|How Best to Depart the Start |
by John Walker
The most nervous time for any crew is usually at the start. The better prepared the coxswain is, the less stressful it will be for the crew. This should help the crew race to its full potential.
First, bring a watch. Nothing (other than the weight you need to carry) is more important than knowing the current time and the time of your race. Also, make sure you know your event number.
Be aware of the traffic patterns and warm-up restrictions as you head to the start. These may be different from the day before or the last time you raced at the course. You don’t want your crew to get a warning because you went the wrong direction in the staging area. If you are given instructions by a marshal that violate the traffic pattern, ask for the marshal’s name in case there is some confusion about who gave you those instructions.
The starter will usually call out your event number, the crews in the event, and the time remaining before the start of the race. Listen for those announcements. Remember, you must be locked onto the start platform before the starter calls “Two Minutes.” While you should wait for the other crews to pull into the start area in order of lane assignment, that is no excuse for not being in position at the required time. Once you are locked onto the start platform or stake boat, get the boat properly pointed down the racecourse before your rowers remove any warm-up gear that they are wearing.
Coxswain, it is your responsibility to keep your bow pointing down the racecourse during the starting procedures. If you start to drift off your point, scull the bow back into position. Do not have the bow or two seat row, because that will pull your bow out of alignment. Practice sculling the bow around before you get to the regatta. Waiting until race day to learn this skill will add to the nervousness of the team and particularly the rowers involved in the process.
Once polling of the crews has begun, if you are not ready, have your bow person raise his or her hand and wave slightly. That little hand movement will help the starter see that you are not ready. If you have a hand in the air, the starter will expect to see that you are doing something to correct the problem.
When the start command is given, don’t start if your boat will risk colliding with another crew in the first few strokes. One crew sitting while all other boats are racing will attract the official’s attention. The race will be stopped and everyone brought back. Just make sure before you launch that the races are being run under USRowing rules and by USRowing officials. A dual race being run with the host team’s coaches as the starter may not follow our Rules of Rowing, so ask before you get to the start.
The rowers constantly practice their rowing technique to prepare for race day. As the coxswain, you need to practice your race day skills before you get to the start line.