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How To: Deal with an Incident

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The Isis is a busy place - minor scrapes and bumps often occur. However, sometimes more serious collisions happen. As a matter of consideration and responsibility for your crew, your friends, or strangers in other boats, you should know what to do in case the worst does happen.

Disclaimer: The information and steps below are advisory and in very general terms. In a real-life situation there is no substitute for being at the scene and in the position of the parties. It is the aim of OURCs to provide the information below as things to consider and possible courses of action for each of the parties. It is by no means a comprehensive list of possible courses of action, and contrary action may be required in extreme or improbable circumstances.

Key Points

  • Avoidance. Make sure all parties are aware of the danger.
  • Momentum hurts. If a collision is likely, reduce your speed.
  • Remain in control of your crew - if you panic, so will they.
  • Check your crew are unhurt. If you need to summon help, know how to do this as fast as possible.
  • Know where to land.
  • Afterwards, file an incident report.


Imminent Glancing Blow

In the case that two crews are at risk of clashing blades:

  • Shout "HEAD EIGHT" (short for 'ahead') to attract the other crew's attention.
  • Get one side of your crew to hold it up ("bow side hold it HARD"), such that you swing away from their blades. Get them to lean towards that same side.
  • If this still doesn't avoid a collision, get the not-held-up side to draw their blades in, and keep leaning in order that you don't capsize.
  • If there is blade-on-blade clashing, check that none of your crew are injured, concussed, or have been catapulted out of the boat. If someone has been injured, you need to take action.
  • If a collision did occur, file an incident report.

Imminent Head-On Collision

If two crews are at risk of shell-on-blade or shell-on-shell collision:

  • Shout "HEAD EIGHT" (or 'four' etc.) to attract the other crew's attention.
  • Get all eight rowers to hold it up (yelling "HOLD IT HARD"). If your crew is at, or slows to a standstill, get as many people (preferably all eight) to back it down as fast as possible. The smaller the speed differential, the less severe the crash. Backing it down might be the difference between a bent rigger and a shattered canvas.
  • If a collision is imminent, get the appropriate rowers to draw their blades in all the way, so the other crew does not get whacked in the back. Lie down if at all possible (including you the coxswain if there's a blade coming your way.)
  • If there is a collision, check that people in both crews are okay. Injuries to the head, neck and back are all possible. If someone is injured, take action.
  • If the two boats have become entangled, try and separate them. If they cannot be easily separated, you will need to head to the nearest pontoon:
    • Get your coach to seek a throwline.
    • Around the entanglement zone, get both crews to hold on to each other's oars, to minimise the stresses on the boats.
    • Arrange a suitable rowing arrangement with both crews to make the best safe progress to the next pontoon.
    • Don't forget to scratch on if you need to move perpendicular to your boats.
  • Afterwards, even if it was just a near-miss, file an incident report.

In the Case of Capsize


Please be concerned with:

  • Cold shock
  • Dry drowning
  • Hypothermia
  • Post-rescue collapse
  • Swim failure

Staying with the boat should be emphasised to all members.

For more information about the information we expect members to have and the procedures to follow please refer to our capsize section or RowSafe 1.8 and 1.9

If Someone is Thrown Overboard

Please see the comments above about assessing the situation and the dangers of being in cold water. It may be possible to have them re-enter the boat while the remaining crew keep the boat balanced. Please do not risk capsizing to do this and so this should not be attempted with a novice crew. The thrown member should still stay with the boat and use it as a life raft unless injury dictates otherwise. 


On the Isis and all of the Thames we have the additional danger of weirs. These are designed to regulate water flow and level and are operated by the Environment Agency. However, they represent a serious hazard. People might find it useful to visit them at one of the locks or weirs to understand the dangers and huge forces involved. Weirs are to be avoided completely when in the water. Iffley Lock includes a paddle & rymer, 6 small buck sluices, a larger sluice in the old lock, the current lock and boat rollers. Should one be faced with being drawn downstream towards them, the rollers are the safest (first on the right) place to exit the water. There are also steps near the lock and in the boat moorings. There are also a further 5 small buck gates are on the stream under longbridges that connects to the Hinksey Stream. These can generate a noticeable draw under the two bridges. 

If Someone is Injured

You should be aware of your club's emergency plans and procedures. If you need to call an ambulance, you should weigh up where you need to land - the CORC landing stage or Falcon is much easier to reach for a vehicle, but failing this Christ Church meadows also have vehicular access. Longbridges and the County towpath between Longbridges boathouse and Donnington Bridge has vehicular access with the appropriate key. During OURCs events, this key will be available at race desk. If the casualty is likely to have neck or back injuries, take extra care if they need to be moved.

More information can be found in Rowsafe 5.2.