insists on all event participants being swim tested.

COUR advice to university and college rowing clubs


  • Advice received by members of COUR from British Rowing’s Water Safety Advisor and the University’s Legal Services department, makes it clear that clubs are responsible for developing a culture of safety in all activities associated with rowing and that they should consider and take into account the guidance produced by RowSafe for British Rowing (
  • Best practice requires clubs to obtain some form of evidence as to swimming competence prior to allowing individuals onto the open water in rowing boats. However, both advisers also recognise that obliging individuals to undertake a swimming test prior to any taster sessions is impractical and not necessary. Nevertheless, clubs should carefully consider what evidence of swimming competence they ought to obtain before tests can be carried out and what safety provisions they can put in place during that period.
  • The recommendation of COUR is that clubs undertake the following:
    • Clubs should obtain written declarations from individual members that they can swim to the standards set out in the RowSafe guidelines.
    • Individuals should be encouraged to undertake such swim tests as soon as possible.
    • Life-jackets, ideally those designed specifically for rowing, should be available to those who are not sure about their swimming ability.
    • Clubs should consider special safety measures for those who have not yet been swim-tested, for example, that they should only go out in eights, in green flag conditions, with an experienced cox and with a bank-rider carrying a throw-line.
    • A special risk-assessment be carried out relating to the safety of those who have not yet been swim-tested.
  • You may send anyone, irrespective of their declaration, to a swim test; but if it is obvious that they cannot swim, please don't send them.
  • Swim tests cost £2, to be billed to individual college boat clubs, and details are listed below.
  • Club officers must keep a record of anyone who fails a swim test, and forbid them from rowing.
  • Separate guidelines apply for under 18s - please email the OURCs committee for special precautions in this situation.

Declaration Form

  • A declaration form based upon RowSafe guidance should include the following question:

    Are you competent and confident in and under the water and able to do the following?:

    • Swim at least 50 metres in light clothing (rowing kit)
    • Tread water for at least two minutes
    • Swim under water for at least 5 metres (you must remain fully submerged)

  • RowSafe also recommends the following:


    All participants must be instructed on safe capsize techniques (for all boat types) including:
    • The need to stay with the boat and use it as a life raft
    • Precautions to be adopted before going afloat to reduce the risk
    • The need to get out of the water quickly and on top of the boat to reduce heat loss
    • The effect of water temperature, water conditions and clothing
    • Why boats turn over or get swamped, how to avoid this and action to be taken
    • The means of summoning assistance and how to plan for this

The Test

At present the test consists of (in general terms):

  • Wearing a t-shirt and shorts (as a minimum)
  • 45m swimming (any stroke)
  • Surface dive for 5m. You must have your full body submerged for the full length.
  • Tread water for 2minutes. When treading water you are expected to have your full head above the water and have your airways open.

This is in-line with the requirements of British Rowing and all have real-world practical reasons for their inclusion. All testing is carried out by qualified personnel.

Next Sessions

Please check the front page diary for up-to-date details of swim tests. However, swim tests for MT11 have been scheduled for:

  • 0930-1130 , Thursday 0th Week
  • 1400-1900, Sunday 1st Week
  • 1700-2200, Wednesday 1st Week
  • 1400-1900, Sunday 2nd Week

Archive of Past Test Statistics

Michaelmas Term 2010

4 swim-test sessions were run and two capsize drill sessions totalling 21 hours of pool time. 

1654 persons took swim tests. There was an 8% failure rate.

Hilary Term 2011

112 people took swim tests over two sessions in Hilary Term. 

Trinity Term 2011

205 people took swim tests over two sessions in Trinity Term. There was a 5% failure rate.