Coxswains: steering an eight without good bow points

By Sparks Editorial Staff | April 13, 2013

Coxswains Steer Straight by Using a Point

A point is an object directly ahead of the boat that you aim at to keep the boat going in a straight line. In theory, this strategy works. There is a problem, though: The eight is a stern-coxed boat. You sit behind a line of eight six-foot-tall rowers, and you cannot see what is directly ahead of you. Your point has to be big enough or high enough to see around the line of rowers. This narrows the options to tall, standalone trees and buildings. Often, there just aren’t a lot of points like that.

As a Coxswain, You Have Two Options

Option 1: Pick something as your point, aim at that thing by putting it behind your rowers (where you cannot see it), and remember that, if you can see your point, you are not pointed correctly.

This is not ideal because you cannot tell when you are about to lose your point. On a point that you can see, you notice when you start to drift away from it before you have actually lost your point. You can’t do that with this mediocre method, so you have to use more drastic steering in exchange for noticing the drift later. In a regular practice, this might not matter. In a tight 2k race, though, it’s not worth it.

Option 2:The better option. Aim at something, but do not aim at it with your bowball. Instead of putting your target in your blind spot, aim at your target with your bow seat’s blade. Every time your bow seat catches (he has to be at the same part of the stroke each time you check your target, and the catch is an easy part to use), you check that your target is still right in front of, above, or to the side of your bow seat’s blade.

Targets in this area do not fall in your blind spot, so you can aim for smaller targets, increasing your choice of targets on the horizon. Also, because the bow seat’s blade is at the edge of the boat and not the middle, you can steer by gauging your distance from stationary objects along the sides of the boat as well as out front.

For example, you can use a buoy line to steer down a course. Sprint race courses are not known for their plethora of objects to use as points in an eight, but the buoy lines are relatively straight. You can steer a straight line by keeping bow seat’s blade the same distance from the buoy line on his side all the way down the course. Added bonuses: you can simultaneously watch your steering and your competition without glancing back and forth, and since you’re not watching the other buoy line as much, you don’t get worried about the narrowness of the lane.

You’re still pointing at things; you’re just not trying to shove targets into your blind spot.

- Chelsea Dommert