018 | Maneuvering
Welcome to CoxPod - a podcast for coxswains. I’m Sally. I’m Anne. I’m Breana and we're three coxswains with over 50 years of experience in the seat. While there are many rowing resources out there, we decided to create a venue that is solely dedicated to coxing topics. We learn from our shared experiences and want to foster a community that encourages innovation and discussion.
SALLY: In today's episode we're going to discuss maneuvering. This was a very, very difficult episode for us to winnow down and we've decided to discuss specific movements that don't involve the use of the rudder. So we'll be covering things like checking it down, holding it, backing down, movements that utilize other tools - not just the yoke and the rudder. In a future episode, we'll cover steering related topics like taking turns.
ANNE: Right, Sally. We did have a long conversation about how we were going to focus this particular episode and if someone tunes in and thinks, ‘Hey, this is about maneuvering’ - I think one of the things that came to our minds was getting into a stake boat. What we opted to do is to actually have a separate episode about getting into a stake boat … in part because it's very complicated and we love talking about it, but also because it does sort of pull together so many of the maneuvers that we are going to be discussing today. It's sort of a perfect case example of maneuvering. So stay tuned. We are planning to have a mini episode about that.
SALLY: We are going to discuss how to maneuver in an ideal perfect world, so we're taking away all the variables and putting a bow-loaded four in a swimming pool where the temperature's controlled, where the current is controlled, where the atmosphere is perfect. But if you have an understanding of the general concepts and once you understand how the variables will affect what you're overall trying to do, you'll have a better handle on maneuvering.
ANNE: I kind of like the idea of putting that boat in the swimming pool. It's an interesting visual, isn't it? Why don't we talk about what movements we're talking about, right? So how did we end up following that thread, Breana?
BREANA: Yeah - one of the things that we considered … the most obvious direction that our perfect boat in a perfect condition swimming pool can move (of course) is forward and back. We can also move in the lateral direction … so moving side to side. And when we do that, we're thinking about using our tools: the four - in this case - different oars that we have and the five different bodies that are in the boat. We can move the stern of the boat. We can preferentially move the bow of the boat or we could do maneuvers that kind of move the entire shell. Finally, the other important direction is what the aircraft world calls ‘roll’. So we'll link to an article in our show notes that will help you visualize this - so CoxPod.com/018 is where you'll be able to find that. And so if we're thinking about roll, we're talking about staying in place and tilting down to the port or starboard side - the stroke side or the bow side. So that's another direction that the boat can potentially move and again, if we're stationary, we're just pivoting the stern and the bow kind of in that direction. The term for that is ‘yaw’ (y-a-w) so those are a couple of terms we will carry forward as we talk today.
ANNE: So now that we've described what those different movements are, what are the components that we have to work with?
SALLY: For me, the most obvious is the water. And again - in a chlorinated swimming pool where the temperature is constant - the water density and the buoyancy of the shell is going to be constant. We also have oars. And then we have the boat itself and the rudder.
BREANA: One other really important factor to consider here are the people in the boat: the rowers and us as well. We can impact that roll axis in particular by leaning our bodies in particular directions … shifting rower's weight on the seat … things like that are also able to impact the direction that the boat is moving as we do different maneuvers. So that's something to consider as well. That's one of our tools or potentially sometimes something that is interfering with something that you're attempting to do. So it's important to reflect on how the physical bodies of all of us who are in the boat can actually impact maneuvers.
ANNE: And it does affect the maneuvering - especially when you're in a stationary position. Believe it or not that actually still affects things so we're going to get into some of that. How about some maneuvers?
BREANA: All right. So here we are in our swimming pool scenario and one of the actions that we can do to maneuver our boat is ask rowers to hold water or check it down - which refers to the action of squaring the blade up and putting it in the water. This particularly has an influence when the boat is already moving or when there's a current but let's imagine it in our swimming pool scenario here. So if I ask a particular rower on a particular side to hold water (or to check it down), the boat will get pulled toward that side. So that's what that maneuver is going to do for you - is turn the boat… kind of pivot it … toward the side that you have asked to hold.
SALLY: Just for dialect reasons, Breana, because I know that it does mean different things in different places - what angle is the blade when you say hold water and check it down?
BREANA: Right. I use those terms interchangeably but I know for some people, one of those (I’m not sure which) is referring to the blade kind of being at a half … like a 45 degree angle versus fully squared up and in the water. I don't make a distinction. I might say (you know) partial check or half check or light check if I don't want people fully squared. But that's how I handle that. Do you guys have different interpretations of those terms?
SALLY: I just wanted to be clear what you were expecting because there are differences and sitting still, you can have somebody check the blade and it's perpendicular to the hull, but if you're going full speed and somebody tries to do that it has the weight and the momentum of the entire hull and everything in it against that blade. And if you ask somebody - particularly somebody who's not very strong - to try to do that, that is how you get an ejector crab. So in the swimming pool - where we're not going anywhere - you can do a hard check perpendicular at any point. But when you're moving, you will get a different type of maneuver.
ANNE: This is an important point to suggest to our listeners that you stipulate for your crew - unless you have it already pre-established - you stipulate the level to which you would like to have the blades squared. Because again, different scenarios call for different amounts of squaring. I think that this is one of the most important safety maneuvers that coxswains need to learn right off the dock. And understanding the impact of who is checking it down who is holding water … which side (as we've already mentioned) … the degree to which their blades are perpendicular to the water and also the speed that you're going at. So there are a lot of different factors. What else do you all think that people should keep in mind when they're maneuvering to stop?
SALLY: If you have both sides of the boat hold water or check it down, you're stopping the boat. But if you have one side versus another check it down - and for me check it down is the blade is about 45 degrees in - so it's kind of like shuffling your feet … dragging it in … leaning on it … the boat is pivoting and anchored in where those blades are. So the boat is going to turn from an axis starting where those blades are buried. So the further they are out from the hull, the wider the arc of the turn. The closer the blades are to the hull, the tighter the turn. But it is really, really, really hard to check it down at the finish for a rower because (again) you're fighting the momentum … you're fighting the weight of everything in the hull. So it's a much more stable position for them to sit mid-drive and check it down. It does change the arc of how you're stopping if you're just doing it to one side or the other.
ANNE: Great point, Sally. I also wanted to add that I often use holding or checking it down in a situation where there is a lot of current and I need to stay stationary. I can do a number of things. It can work well to hold the boat in that position … kind of like a mini anchor. But also if I have one side or the other, it can also help me get my point. So often in a situation that has current and/or wind, I will have one side then the other. And then - without moving forward or back - that allows me to change where the bow is seated. So it is a very helpful skill to really understand the impact of one or more blades being squared up or checking it down to 45 degrees or a very light hold. So use that tool. It's not just a one size fits all - there are a lot of subtleties that are involved with holding and checking it down.
SALLY: I think you're spot on, Anne, when you're saying these aren't a one size fits all thing and you need to practice them a little bit in your body of water … in your boats with your rowers. And you can subtly do this during practice without interfering with how the practice is to be run and the overall objective. So while you're sitting there and the rowers are fidgeting with things or while you're waiting in between pieces, have one side check it. See what happens. Play with it. You can make these very subtle changes. You don't even have to tell people why you're doing it. Just do it. See what happens. Record the data. Try it again. For example, I as a coach will pull up to the port side of my crew and everybody leans to port to hear me and by doing so, the boat is going to drift closer and closer to the launch. So it's one of those situations where reminding people to sit up - you know, maybe having (if I pull up on the port side) having people square up on the starboard.
BREANA: That has absolutely happened to me, Sally, very often and it's something for coxswains to think about. As your crew is stopped - if they lean to listen to a coach who's in a launch (you know) on one particular side of you - that's going to impact your point even if totally stationary. Another time when I find that body movements can really impact my intended maneuvers is when I asked rowers to hold. Related to what we were just talking about, sometimes their temptation is to lean away from the side that I have asked to hold so they're holding but they're kind of putting their weight on the other side maybe in an attempt to even things out because holding will pull the boat down to that side. That's something to think about as well. If you want to make a tighter turn, you might ask rowers to kind of undo that learned response and lean into the hold and understanding that that set will not be perfect in that moment.
ANNE: Another thing that I would like to discuss is sculling it around. It is something that we referenced a little bit during the landing episode … if you wanted to go back and listen to that and learn about how Sally taught us that if we are close but not on the dock, sculling it can be beneficial. but let's delve into that a little bit more here about the details of that and what we mean when we're talking about sculling it around.
SALLY: So when the blade is perpendicular or at a right angle to the hull, the boat is going to be moving fore and aft. The closer the blade gets to the hull itself, you're going to be pushing it port and starboard. So to scull it around, you want to increase the angle to get that blade absolutely as close to the hull as possible. So what we do in a sweep boat is we will have bow seat hand their blade to two seat (or two seat hand their blade to three seat) and whoever has two oars now is a sculler. You will go up to the catch as far as you can. Pinch that blade up as close as you can so it is almost parallel to the hull and you take short, sharp, quick strokes. They don't have to be feathered - it's better if it's not. It's better if it's just arms only. And that short movement being so close to the hull will push the hull itself to the port or to the starboard versus pushing it toward the bow ball or toward the stern. And when you are locking on on a stake boat - when you are in a tight situation - having the ability to maneuver left and right … it's incredible.
ANNE: Sally, that was exactly right that that is a very traditional way of sculling it around … is passing the oar to the person in front of you and having them take tiny little strokes with the blade right next to the hull if they can get it that way. I think it's also effective to have the person at the bow of the boat at the same time row as the person in the stern of the boat (on opposite sides) backs. Just short, little, choppy movements. And if they're at the same time you will not go forward and back you will just merely adjust the point of the boat. So that's an alternative that people can use.
SALLY: We would like to talk to y’all about turning and again, we are turning in the swimming pool. And we want to be very careful of those little kids in the shallow lane and I believe adult swim is taking place in lanes four, five, and six so we have a very small window of opportunity for us to pivot the boat. So Anne, how would you handle pivoting the boat in place?
ANNE: There are a couple of different ways that I can do it and we're talking about our hypothetical four, so it depends on the experience of the crew. I get nervous with a crew that's not experienced turning a boat. So until they are more experienced, what I generally do is - if I want to turn to port and I want to turn it as if it's on a lazy susan (so again, no forward and backward movement) I will have bow seat row arms and back at the same time as four seat backs. Again, arms and back only. I like to have a controlled turn. Those two rowers who are making those maneuvers need to be moving at the same time … the same length of stroke … so I prefer arms and back only. So my call would be: “I’m going to turn the boat. Bow seat - arms and back only will row. Stroke seat will back … arms and back only. Ready. Row.” And it can just turn very nicely. Alternatively, as they get more skilled and I have a lot more trust in them then I will take starboard side will do the rowing (just short strokes) and port side will back. I also have to say that I recently observed another coxswain spinning the boat in place in a different way. She would have the port side hold water - squared up entirely - and then she would have the starboard side rowing. Now it did create more forward movement than I prefer in these situations, but that's another way of essentially spinning in place.
SALLY: If you were to have the port side lean into the turn as the starboard side is rowing … so you're in fact shifting your weight on the hull … it will decrease the arc of that turn. But you're right, Anne. The axis is (again) going to be the pivot where the oars are buried versus the turn you're doing is going to be the pivot on the hull itself. When we’re spinning in place, I always have the side that's rowing start first versus the side that's backing. And the reason why I’d like to do that is because it gives it a little bit of momentum. Pulling is going to make it much easier to start the turn than backing it. The boat isn't really designed to go backwards. So when we're turning to port and I have, “Ports to back. Starboards to row arms and body only. Start with starboard.” And that little maneuver is going to take some of the burden off port side and it's going to help turn just a little bit faster.
ANNE: Great point, Sally. Something that I aspire to eventually have my crews do and I’ve seen this with very, very experienced crews but I have not yet executed it - and that is where all the rowers are sitting at the finish position (believe it or not) and all the blades are squared up and they chop, chop, chop, chop, chop. Ports would back. Starboards would row. But just tiny, tiny, little strokes and their core strength is amazing and they just they make it look simple but I’m confident that it's not. But that's another way – again, higher level - and let me tell you, when I am able to execute that with my crews, I’ll be so excited. Maybe some of our listeners manage it that way. I’d like to like to hear about that.
SALLY: We are back in the swimming pool and we have definitely moved too close to the small children and their floaty toys and we want to move away from them. So we should probably talk about backing. And backing with the bow pair is very different than backing with the stern pair. With the bow pair, you are pushing against a lot of the weight of the boat versus if you are backing in the stern pair, you are pulling the boat. There are going to be nuances to how the boat moves and the speed that the boat moves depending on who's pushing and who's pulling.
ANNE: And Sally, when would you opt to have bow pair versus stern pair back?
SALLY: If it's a more subtle … and if it is a more precise maneuver … I would probably have bow pair do it because it's going to be slower. It's going to be a little bit more controlled. If something goes sideways, I have more time to react to it. If stern pair is doing it, they're pulling. It's going to be a little bit easier to get more momentum. They are further away from me and I don't necessarily have the time to be able to see and deal with things quickly. Bow pair tends to have a little bit more torque … a little bit more purchase … so think of them as the precision moving. Think about the stern pair as the power moving.
ANNE: Thanks a lot for that explanation. I’m glad we're talking about backing. It's something that I am not sure that a lot of people practice. I mean let's just take an average practice and the coaches are not often going to say, ‘Let's practice backing now’. But it is a skill set that I think needs to be practiced more and more – consciously - for a couple of reasons. First of all, it can be a safety thing - that you need to have your crew confident on backing. And they need to know what you mean and what the objective is and how you call it. And they need to understand how the boat is going to respond to what they're doing. If you have stern pair backing - for example in a four where you can't see anything that's going on (by the way) back there - it's a big trust thing. Three seat could be over muscling stroke seat and that's going to have a whole different impact on where the stern of that boat goes … and consequently, the bow of the boat, right? So I think that having this as a skill that you build in your boat is an important aspect. And also for coxswains to learn how to call it. I’m going to toss out and see what you guys think about it, but I’m going to toss out the fact that one of my calls is - I always remind the pair that's sitting out to prepare for backing. And what I mean by that is that they need to place their blades in a way that they're not going to dig under and drag the boat down to that side and potentially disrupt the whole maneuver. So I generally say something like, “We're going to be backing. Bow pair, prepare to back.” That gives them the opportunity to feather the blade in the different direction and then, “Stern pair, ready. Back”. And (again) I’m a fan of arms and bodies or maybe even just arms depending upon what the outcome is. And I usually try to tell the rowers where I want that stern to end up. So I think being more specific in the backing situation is helpful.
BREANA: On the note of specificity, one question I always have when I’m preparing to back is: do the rowers need to flip the blade upside down as they back? I currently work with a coach who believes very strongly in that and is very precise about that and expects me to execute it in that way. I personally think it's a little simpler to back with the blades in their typical configuration. It's a little easier for the rowers to think about it … leaves us less off guard if we need to change to rowing for any reason. But I’ll put that out there to the audience and to both of you. Do you have a preference for whether rowers flip the blade upside down as they are backing?
SALLY: Hydrodynamically, flipping the blade over and pushing the water is better for the blade. It's going to move faster. It should be more efficient. However, you're not going to be rowing in the swimming pool forever and the benefits don't outweigh the potential risks. It is faster. It is more efficient but it is not that much more efficient. For me, it is dangerous to have a rower who can't take a stroke immediately - that half a second it takes them to spin the blade matters a lot to me. So yes, it is hydrodynamically more efficient to do it the way that your coach is asking you. However, how much more efficient? The benefit of ‘Yay we're more efficient’ versus ‘Oh dear god - what could happen if it goes wrong?’ is my take on that.
ANNE: Sally, you and I often disagree about things but in this we are in complete harmony. So let's savor that for one little moment why don't we?
SALLY: Someone please record the date and time because … is there a blue moon? This might not happen again.
ANNE: It might not but I’m 100% with you. Having the control and having fewer movements for rowers to execute - I’m a fan. When you were talking, I was also thinking of another aspect that I’d like to bring up here because … I suppose you can all tell backing is something that I’m really passionate about. My job as a cox and when we are backing - I want to minimize any kind of effect of the rudder - so my first step if I’m going to be backing is - I am going to make sure that that rudder is perfectly aligned with the skeg so that it is not influencing how those people who are backing are trying to move.
BREANA: Some further considerations I have is just to think about everything being in reverse now. So let's say I’m backing with my stern pair - if I ask stroke seat on the port side to press a little harder on this particular back, that's actually going to move my stern to starboard. So this is something else to think about as you are engaging in a backing maneuver. Maybe as Sally and Anne both recommended earlier, you're practicing this in your rowing context. Similarly this one's always really tough for me mentally - if you're backing and the boat is moving towards the stern you will also need to reverse any requests you would have for holding. So if you want to move in a particular direction you're accustomed to that and you're saying here I would be asking port side hold because this is the side I want to turn to it you actually need to ask starboard side to hold in that case so that you are turning in the direction that you intend. So this is a very challenging maneuver – backing - because the boat is doing everything opposite of what we are accustomed to in terms of its maneuvers … so just a couple of things to keep in mind as you're asking rowers to back.
ANNE: I look forward to hearing from our listeners about their backing strategies - potentially trials and tribulations -things that have worked well. Let us know especially on Slack - that's probably the best way to get that conversation going. I look forward to hearing from you about that. How about if we then now move on to some what we call specialty cases, right? Things that you might come upon or be asked to execute in the course of a practice or another time when you (like) don't encounter this all the time. And we came up with a handful of them. And how about if we move right through them and see how we would approach them? I think the first thing that I need guidance on is bringing boats together to swap out rowers or bringing a launch up to whatever boat you're in. How about if we take the first one - when you've got to bring two boats together? Let's keep it (again) with the fours in order to swap rowers.
SALLY: I love seat racing and being able to quickly and efficiently pull the boats together … swap rowers is a very integral part of that. In order to pull the boats together, you have to figure out who is being switched: is it bow, stroke, is it two seat, three seat? You have to figure out where you're pulling the hull together. So okay - we're just switching bows. That's easy. We're just going to line them up together. What you want to do is … you have to work with your fellow coxswain … and you guys have to kind of meet together at a point. So you pick a point and say, “Okay. I’m going to come hard to starboard 15 feet. All right I’ll come hard to port 15 feet.” And you pull together slowly and controlled: stern pair … bow pair. And get close where oars are overlapping. You want to try to align yourself in such a way where the riggers zipper together because you never want to have the two riggers point at each other. So I have talked with my fellow coxswain - either they are sitting still or I am maneuvering or we are both maneuvering together, but we get to the point where you can reach out and grab an oar and the oars are going to go over the hull on top of the rower.
ANNE: So walk me through it. I’ll be a stationary boat.
ANNE: Tell me exactly what you do. You're going to be coming up on my starboard side, OK? We're going to switch out our bow pairs.
ANNE: I’m staying stable.
SALLY: Alright. I’m going to say, ‘Anne, stay where you are. I’m coming to you.” And what I will probably do if I’m coming up on your starboard side is: I will have two scull bow. So what that's going to do is it's going to keep my stern relatively in place and bring my bow closer to you. Depending on how far we are, I’ll have bow stop and then I might have stern pair pulse it - one arm stroke, very lightly. So what that will do is that will cause me to come up closer to you, As I’m gliding into you I’m gonna have everybody lean to starboard to get my oars up over your oars and riggers and that should put us within reachable distance to pull us in. And before I pull us, in I temporarily take over your crew and I go, “Okay Anne’s three seat - I need you to pass that blade back to two seat and pull me in”.
SALLY: Because if 3 seat just pulls me in, I could have locking riggers but you kind of zipper the riggers together … if you hold your hands in front of you and you are going to interlock your fingers … right … think about your fingers as the oars so you're gonna kind of want to zipper them together. So I’m not gonna (like) butt my middle fingers together. I’m gonna just slightly move the one so that it takes up the open space. You are going to have your oars over people's legs - there's no getting around that, but that also provides some stability.
ANNE: Okay. Then what? The boats are adjacent to each other. How do you swap the rowers?
SALLY: So what's going to happen is: sometimes you, Anne, are going to take control of your bow seat’s oar and they're going to roll their seats all the way back. And then you get my bow seat in your boat. So they do one foot up and over and then when they are stable you can have your bow seat in my boat. I wouldn't do it where you have two people switching at once unless they're incredibly dexterous and athletic and it is a very calm day.
BREANA: I like to do this maneuver where one boat is stationary and I usually try to set it up so if there is a disparity, it's the more experienced coxswain approaching the less experienced coxswain. And you can utilize the tools that we have talked about here. You can have backing, leaning to kind of tilt the boat, holding, rowing etc. So as Sally said, the first question is: which seats are swapping out? And you want to let the rowers know that so that they know which seats ultimately need to align because you need their help in doing that. And so the more experienced coxswain is very slowly - as with all maneuvers we emphasize take it slow so that room for error is as large as possible and any damage is minimized - so that coxswain is starting to approach. Again, you're seeking for the blades to be in a place where when rowers pull each other in, you land with those two seats that need to swap in the correct position. So I guess the easiest thing would be (like) stroke seat and bow seat of the boat's swapping. But usually it's someone in the middle. If you approach and you're not quite at the right seat yet but the rowers can grab on, you can have them kind of carefully pass you down until you are in the right spot. So in my experience, there's been a way to save it if you aren't lined up quite correctly. And then again, you could have … so let's say (as we've been using in our example here) I am the more experienced coxswain on the starboard side and I’m approaching a boat on their starboard side … so they're on my port. I could have my three seat (in our four example here) back it a little bit to bring me closer in. So the rowers are starting to carefully pull the oars across. Let's say we've lined it up correctly - we're super close together - and then we're directing them to lean away from the center situation here – so, away from the center because what you're seeking to do is have the bottom nuts of the riggers across the gunnels. So that's also something to be careful when extricating - is that you need to prepare for the fact that things are set up in that way. And usually the rowers - they're reaching across and kind of holding so everybody's very close together in this scenario because you don't want a gap for those people who are about to cross … especially (you know) people who have more limited mobility than (you know) super-spry high schooler or something. And again as we said, I find that it can help if you kind of direct it. So you can say, “Okay, person who's switching go ahead and like stand up and just kind of crawl over and hover over the sort of footwell area of the occupied seat that you're hoping to take”. Then that person can move into the unoccupied seat in the other boat and now they can both sit down. And then you make sure all the equipment is handed back and forth that those rowers need. I also think it's really important to say that you will be stuck together for a while - especially as people first try this. So this is not something to do on a very busy body of water … towards the shore or the banks of your body of water … near major obstacles … because you're stuck now together so if you needed to row, that would be really bad. I find that that's an important thing to think about before you pull together is - make sure you've got room. If you have a lot of current that's going to carry you halfway down the river, you need to be thinking about that. So we get them in their seats and then now we're leaning away again from the center of the configuration so the starboard most boat is leaning starboard and the port most boat is leaning port and that's to get those bottom nuts to pop up so that we can safely push away and extricate. And then rowers can be holding onto a blade pushing away until it's clear etc. and then you can both get free of that situation using tools like backing.
ANNE: Talking about rowers moving … how about if we try to describe some ways that rowers can switch positions within a boat without coming up to another one. What do you suggest?
SALLY: I’m not sure I would recommend switching seats in a four versus switching seats in an eight because you are losing a significant portion of your balance. But if you have to move for some reason, I make sure that the remaining rowers have rock solid set. And like what Breana said, make sure this is occurring on a body of water where you're not impeding anybody else and it's not on the apex of a turn so people can see you doing this, because you're going to be doing it for a bit. If I need 7 seat to switch with six seat, I have eight turn around and grab seven’s oar. Seven - they scoot the seat all the way up to bow. They put their feet on the tape and stand up and then they crawl over six seat. So you put your feet and your weight on the gunnels and you have to go behind six seat. So six seat lays down. You crawl over on top of them. Six seat sits back up again and starts to crawl to seven seat.
BREANA: And you, Sally, advocate for both hands and feet on the gunnels?
BREANA: I think I’ve seen rowers kind of adopt the approach of walking (like) to the outer sides of the tracks so their hands are on the gunnels but their feet are not on the gunnels … they're right next to them … but they're on( like) that (you know) flat/raised part of the hull.
SALLY: I get nervous because: 1) they could step on the seat and I’ve seen people do that, 2) that's not always the best place to put your foot in a boat. They reinforce certain parts of the boat they don't necessarily reinforce where the tracks are.
BREANA: Because if you're not super agile and they're wearing socks, too, - so it's like very slippery. And it's also worth saying that that was an example of a single seat move but we could be talking crawling over multiple seats. So that's something to think about as well - all of the rowers along that path will need to lie down as this rower crawls over and they'll also need to keep their hands on their oars because you still need a boat that's set and safe for that rower to be crawling across the gunnel. So that's something else to think about.
ANNE: Wow. Well, that's another very impressive maneuver that we may be called upon to execute at some point in our careers. So take it slowly. Think it through. Take some of these suggestions that we've laid out. And again if our listeners have other ways of executing this, do tell us because often there are different ways of achieving the same outcome.
SALLY: So I think it's a really important skill to be able to bring a launch up to the boat and do it quickly - either to effect a repair or to help a rower who is injured or ill. And I have had people removed from my boat for medical reasons and you don't want to impede somebody getting care quickly. The rules of maritime engagement are: the most maneuverable boat should be moving towards you. So the thing that's got the engine and the steering wheel is going to be more maneuverable than you are, so stay where you are. Let the boat come up to you. If you're trying to extricate a rower, what you want to do is you kind of “make a hole”. So if we're in this magic four and three seat isn't well and they are coming up on the port side, I would try to make a hole - so have two seat sit at the catch and four seat sit at the finish - so there's a space for the launch to pull up next to the person that needs to come up. It's easier for a launch to pull up next to you if it's a john boat - not a catamaran or a wakeless because the wakeless is a bigger diameter - but it still can be done with the wakeless. You can put the oar in between the pontoons. But you always want to (kind of) make a little bit of a hole so that when the boat approaches, they have room. But let the coach … let the person … let the EMT be the maneuvering one because we just don't have that kind of flexibility.
ANNE: That's a really great instruction, Sally. Thank you very much. What I would just say is that this is another situation where one person is giving the commands - whoever that is … whether it's the coach or you as the coxswain. Rowers often like to interject themselves into this because sometimes it can be an emergency situation. So let's just make sure there's one voice that's working to execute this particular maneuver - especially important because you've got a big boat coming up to a shell that's very fragile.
BREANA: And your coach should know from their training how to approach you in a safe and slow way. One element that we haven't mentioned here is that you'll need to catch the launch so that it doesn't hit the shell and cause any damage. But as we've emphasized in our episode on landing( for example Episode 013) - never sacrifice yourself over equipment. But hopefully that launch is coming in slow enough … and because you're both floating on the surface of the water, there's a lot of buoyancy involved so you can actually grab a pretty large wakeless launch (even) and allow it to kind of gently float in. And then you need to keep hands on it as people change out. I usually like to have my arm sort of bent if it's coming towards me so I’m not straight arming it because if it does come in too fast, we could be in a limb peril situation. But that's something to think about as well. So if it looks like your coach is making a safe approach and hopefully they're skilled and they are, then you're gonna need to direct someone to hold on to that launch and just kind of gently catch it. And again it looks like a huge object coming towards you, but it is floating and so it doesn't weigh as much as you might think.
ANNE: That's another example of an important maneuvering skill.
SALLY: So when I was coaching, I had a completely unreliable engine I named Elsie - because she was stubborn as a cow. And oftentimes, my college kids had to pull me in. It was a john boat. I would lift up the engine so we would have less drag and then I eventually learned to have a sufficient length of bow line so I would just have them drag me. But I’d be dragging 20 or 30 feet.
ANNE: Who was holding on to that line?
SALLY: I would affix it to a rigger on the boat. But knowing that I have affixed it … would pull the boat down to port or starboard so the rowers would have to compensate for it.
ANNE: Okay. Interesting. And by the way, who has not dealt with engines that have died during a practice? Okay - raise your hands. Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? I have had this happen a lot on our lake. Our lake is long - it's about three miles long and I have been in the situation where the launch has died almost at mile three. So we had three miles to tow back. I am not a fan of having the boat jerking back and forth on a bow line, so what I did - and seem to work very well -I’m just gonna offer it up as a potential suggestion is: yes, have the coach pull the motor out of the water so (again) drag is minimized. And then pull the launch up to the stern of the boat. I was in an eight so pulled the boat adjacent to me so that the bow of the launch was next to me in the coxswain seat. Then what we did is we took some life jackets (which the launch has at least nine life jackets) and we put a couple of those in between the launch and the stern of the boat so I was holding the bow of the launch and the coach sat back in the launch and held on to the stern of the shell. We just took out stern pair and that way six rowers could row us all the way back. And yes, it was a strain on my arm but the boats - since they were basically adjacent and sort of manually tied to each other - there was no jerking going on it was just a heavy row. So that is what I found to be a very effective way to minimize any potential damage. Here's to motors that work 100% of the time and may we all have them in our Christmas stockings or whatever stockings you have to gift give, right? How big is your stocking that you fit a 9.9? I’m coming to your house next Christmas.
BREANA: That brings us to the conclusion of this episode. As a brief recap we covered this theoretical situation where we're starting off floating in the swimming pool with a four. We talked about all the different ways that we can move the boat - all the possible directions we might be desiring to move and the tools we have to do that … including asking rowers to do things with their oars like hold water, back, scull it around, and also the different things that we can do with our bodies as well that could potentially impact boat movement. And then we conclude with some unique scenarios that require the combination of those maneuvers. So for our Quick Pick this episode, we wanted to thank and highlight all of those reliable, attentive rowers who respond very quickly in exactly the way we ask. In maneuvering scenarios, we're doing a lot of high level calculus up in the coxswain's seat and that's a responsibility that we take on and choose. And so when rowers are able to respond to that and help us achieve those maneuvers so that boats can be safe and in the right place and moving correctly, we really appreciate you. So thank you to those rowers.
SALLY: As a Shout Out, Anne and I are going to mutiny a bit and we are going to make sure we thank Breana. And it'll be curious to see if this makes it into the final cut because she does editing. So Breana, Anne and I really, really want to thank you for maneuvering us into social media … for the 100 ways you make this a professional, informative, and fun site … and I’m at once - and shockingly - at a place where words fail me to extol your greatness and how much I truly appreciate working with you. But it has been a highlight and I hope I continue to learn from you as time goes on. So Breana, thank you so much for all you do!
ANNE: I second that, Sally. For the second time in this episode, we are in complete agreement so you know what? It must be some kind of moon or something. But yes, Breana, you are incredible and what you have done in terms of preparation and then moving the podcast into social media and keeping things alive and creative - it's just amazing and we would not be doing what we do without you. And thanks for that extra work that you do do.
BREANA: Well, thank you guys.
ANNE: Yeah. Before we have our closing words I thought I would just remind our listeners that we are going to have a mini episode that is going to take many of these facets of maneuvering and direct them towards an end … which is getting onto a stake boat … or some people call them pontoons … some people call them starting platforms. But we're talking about how do you actually latch that boat - the stern of that boat - into a starting platform for sprint races? We're going to take some of these concepts and apply them in that episode so stay tuned. And in the meantime we do invite you to engage with us on social media and Slack where your question might get featured on a future episode. We'd love to (again) hear from our listeners about situations you've been in when you might have had a maneuver that you had to pull out of your hat. We'd also love you to consider supporting us on Patreon if that's of interest to you. We're excited to bring you more content soon and until next time, I’m Anne. I’m Breana. And I’m Sally - signing off for now.