Cold Case: Coxswain Rivalries

By Sparks Editorial Staff | August 31, 2013

This is a case so cold that plenty of coxswains have given up trying to crack it. Instead, they resign themselves to a sad, sad assumption: the coxswains at their club just can't, and won't ever, get along.

The crimes are recurring ones, with reports popping up all over the world:

Coxswains fight over who is going to dock first at the end of practice, and the situation becomes dangerous as they cut each other off.

Coxswains refuse to yield to each other around turns, creating major crashes that trap other boats headed their way down the course.

Coxswains are supposed to start a race piece next to each other, but they keep inching up on each other, each one trying to get an edge at the start, until both of them are 500 meters downriver of where they were supposed to begin.

One coxswain tries to communicate with another one, but the second one completely ignores the first one.

Here at the CBI (Coxswain Bureau of Investigation), we have seen some even more extreme crime reports:

Coxswains who unplug each other's boxes so that they are not charged the next day.

Coxswains who insult other coxswains when talking to the rowers off the water.

Why does this stuff happen?

When we ask coxswains why coxswains undercut each other, they explain that they are competing for boats with the other coxswains.

That is a clue to the answer, but it's not the answer.

Let's break this down.

1. The coxswain wants to be placed in a certain boat, and multiple coxswains are competing for that boat. Okay.

2. In order to get that boat, a coxswain has to demonstrate that he/she makes it go faster than the other coxswains do.

3. To prove that she makes the boat go faster than the other coxswains, she cuts off other coxswains, refuses to communicate with other coxswains, and insults other coxswains in front of the rowers. After all, in order to win a race, a coxswain will need to do all of those things.

Wait. No, that's not right. Actually, none of those things are involved in winning a race.

There must be something else going on here.

We need some more clues.

I got my next clue while interviewing some victims: coxswains who had found themselves in situations where they could not cooperate with another coxswain, no matter how hard they tried.

Hmmm. Interesting.

We talked about times when they called out to another coxswain and that coxswain did not respond. We talked about times when they were in one of two boats that inched up on each other at the starting line. We talked about the poisonous personalities of other coxswains at their boathouses, and how they could never, ever reconcile with those unreasonable brats.

When another coxswain behaves badly, it seems, we feel the need to react to that. And as these coxswains discussed how to react, an important clue fell into place. Reaction. That's just it.

When coxswains react, they exacerbate the very crimes committed against them - and then those crimes happen again, and again, and again.

So here's the new question: what does a coxswain do, instead of react, to defend herself against these crimes?