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Coxing Competencies

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This page attempts to summarise the basic competencies that you, as a cox, should be able to demonstrate, as you progress from a complete novice cox to one who wishes to be upgraded to experienced (X) status. The competencies below try to be as prescriptive as possible, but no amount of reading is a valid substitute for getting out there and learning by being in a boat.

This document is currently in its first draft - anyone who feels that this misses out a salient skill is encouraged to email and help make this resource better.

The material below is split up in to six areas; each area is divided into two sub-sections - "Minimum standards" and "Going beyond". It is expected that a cox that has just been promoted to X status is fully able to demonstrate all "Minimum standard" competencies, and is aiming at fulfilling a few of the "Going beyond" competencies. Accompanying each section is a "more information" spoiler box, which aims to expand on a point if required, in order that the main list is kept as concise as possible. Any point that leads on to the spoiler box is appended with a bracketed number

 1. Boat transportation

Minimum standards

  • Fully and independently command a boat off its rack, and on to the pontoon; and vice versa
  • Ensure that a crew can swiftly and safely get in the boat
  • Show awareness of other crews who may also wish to use the pontoon by "walking" the boat up/downstream (1)
  • Be able to spin a boat around, taking care of both ends and ensuring that no passers-by are endangered

Going beyond

  • Understand the differences and the difficulties for rowers to carry the boat at different heights
  • Be able to rack a boat on trestles, understanding where the pressure points are
  • Modify racking procedures for rowers of different experience, gender and strength (2)
More information:

(1) At congested pontoons, especially Longbridges, it may be the case that 2 or more boats wish to put the boat out at the same time. If this is the case, you should liaise with the other coxswain; one boat puts the boat down, and bow/stern 4 immediately get in. The boat is then walked downstream, to allow the other crew to get their boat in. A similar process should be followed for multiple boats wishing to land, and ensures that as many crews can boat/dock as possible in a given time.

(2) A crew of women, or novices of either gender, will find it very difficult to rock a boat straight up to heads - unless they know how to correctly do it. In this case, you should get them to lift it out of the water, and rock "on three". You should make similar provisions if a rack is especially high or low for a crew.

 2. Basic commands and control

Minimum standards

  • Confidently and unambiguously start and stop a boat
  • Be able to hold up a boat hard
  • Be able to steer a boat without either under- or over-steering
  • Be able to control the speed and rate of your vessel, and subset of rowers taking strokes
  • Instruct rowers to take taps or back down to make small adustment to your boat's direction when stationary
  • Understand navigation rules, and to tuck in to the correct side of the bank where appropriate
  • Remain in control of your craft, even at race pressure

Going beyond

  • Gain an appreciation of how to account for poorer river conditions, such as high wind and high stream (3)
  • Through efficient use of rowers holding it up, negate the need to reposition the boat when stationary (4)
More information:

(3) See this HowTo guide

(4) This involves clever use of using two rowers on one side to hold up a boat and swing the bow or stern through a larger arc of displacement.

 3. Rowing acumen

Minimum standards

  • Be able to name the various sections of the Isis, and understand rules that apply to each section
  • Be able to judge to a decent standard, distances between boats using scales of metres and boat lengths
  • Gain a solid appreciation of the capabilities of your boat, including its dimensions and stopping ability - the latter of which is dependent upon the crew
  • Know where your bow ball is relative to other objects on the river, even though you can't see it
  • Learn, as second nature, how to know what is in front of you, in your blind spot, and through your stroke, what's behind you
  • To be able to pre-empt potential hazards and take action early (5)

Going beyond

  • Know the basics of how to disassemble, re-assemble and re-rig a boat
  • Be able to accurately judge distances during races, both side-by-side and bumps
More information:

(5) This includes modifying your speed going in to the Gut if the crew in front is slower; it also includes the rather more vague "sixth sense" of knowing that a crew around you is going to take an unexpected action.

 4. Boat manoeuvres

Minimum standards

  • Know how to safely undertake the following manoeuvres:
    • Pushing off
    • Landing unaided (6)
    • Spinning at the head
    • Spinning at Longbridges
    • Spinning at Haystacks
    • Navigating the Gut
    • Overtaking protocols
    • Stopping near the Head to be coached

Going beyond

  • Teach your crew how to "scratch on"
  • Know how to navigate a lock
  • Know how to spin an empty shell on water, if applicable
  • Be able to land a boat elegantly at higher speeds
More information:

(6) For N -> X, we stipulate that a cox can land a boat with nobody pulling in the oar. The landing does not have to be elegant, merely that it is at an appropriate speed and safe.

 5. Coaching and drills

Minimum standards

  • Liaise with the bankrider to get the most out of your outing
  • Understand a decent amount of rowing terminology and jargon
  • Be able to determine basic flaws in your crew's bladework

Going beyond

  • Gain a repertoire of coxing drills
  • Pick up on more subtle flaws in bladework, and suggest exercises to remedy them
More information:


 6. OURCs Events

Minimum standards

  • Know which rules change during events
  • Understand the circulation pattern during IWL and Bumps races
  • Know how to safely bump crews and to subsequently move out of the racing line
  • Know how to spin on to a bungline
  • Gain an appreciation of how races are marshalled and umpired, and to follow marshals' instructions

Going beyond

  • Be able to adhere to the racing line
  • Know how to get the most out of your crew
More information: