013 | Landing
Welcome to CoxPod - a podcast for coxswains. I’m Breana, I’m Sally, and I’m Anne. We're three coxswains with over 50 years of experience in the seat. We’ve decided to share our knowledge with coxswains everywhere via this podcast and ultimately we hope to create a community among our audience where coxswains can learn from each other.
ANNE: Today's episode is going to be about landing. Now I have to share with you that even just saying the word ‘landing’ … thinking about landing … kind of scares me. I often have nightmares as a coxswain about landing and I am not comfortable with the topic at all. But no matter what, we're still going to dive into it. So we look forward to feedback about this episode and our other episodes from you - our listeners. As we talk about landing, some people will say, “Well, I don't have a dock so what do I do?”. What we're going to do is suggest that you listen to our previous podcast on beach launching and landing which is also known as wet launching. There's a whole episode about that and we'd love to have your feedback on that as well. So if you don't have a dock – well, in some ways as far as landing goes, you have a little easier time of it sometimes. So let's dive right in.
SALLY: One of the most important things about landing is - you must always respect mass. The water is a fluid and absorbing medium and you're trying to place a (if you're in an eight or four … a seventy foot or a forty foot vessel) in a fluid reactive medium and you're trying to affix it to a large, solid object. The boat is moving and it's reacting to people moving their oars and batting their eyelids and tilting their head back and forth. It's a greater trick than people appreciate.
BREANA: And at the outset here, I’ll share a piece of wisdom from Sally that has stuck with me for years and really comforts me as I think about approaching the docking situation - which you may also find helpful. And that reminder is that we - as coxswains - only get to practice docking one time every practice … at most a couple times if we're rotating through rowers who are on land or something like that. But the rowers, by contrast, get to take thousands of strokes every practice. And the other challenging thing about docking - the one shot that we get at it every practice or every race - is that the results of that process are in part dependent on the actions of others. You know, a rower can do their best internally to take the best stroke every time and gets a chance seconds later to improve their attempt whereas we don't have that opportunity. And many other people's actions (in the boat as Sally was just describing) can also affect that process. So it is challenging. If you similarly feel like it's an area of stress and difficulty for you, we can absolutely relate. So hopefully this discussion that we have together here helps all of us feel a little more confident. So one thing to think about as we start to get into the nuts and bolts of docking here, is the first step (as we would always advise) of evaluating the situation before you end up in the situation. So thinking about various factors and conditions and things that we need to evaluate related to our crews and also to the environment. Of course this is where all the conditions that we may encounter on our bodies of water are going to come into play. So we kind of think of this as docking pre-work where you are preparing for the conclusion of your water time. And we'll kick it off by describing together here some considerations that we should be thinking about as we end up in that situation.
ANNE: I think that's a great idea to take a look at those factors and considerations, Breana, because as you point out, the moment you arrive for the practice, you're in the process of evaluating numerous factors and some of those play heavily into the landing activity that we are responsible for. One of the things that I always have to think about carefully - and it reveals itself during the row - is how skilled or novice the crew that I’m with is. So I know them? Do I know how they behave? Do I know how quickly they respond, for example? Or is this a brand new group to me and I am trying to assess their reliability and their responsiveness. It really makes a big difference in how I approach the landing … how my crew is responding on that particular day. Are they nervous about something? Have they been really exhausted by the time they get back to the dock … that they are worn out and they are doing nothing but thinking about stopping and maybe even getting into their cars and running off to work? Or they're making their lists in their head about what they're going to do that day. But really understanding who my crew is - how they're going to respond - informs some of the approach I take to landing. What about you all?
SALLY: What I do is I keep in mind that Karl Marx mantra which is – ‘From each according to their ability. To each according to their needs’. So I evaluate. A novice crew is going to be much slower to respond. It's going to need information in much greater detail in order to perform the actions I need them to do to dock safely, whereas a more experienced crew is going to be needing a much more succinct command … is going to need a much sharper tone to help them feel that I am in control of the situation. Because nothing is worse than having a veteran rower try to take over in the middle of a docking situation - suddenly you have two voices in the boat giving complex commands. Really, it's evaluating the crew. It's understanding what do they need. The novices are going to need, “Bow seat, I need you, too”. And you might even have to go, “Put your hands on the blade, extend your arms out, put the blade in the water and push with your legs”. Whereas I could ask an experienced crew bow seat, “Hit it”. And evaluating that prior to approaching the dock is going to be critical.
BREANA: Yeah, I'd add that - on the subject of knowing your rowers and I think it's a brilliant tip you had, Anne, to learn them as the practice goes on - especially if it's a new group to you, you can start to assess this. And if it's a crew you've worked with for a while, you may know those individuals. And this is one of the things that is useful when people say (you know) you should get to know your rowers … not only should you get to know what motivates them and the typical things that people mean when they say that, but you should also know that when you say, “Tap it” or “Hit it”. you could have various individuals in bow seat for whom “Tap it” means: this is a chance for me to show off … take a huge stroke - and other people who know okay, this is a timid little stroke to adjust the bow. I found myself in situations where the language I use depends on who is in that seat and how they're going to interpret a word like “Tap it”.
ANNE: I’m so glad that both of you brought up this topic about understanding the rowers and I want to also say that most people are trying to be helpful. Most of the rowers who insert themselves into the landing process - their motivations are absolutely genuine. They are trying to assist and I don't think that until we have that conversation, most of them realize it has the opposite effect. There's only one person that can do this landing and that's the coxswain who's in the boat. This is no time for other conversations to be taking place. But again, people are just trying to help and to recognize that sometimes helps take the tension out of it. It is really, really important that you understand the time frame about getting in. Understanding that you need to get in so that your rowers are not highly anxious and late for work. I cox for master’s crews almost exclusively and I’m in that same boat. I have to get out and to work and I’m already starting to have that mind shift as I’m approaching the dock. So it takes effort to keep your crew mentally in the boat and understanding that the practice is not over until that boat is in the rack back at the boathouse (or wherever you rack your boat). So just keep that tone of voice that keeps them engaged. I think that's very helpful for our rowers who are (again) trying to get off to work or school or wherever they're headed.
SALLY: I agree with Anne. One of the ways that you as a coxswain can build up credibility and trust is if you respect the end time. You have factored in that that boat needs to be in the dock no later than 7:12. For the rowers to put the boat away … to wash the boat … to run in … you need to pay attention to the timing. You need to pay attention to your positioning on the body of water so that you can turn that boat and be in (or in the queue) so that you have landed that boat no later than whatever the agreed upon time is. Rowers are going to be anxious about things they cannot control. But if you can (over time) convince them that you have this in their best interest and that you are aware of it, they're going to be able to relax a little bit and cede some of the control over to you because they're going to know that you Anne - or that you, Breana - are going to do everything in their power to have that boat on the dock at the assigned time.
BREANA: This is such a great point. I’ve … I guess … made myself the enemy (so to speak) willingly when I remember many times in college, a rower would come to me and say, “I have an 8 a.m. exam and I’m showing up to class late pretty much every day because of practice. Today I cannot afford to”. Our coach would say, “Hey, we're going to do one more piece in this direction” and I would say (on behalf of that rower in the boat who isn't mic’d and you know doesn't have the agency maybe), I would say, “Today we can't. We need to turn now” because I know that we're not going to make it back to the dock in time.
ANNE: Right, right. And let's move on to some other factors … some considerations … that might have an impact on our landing. And I’m going to jump in with environmental aspects. So for example, rain. Fog. All the other things that (kind of) make me a little more concerned as I’m approaching a dock. What about you guys?
SALLY: When you're trying to land and the rowers are getting rained on, it's not like when they're getting rained on and they're actively rowing and their heart is pumping and they're staying warm. They're cooling down. So not only are they going to be distracted by the sensation of all the raindrops hitting them, they're like, ‘Where's my jacket? Do I need to put a towel in my car when I get in today?’. Rain also provides an auditorial distraction, too. Because it's raining, it's going to muffle the mic. It might short the mic. It might short the speakers. So your commands that were crisp and clean earlier in the day might become muffled or garbled if it starts raining just as you're landing. That's the worst. It's so hard to get your rowers to pay attention and not grab for their jackets or let go of their oar. So I’m with you. Anne.
BREANA: Other conditions to consider - of course, the ones that are probably the most salient in our minds are: current and wind conditions that will have a substantial impact on how your hull is physically moving. Again, you had a great way of framing this at the outset, Sally. Which is that you are on this very low friction medium and you are now sidling up to a completely fixed object. And things that can interfere with that process are the current of your body of water … if it has one. And I have coxed on many bodies of water where that changes day to day, week to week, within the course of a day. So there are a lot of considerations there and fortunately, that and wind - both of those are things you can perceive as part of this pre-work. So current on the various rivers I rowed on … you can tell as soon as you get there that morning (you know) what it's looking like. And then when you're sitting there - especially if there's a line or even if there's not as you approach the dock - you can tell the difference between a day when stern 4 is just hauling and you're barely moving or days where there's almost no current at all and you're able to cut through the water very quickly. And so depending on that … and we'll have a discussion later about how we make these decisions … I would be adjusting who's bringing me in and how I’m approaching. So there's current that could maybe pull you away from the dock or push you into the dock in any possible direction. So maybe it's coming from the side and helping to push you in (which is an optimal situation) or with both current and wind you could have the not optimal situation of those things pushing you away from the dock and really complicating the process as you approach. So again, this is something that we'll discuss further when we talk about troubleshooting specific situations and how we would all approach those. But that's good to mention at the outset here as another element of nature and weather that could potentially affect you. I know you had some thoughts, Sally, about how wind and current differ and how they're impacting the hull… if you would share those with our listeners.
SALLY: So current is going to affect the hull itself. It's going to affect the lower part of the boat. It's going to be a little bit swifter … it's going to be a little bit more aggressive … because the boat is sitting in the current whereas the wind is going to affect the rowers. It's going to affect the jackets. It's going to push you top side. So again, as physics go - current is going to be the lower part of the boat … the keel … the hull. The wind is going to be the oars … the rowers … it's going to be pushing against or resisting what's above the water. And both things move the hull in a slightly different way. There are so many variables when you're considering docking.
ANNE: As we list out a couple of other factors to consider - these are the global considerations - before we delve into some specifics, I think that it's helpful to talk about the differences in your comfort level between when you are at your own home base (whatever that is) versus, for example, guest coxing somewhere or being out at a regatta where you don't really have a good sense of the current or you have never landed at that spot before and you're not exactly sure what's going to influence the boat. I think that absolutely affects my confidence level in docking. What about the both of you?
BREANA: For many coxswains - myself included at various points - we’ve been of the mentality that being seen asking for help in any kind of way is weakness and means that you don't know what you're doing. But if you have the opportunity in a foreign dock situation to talk to coxswains who do routinely dock on that body of water … or maybe you're doing research beforehand … or maybe you're asking a lot of questions at the coaches & coxswain's meeting if it's a regatta … those are all ways for you to feel more confident as you approach that docking situation. So if you're worried, ‘Oh if my rowers see me having a conversation with this other coxswain - asking how to dock - they're going to think I don't know how to dock’, but we know that the real strength is in getting that information for yourself. And we know that every dock is different and complicated. And if you don't know that this one little spot right before you approach the dock … the wind really hits and if you get too close you're blown into an inlet … that's a time where you might approach that dock thinking (like), ‘Look at me. I’m about to nail it’ … and then that wind comes and you look like a fool because now you're totally missing the dock. So that would be my encouragement – is: ask coxswains on that body of water - like especially in a guest coxing situation, And then if there's no one that you could talk to in that sense, doing some research … seeing what you can see on something like google maps … or if the regatta has published any kind of helpful map or information. And then also once you're there, you could at least stand there at their venue and if you're not the first race out, you could watch other coxswains’ approach and see what's happening to their boats. Or you could at least see, ‘Okay. I see there's a ton of current whipping by this dock area or the dock area is totally placid’… that kind of thing. So that would be my encouragement for handling those situations when it's not your home dock.
SALLY: To Breana’s point - it's not always just asking coxswains. Because if you're a guest cox, odds are they don't have a plethora of coxswains to ask. So if you know that your rower is occasionally swapping the coxswain's seat or scull, you're going to gain a lot of credibility if you ask and you know that six seat takes her quad out three times a week - ask six seat how she approaches in her quad. It gives voice to her and it makes her feel heard. So that discussion of, ‘Oh, this is how I dock’ doesn't happen at the moment of docking. Don't be afraid to consult your rowers because they do have a lot to bring.
ANNE: I think those are great suggestions. Thanks for detailing them and again, these are not necessarily things that you think about the minute you say the word ‘landing’. These are the broader considerations and factors and preparation that we encourage people to do prior to even getting into the boat to start with. The last general consideration that I'd like to bring up would be people helping on the dock - people on the dock who are offering, willing, sometimes they are - without being asked - trying to take control of the landing boat. Can we talk about that for just a moment?
SALLY: The important thing on the dock for me is - people can intend to be helpful but their actions can be counter-intuitive and can actually be dangerous. You always have that person on the dock … you know, the helpful parent, the significant other who picks up the oar and holds it at their waist (and by doing so they're putting my hull at a dangerous angle). You have the person that grabs the wrong set of oars and in a wind … if I’ve got a bow wind … if they grab my bow blade, suddenly my stern is free and my bow is anchored so they're pushing my stern out. So I have a visual impairment and I come into the dock a little bit more cautiously than I used to but I’ve had people who go, “Oh no, no, she'll figure out how to land”. And I’ll be yelling back, “Yep, I figured out how to land - you're going to grab my oar and pull me in”. Like “No, no, no. We want you to figure it out”. “Nope. Trust me. I have figured it out you're going to grab that oar.” That was a fun discussion. Sometimes in order to get everybody home safe, I do have to relinquish some control and that is a bit of an ego trip but it's not about me, it's about the safety of the boat. What do you guys think?
BREANA: I think you put it beautifully. As we’ve said, this is a very difficult situation with new variables every single day. So even if you're the best coxswain ever, you could be caught off guard on a particular day and it's very helpful to have someone offering you that additional support.
SALLY: If you happen to be the person on the dock and you see a situation unfolding, it's best to communicate only to the coxswain. It's very tempting to say, “Bow, hit it. Bow take a stroke”. But the coxswain might have something other planned, so you go to the coxswain, “Anne, do you see this? Anne, you might want to have bow hit it.” … and still allow the coxswain to maintain that chain of authority.
ANNE: I love that idea, Sally. And I also share that feeling that it is much more helpful for me as a coxswain to be the one that is actually making the commands unless there is an immediate danger, in which case the person on the dock - if that's what they're doing to prevent something - then I’m okay with them taking the control but only in the extreme … which we hope doesn't happen but occasionally does. I can relate to absolutely everything the both of you are saying and I wanted to add that I think one of my most challenging situations is when I am landing and there is some kind of dock master or coach on the dock, and that person is of the opinion that they are docking the boat and they start giving the commands. And especially when it's an official of some sort or someone in authority, I’ve got to say - I don't really have great answers about that. Usually I respond back, “I’ve got it” if I feel like I do, but that is a situation that I find quite unnerving, And I’m already not confident in my landing skills and so that just about is my worst situation. What about the two of you?
SALLY: Okay. Anne, I gotta stop you right now. Relax your shoulders. Take a deep breath.
ANNE: I can’t.
SALLY: Unclench your fists. I see your body language right now. Deep breaths man, deep breaths.
ANNE: Okay, I’ll try. Help me out team.
SALLY: It gets hard, right, because rowers are conditioned to follow orders without question and they hear somebody with a megaphone and they automatically assume it's an authority figure. In situations like that you want to be respectful to the officials and you want to respect the coaches because there might be a situation developing that they can see that you are unaware of. But at the end of the day, you are still ultimately responsible. You want to hear what they say. Don't just shut it down. That's where your ego can get in the way. But you need to calmly restate to your rowers, “All right. There's somebody on the dock telling you to do this. Remember, I need you to listen to only my voice”. The calmer you can say that the more apt you are to get responses because we’ve all been there. There have been people hopping up and down the dock screaming things, but the truth of the matter is you are still in control and you need to remind the rowers that the only voice they're listening to is yours.
BREANA: Yeah, I similarly find these situations. I would describe it as a situation of presumed incompetence (sometimes) which can be a little offensive. And at a regatta , maybe they just brought in the novice eights and this dock master has seen it all and they see a coxswain not moving and they observe that situation and think, ‘I need to take over here’ when you know that you've been coxing for 10 years and you don't need that kind of support and you're handling it, but they can't really tell the difference. So that is something that I try to tell myself … is that even though this feels like a violation in some ways - especially when it isn't warranted by some kind of emergency - it comforts me to know that they don't know me. They haven't seen any demonstrations of my competence (this person who's taking over). Further - kind of related to what you were saying, Sally - I’ve sometimes handled this by supplementing what the individual has said. So maybe I see that they're about to pull us into a hull overlap situation - and some very busy regattas with small docks, you got to do what you got to do - but I don't feel safe at the pace that they're asking me to come in. So they're like, “Let's go, let's go, let's go, get on the dock. I need your stern pair rowing and I need your turn four rowing”. And I might say, “Okay stern four - I want them to see us rowing but I want you rowing the lightest strokes you've ever rowed because I don't feel confident barreling in right now” when I see another boat in my spot who has not launched. So I have responded to the request of this person, but in a way that I’m still handling the situation to what I feel is safe and comfortable, because if that bow slams into something else, that's my responsibility (you know) at the end of the day.
SALLY: Let's eliminate variables and in a perfect scenario, how would each of you like to dock?
BREANA: Well, I can share that my most recent experiences have been on a dock where there's a current that runs parallel to the dock and pulls you away typically. That's the situation I was alluding to earlier - where I have to make a decision about how many people are going to bring me in. So let's just assume it's an eight here. Bow loaders are a blessing when it comes to landing. So I would use what I’m observing that day about the flow of the river to assess what kind of power I’m going to need coming in and again, knowing my rowers. So if this is the (you know) second or third eight and stern pair has great technique but aren't the strongest, maybe I need stern pair and five and six that day if there's a lot of current - that kind of thing. So I like to approach with stern rowers myself, and I kind of sequentially slow the process down so that by the time I arrive, I’m just very lightly coasting in. I’ll take my stern four - and maybe I’m already down to stern pair - and then I drop stern pair down even further … so I’m dropping them down to arms and body next and then ultimately arms only. So coming in one pair - arms only in an eight or four, you're not moving that fast - so that gives you time to make a safe approach and time to react if things do change. In addition to that, the other kind of aspect of how I’m approaching (in considering wind and current and all these things), is that I’m actually pointed towards the dock slightly. Not that I’m gonna ride up on it … and it takes time to get this angle mastered … and I can't claim I’ve mastered it, but the more time you spend in the boat and the more outings you get because again it's one dock per outing - then the more experience you'll get with these things. So I’m approaching at an angle such that I know - when I ask the rowers to lean away - we will swing parallel to the dock. That's the goal. So that's the approach I take. I like to take it slow so that there's minimal room for error, personally.
SALLY: So Breana, why do you use stern pair versus bow pair?
BREANA: One reason I think is probably habit - out of being taught that way. What I would justify it with now is to say that I like to have control as long as possible. In my mind if I’m using someone in the bow, by the time we reach the dock, those people's blades aren't working anymore. Maybe we’ve got bow's blade touching the dock but we missed and now we're not able to use them … assuming we're coming up to a dock on starboard side. So for me that's what I like to do so that stern pair can take strokes the entire way through the process and can continually adjust for me. I’ll use people on the port side (again, approaching a starboard sided dock) here - to pull me farther away. So I’ll have them hold and swing me away if the body lean isn't going to be enough and they can do that at any point. But eventually the starboard people's blades start to be on the dock … not in a place where they could take a stroke. So that's the reasoning for that for me, personally. But I know we have some different approaches here which is awesome. So do you guys want to share yours?
ANNE: Yeah, I’ll pipe in here. Unlike Breana, I have a home course that's on a lake so I do not (on a routine basis) have to consider current. Other factors, yes, but not current. And so while I have used the exact approach to docking and landing that Breana just described, I often opt for what I call the ‘front wheel drive control’. So what I will do (similar to Breana) … I will gradually drop down to just two rowers and as we approach the dock slowly and cautiously, they will eventually end up with arms only … just kind of pulling it along. But it is bow pair that I generally use to bring me into the dock. And let's talk about (again, the dock is on the starboard side) so as we're coming in, I will go down to bow pair just arms only eventually. I then have people lean away and yes, they're taken out of the mix. Meanwhile I have said to stern pair, “Stay ready. I may need you” so that they're not taking a nap - they are ready and prepared to help with any adjustments that need to be made. And sometimes they are needed, but I prefer when I can to have the bow in motion because that bow is the thing that's going to hit the dock if it's going to hit the dock and I want to have maximum control at that end of the boat. But we have different ways of doing that. So let's hear from Sally.
SALLY: I think Anne's way of using front-wheel drive is incredibly innovative and honestly, it wouldn't have occurred to me, and I think Breana - your tactical way of approaching the dock is brilliant. In a perfect, happy, ideal world - where the sun is shining, it's 85 degrees, we’ve got a quartering crosswind blowing slightly on the starboard side of the boat, the dock is on my starboard side, I come in all eight … if I have a crew that trusts me.
ANNE: Sally - you saw my jaw drop. But our listeners - our fearless listeners - I hope a few of their jaws just dropped. Sorry to interrupt you. Okay, carry on.
SALLY: I said in a perfect world, right? So prior to landing, I take a moment. I collect my rowers and I go, “Okay. This is what we're gonna do. We're gonna come in fast. We're gonna come in hard because we're going to be countering the wind. When I tell you to drop out, do not look at the dock. It is a flat, floating piece of wood. It's very boring. Nobody would have it hanging on their wall in their living room. Don't look at it. You've seen it before. Don't look at it … it's tempting … don't look at it. And when I tell you to (and you're still not looking at it), I want you guys to lean to the port side. Does everybody know where the port side is?” And I have them literally raise their port side hand. “Okay so this is what we're gonna do” (and I reinforce the fact). “If you guys listen to me, we're gonna be awesome. If you guys look at the dock … if any one of you blinks when I tell you not to blink … we're gonna screw this up”. Then I start in and if I have to (and I’m not trusting things), I’ll have bow pair … bow four drop out … but don't lean away yet. Ideally if I can get to about a 20 degree angle with (I would say) about 15 feet away from the dock, that's when I would have, “Okay. Let's weigh’nuff”. And then usually I wait a beat, and then, “Lean toward port” and that will pivot us in. Worst case scenario if you have to have your stroke check it down, you can't just have your stroke check it because otherwise the oar comes flying back … hits him or her or them in the chest and they come flying out of their foot stretchers. It doesn't work. You have to gradually have them check it - then hold - to slow the boat down. But you can pivot on the stern and what happens is, the bow is gonna swing and pivot to the direction that you're leaning. So that will help get me in fast. But yeah, I like to come in all eight.
ANNE: Wow. I was starting to relax a little bit and now I’m tense again. While Sally …
SALLY: You asked me … in a perfect world well.
BREANA: For any audacious listeners who want to attempt that, now you have the template.
ANNE: And one of the beautiful things about this podcast is that you're going to hear multiple ways of approaching the same situation … and that just unfolded in front of us. And I think that it will be really fun and illuminating to hear from our listeners because, as we have three different ways of doing things based on where we're rowing out of, we know that you all have experiences of different locations, different ways of approaching, and getting that boat in safely. I personally am going to throw it out there that I would love to hear what those approaches are now that we're really talking about the nuts and bolts of how you actually get that boat in safely. More safety things. As we're leaning away and we're coming into the dock - let's say the dock is on starboard side - many times rowers will want to put their hands out. I’ll want to put my hands out. That can be very dangerous … in particular, I find when you have a dock that's full of nails or splinters all over the place … I mean I can't tell you how many times I have specifically said to my rowers, “You have to know that this dock is full of splinters. Do not put your hands out. I will take care of getting out of the boat and pulling the boat in … stopping it … whatever”. So always make sure that you have kept in mind the condition of the dock that you're landing at - it makes a lot of difference. What do you all think about the actual connecting that moving item with that non-moving item?
SALLY: One of the things you need to consider again is: always respect mass. At the wrong angle … at the wrong point … it really only takes about 10 pounds to break a human bone. And if you are trying to stop an 1800 pound thing with your teeny, tiny, little fingers what's going to win? And it's not going to be your finger. Even if you are on the dock, do not - do not try to catch the bow ball of a rogue eight with your hand. Drop to your bottom and kick it away. I have seen bow balls go through people's hands. I have seen people grab onto riggers to try to help and snap their wrist. Just please, please respect mass. In the heat of the moment, it is really easy to think, ‘I’m gonna save the day’ or ‘They need help and I can do this’. Grabbing on to things with your hands - it's dangerous.
BREANA: Yep. Rest in peace to the thumb of my novice coach who tried to save a boat that was coming in too hot. You guys have such great points here. I’m just not willing to sacrifice my body. I would rather let something hit than me try to stick my hand in there and prevent a full eight of people (or whatever boat) coming in hotter than I think I can prevent with the strength of a single arm. So it's another one of those moments that is kind of a scary and disturbing thing to talk, about but these things happen and we’ve all seen these things happen in our careers. So it's worth reflecting on. And hopefully you have the agency - sitting in the coxswain seat - to prevent that situation before it happens.
SALLY: Ideally you are trying to get your rowers and the equipment in safely. At the end of the day, it's okay to sacrifice equipment. It's okay to ding equipment. You do everything you can not to, but equipment can be repaired … equipment can be replaced … people can't be. If you run the bow ball up on the dock because you came in too hot or you puncture the hull because of an errant nail, it's bad. It's not great but it's okay. We’ve all done it. We’ve all been there and if anybody needs to (like) talk it through - trust me, I have broken my share of boats. So when it happens - and it will happen to all of us - take a deep breath. Everybody's safe. It's gonna be okay.
ANNE: Oh. I’m anxious again. I’m more anxious now, but that's right, Sally. Let's try to keep things in perspective - that's really important. Would you all be okay if we gave some examples of special situations that either we like to pull out if we need to, or that are big challenges?
BREANA: Yeah. I think wind is the first of these that probably comes to mind and again, the goal of that docking pre-work is for you to observe (as you're approaching the dock) how the wind is going to be affecting you and make predictions and adjustments according to that. So if you're in the very lucky situation that the wind is blowing your boat towards the dock, you can use that to your advantage. So you can approach at more of a distance from the dock than you might typically and allow the wind to assist in pushing you in. And the same goes for if there's a current pointing in that direction and of course, the scarier and more challenging situation that we all hate to be in is when the wind is blowing you away from the dock. So Sally, do you want to take on that situation of how a person might approach wind headed in the opposite direction?
SALLY: I wish I could say, “Using this algorithm you will come up with this solution,”, but no two boats are ever going to be the same. No two winds are ever going to be the same. So I can't give you exactly what to do. How I use the wind is if it's pulling me away from the dock, I would try to go in just maybe a touch faster. If it's pushing me into the dock you might want to go in just a touch softer so that you can use the wind and the current to draw you in. So you get to the dock, right, and you've lined it up and you're leaning away and you're still not at the dock yet … you're not SOL, I promise. There are things you can do to get in. Like so … if we're up on the dock and it's on the starboard side and there's nobody to pull me in and the dock is just under the riggers but we're not close enough to pull in: 1) remind people to still lean away - inevitably it's gonna happen - people are going to see the dock just outside the grasp and they're going to lean towards it to get it and when they do that, that's 50 or 60 pounds that's lurching the boat the other way. You're going to slam onto your riggers … you're going to slam onto your oars … all the weight is suddenly going to go off the port side onto the starboard side and you're going to stop dead where you are. You still have your port side that you can push and pull your boat with. Sometimes it's going to be just having two seat sitting at half slide and taking a couple of just short little tap-it strokes to get the bow gracefully in. And then have your stroke seat take a couple of strokes (half slide, arms and body only) and just use that little bit of momentum to come in in. On situations like that - just like you would be aligning in a stake boat - you can have three scull two - so that means: two seat hands their blade to three seat … and three seat wants to sit as far up into the catch position as they can … and they want to get their oar as close to the hull as they possibly can and just take short sharp quick strokes. No feathering. No arms and body. That'll really help you get in. And worst case scenario, you have five scull four and that little bit of motion will help push you in so that somebody - and you tell who it is - can grab a hold of the dock and get you in. And then if nothing works, then you just have stern pair back it out and reapproach.
ANNE: Thank you. I was just going to pipe in here - loud and clear - that there is no rule that says you cannot try that landing again. We have got to get away from that ethos that says ‘big shame on you if you have to try a landing again’. I think we need to give ourselves the opportunity to do the best landing that we can every single time that we come in. It's – yes - time sensitive and all of that, but if we are not going to make a safe landing then back up and go again.
SALLY: Chuck Yeager who is a renowned pilot said that, “Any landing you can walk away from is a good landing” and “Any landing that the airplane is usable the next day is an outstanding landing”. It doesn't have to be pretty. It doesn't have to be fast. You just have to get everybody in safely.
ANNE: Yep, I think those are wise words that I know that I need to keep repeating to myself, Sally. You know, you can try again if something happens. It happens and keep the human beings in this situation safe. I think that the fact that we spent this much time talking about landing shows us the complexity that's involved in this particular aspect of being a coxswain. It is not an easy thing to do and hey, if some or many of our listeners feel like they've got this down, please … I am all ears. I would love to learn about how you do that because it is an area that I really struggle with, and any improvements I can make are going to be tremendously welcomed. I am going to throw out an example of something that does challenge me even more than the usual docking and that is when I am landing at the floating docks - these are the … they're like gigantic bricks (you know) … they're like at least 12 to 14 inches tall and also they've got spaces in between the big, inflated plastic blocks. Perfect spot for a bow ball to get stuck inside. I mean, I can't believe that a rowing club or people would expect a big boat to be landing there. But this is the one where if you come in, you have basically got to lean so far away from the dock to get the dockside riggers out of the way that it's like submarining. It's so dangerous. I have almost flipped a four coming in on that. Plus, like I say, the whole challenge of getting out of the boat when it's that high up … but just landing it. What do you guys suggest in those circumstances, because they do exist?
SALLY: In a situation like that, forewarned is forearmed. You come in and you say, “Hey y'all - we're coming in on this dock. The dock is going to be on the port side”. And you know, even reminding them of that at a regatta because it might be different from where the dock normally is. So if the dock is suddenly on the port side and they are used to having the dock on the starboard side, their reactions … their reflexes … are going to be off. And if they have just raced their hearts out, they're going to still be lactic acid recovering and we can't be sure how much oxygen is getting to their brains. So on situations like that, you just want to say, “Hey y'all. We're coming in … dock is going to be on the port side. It is crazy high. Ports are going to have to gunnel the blades. Starboards are going to have to lift high. We're going to have to make some serious adjustments to come in here”. Especially in those situations, remind your rowers there's going to be a lot of excitement… there's going to be a lot of people yelling. “Please stay focused on my voice. I’m going to do the best I can to get you in safely but I need your focus right here. Please give me your focus.” And the only thing you can do is ask and do your best.
BREANA: Yeah, I think that strategy of forewarning is probably the best approach I have to that same situation. And then if you have the luxury in a bow loader, if you get out as soon as you can, your weight is out of the boat which has helped lift it. And now you're kind of standing on the edge of that dock which is helping a little bit to push it down. So that is another component of the strategy I might take there if I can.
ANNE: I'd like to review where we’ve been as we talked about this one topic – landing. We started off with a whole host of global considerations … some general factors to consider. Then we talked about our individual approaches to the dream landing - the ideal situation. And then we’ve talked about a couple of challenging or difficult things that might come our way as we are landing the boats. I think that us articulating the aspects of landing that we need to consider is very, very helpful. And again - I know I’ve said this before (earlier) but I’m going to reiterate - I long for information from other coxswains about things that they find more helpful and that they might employ … or just some crazy stories about what's happened to them. Let's generate some conversation. How about if we move on to the Quick Pick and Shout-out. Quick Pick - what do we have?
SALLY: I think we should take time to thank everybody who has ever pulled us in or saved our hide from a less than ideal landing … and helped us to do so with the quiet dignity that we may not have deserved.
BREANA: Yes. Thank you so much to those people. And our Shout-out for this episode is to every successful landing that coxswains out there have made. We know that each one of those is (honestly) a reason to celebrate no matter how experienced you are.
ANNE: I agree.
SALLY: In the meantime, we invite you to engage with us on social media and Slack where your question might get featured on a future episode. We also would love for you to consider supporting us on Patreon if that's an interest to you. We are so excited to bring you more content soon. And until the next time. I’m Sally. I’m Anne. And I’m Breana - signing off for now.