Steering the San Diego Crew Classic

By Laura Simon | March 1, 2015

One of the toughest races to cox is the 2K course at San Diego Crew Classic. The wind and tide of Mission Bay make it a particularly challenging course, and coxswains visiting for the first time should be prepared.  In this article, I'll review the challenges and offer some tips on how to manage the race.

Racing at SDCC gets really challenging when the winds pick up. The prevailing winds tend to come in from the ocean and make their way to the racecourse from the southwest. If the winds are up, then coxswains will need to be prepared to contend with them at the 500 and 1250 meter mark. Learning to read the water for wind patterns is an essential part of handling the conditions and steering a straight course.

When practicing on the course, take some notes. How does the boat react to the wind? How far does the bow swing in different degrees of wind? How much does the wind affect the boat at different speeds?

As the wind builds strength over the water, it changes the color of the water. Typically the darker the water, the stronger the wind. Note the coloration of the water on different parts of the course and be able to react quickly. Let the crew know there about to hit the windy spot.

If you can anticipate the wind and inform the crew while racing, that removes the element of surprise. Your ability to provide the rowers with the appropriate warning helps to manage the situation. When coxswains get really good at making these calls, they can predict which stroke the wind will start affecting the boat. This is an invaluable skill.

Depending on the severity of the wind, you can make slight adjustments of the rudder to larger moves like hugging the port buoy line in anticipation of a strong gust.

If you get the chance to paddle the course when the wind is up, pay close attention to the wind and water patterns at the 500 and 1250 meter marks. At around 500m there is a bridge and opening that funnels the wind onto the course. At 1250m there is another opening that can have the same effect. The wind will come across your port as you're racing towards the finish. Also be aware of how choppy the water is, especially in the first 500m or so. Choppy conditions and a stiff wind can play havoc on steering!

Lastly, the lanes furtherest away from the portside shore can be impacted the greatest by the wind, as the shore partially shields the near lanes. Be ready for anything and make the right move at the right time!

When you get to Crew Classic, be sure to row down the course and note the winds and the water. San Diego Crew Classic takes place March 28-29 this year. Also be sure to study the course map.

Sparks Consulting will be at the SDCC providing both a Crews to College presentation, a Coxswain Clinic and One-on-One Coxswain Coaching/College Counseling. I look forward to hearing reflections from coxswains who get the opportunity to brush up on their weather prediction skills in person or via Twitter @USJNTCoxCoach!

Until then, happy steering!

- Laura Simon