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024 | Sprint Racing: Prep to Marshaling Area



Welcome to CoxPod - a podcast dedicated solely to coxing topics. I’m Breana. I’m Sally. I’m Anne and we're three coxswains with over 50 years of experience in the seat. We learn a great deal by sharing with each other and want to foster a community that encourages skills development and discussion. We're happy you're joining us. 


ANNE: In today's episode, we'll talk about sprint racing. We'll be covering our preparation for the race up until we find ourselves in the marshalling area. So in Episode 016, we talked about preparing for a head race and some of the same concepts that we talked about in that episode do apply here as well. And in Episode 022, we discuss getting into a stake boat, as well as a discussion of considerations for the marshaling area that comes before the stake boats. Now that we've had an episode covering the marshalling area and stake boats and this episode that takes you from preparing for the race up to the marshalling area, we do promise to have another episode that will take you from the start to the finish line. 


SALLY: There are a few differences between head racing and sprint racing that we want to highlight before we start. The most obvious, of course, is going to be distance. The length of these races vary from 2000 meters in collegiate races to 1500 meters in scholastic races to 1000 meters in masters races. In contrast to head racing where every boat starts on their own and reaches the starting line at race pace, sprint races start with all boats perfectly aligned - all the boats start at a dead stop and then the ultimate goal is: try to get to the finish line as fast as possible. These races are typically on a straight - or mostly straight - course where our role as a coxswain is to keep the boat straight and keep us in our lane. 


BREANA: Because of the short duration of sprint races, coxswains are sometimes able to take on multiple races in a single day. These races could be heats, reps, semifinals, and finals … all with a single boat lineup … or these could be various races with different lineups. And this is the type of racing that you see in the Olympics. Another difference for many sprint races is a coxswain weight requirement and the discussion about weight can be triggering for some of us so we encourage you to refer to the episode details in your podcast app where we will include timestamps of when that discussion happens and you can avoid it if you would prefer to do that.


ANNE: Now let's talk about how we approach the preparation for sprint races given how it differs from head racing.


BREANA: One thing that doesn't differ is you want to read your race packet thoroughly. That should be provided by the regatta organizers so definitely give that a thorough read through. And then you also want to consult the race schedule because - as we were just saying - these races can be kind of complicated in terms of their schedule which is: sometimes unlike a head race, you may have multiple races in a day that you're trying to manage and so paying attention to that schedule is paramount.


ANNE: I’m going to add here that my big difference between preparing for sprint races and head races is that whereas the focus for a head race is much more about the actual course - picking my line… planning for that - in sprint races, I spend a lot more time looking at the schedule because the time centers are so close. It just feels like time and making sure that I have the right crew at the right time is a real focus for me.


SALLY: One of the things to think about - especially in a race schedule where there's progressions and heats - is if you're coxing multiple events, you want to make sure that if your boat advances you're still able to cox it and honor your other commitments because if your one boat is going off at three o'clock but the semis are at 3:15, it's unlikely you're going to be able to make it. So paying attention and looking at the long game is super important when looking at race schedules when you're coxing more than one boat. 


ANNE: Exactly. And I think one of the important things to discern is whether there are rules about substitutions. Don't count on the fact that you can suddenly throw a coxswain into a boat or jump into a boat just because it suits the change in schedule.


BREANA: Another complexity that can arise is the idea of hot seating. So if you have very close-together races like Sally described or if someone in the boat other than you does or if the equipment itself needs to appear in multiple races, then you might be finding yourself in a situation called hot seating - which is something that we'll talk about more at the end of today's episode. And that sometimes has rules that are communicated in the packet specific to that situation. Sometimes there's a certain dock you need to come to. Sometimes there's a certain permission slip of sorts that you need to acquire beforehand. So that's something to also take note of that is unique to sprint racing most times. 


ANNE: I think - for me - the importance of scheduling cannot be overestimated. I carry it with me. I have it written down. I would be totally lost if I didn't have my preparatory information with me at all times. And another feature is that frequently it changes the day of the regatta. It can change halfway through the regatta so keep checking the schedule. Don't count on anything being as firm as you might think that it's going to be. Head racing for me just doesn't have that same level of detail required.


BREANA: Hi listeners - it's Breana here and I want to drop in before the next section to mention that this is where we are going to have our discussion of weight requirements for coxswains as a component of sprint racing. So if that's a conversation that you would prefer not to listen to, check out the episode details in your podcast app where we will include a time stamp of when that discussion concludes so that you can jump back into the conversation if you'd like to.


BREANA: Part of the race packet that you'll be reading will also include information about coxswain weight requirements and the information that you find there about weigh-ins will inform your preparation as a coxswain - both mentally and physically. And as we were preparing this episode, among the three of us we had extensive conversations about this. Because weight is a perceived factor in sprint races and it's often officially quantified by the regatta organizers, you may experience pressure from rowers, coaches, even yourself, to change your weight … whether that's increasing or decreasing it. But being your best mentally and physically on race day is much more important than any number on a scale. Gaming the system is a component of any sport and a common example of this in sprint racing is to have coxswains consume large amounts of water prior to the weigh-in so that your weight is temporarily higher. We do not support any behaviors that could compromise the health and safety of athletes. Given that that's our position, we do want to cover some of the procedural aspects of this unique part of sprint racing.


SALLY: In some sprint races - regardless of your weight - your boat will be disqualified unless you touch a scale. In boats these days, there are going to be minimums. So if you are coxing a men or mixed boat, the race minimum in the United States is going to be 120 pounds. And if you are coxing a women's boat, the race minimum is going to be 110 pounds. Which means - if you are not at these weights, they will give you lots and lots of sand or weights to try to bring you up to that minimum. When hopping on a scale at the regatta, you need to be in your rowing kit. You cannot have anything that has pockets. If you wear a baseball hat, you might have to take it off. In the past, people have used pockets and hats to hide weight to make them that little bit heavier. Again - we don't encourage any of this behavior but just please know that if you show up in jeans and a t-shirt - even though you are going to cox the race in jeans and the t-shirt - they might not accept you. So I highly recommend: wear your uniform even if that's not what you're going to be racing in. Wear it to the weigh-in. 


ANNE: And you have to go to the weigh-in at a specific time. There are certain time ranges – again, the race packet will give you instructions about how close to your race or how far away from your race time you need to weigh-in. Generally though, it's once a day … sometimes it's once a regatta. 


SALLY: Now, many times at regattas, they don't have extra weight. If you know that you are going to be under, it is in your best interest to bring your own weight because there's no guarantee that the regatta will provide it for you. One of the best things I have found is bags of rice. They come in (you know) one and five pound increments. You can just take the bag of rice with you because you're gonna have to weigh in on the scale with your weight to make sure that you're at the appropriate minimum. 


ANNE: Yup. I absolutely agree. Bring sand … rice in a bag … absolutely bring some duct tape so that you can wrap it up if you have to add or subtract to meet that weight minimum. Do either of you have other suggestions? 


SALLY: I mean - bags of flour … anything that's going to be dense and soft enough. You don't want to be carrying around the weight plates from the gym because they're hard and if you drop them, they can damage the inside of the boat. And it can't be your tools or your cox box. I’ve seen people go – well, I carry a cox box and a water bottle … that should be good enough. And truth of the matter is, it’s not. Your weight has to remain sealed and it has to remain a constant the entire time. If your weight breaks open, it's a problem so you want to make sure that (like Anne said) you're using duct tape and you keep it sealed and you keep it in a place where it's relatively safe. If you drop it in the water, you're in trouble. 


BREANA: The takeaway is to make that weight - if you're carrying additional weight - just part of the equipment that it's essential for you to carry around. Just like your cox box, it needs to come with you for your races because it may be something that you're requested to show that you have in your possession at control commission as you're headed towards the dock and after your race as well. So this is something that the referees and regatta officials have note of and they know which boats have coxswains who have additional weight (if applicable). There may be various points in the process where you're asked to show that you have that, so just make it mentally something that comes along with you for your races just as much as another important piece of equipment like your cox box. 


ANNE: It is another component about sprint racing that we want to make sure everyone's aware of and - as Breana said -  make sure that you carry it with you as part of your equipment. And if you are racing two different classifications - if you're racing a women's race and a men's race and you have two different weights that you need in order to reach those minimums - make sure that you have the correct weight for the correct race. The other thing that sometimes happens is that you might be given a special wristband or some other identification that means that you're carrying weight for that particular race and you wear that the entire regatta if it's a one-time weigh-in.


BREANA: So if you have a suspicion that you may be asked to provide your own weight to bring yourself up to a minimum (if you are not there), that may be something that you pack. And we've provided some suggestions here for bringing your own weight in reasonable ways. Other things that you may be considering as you're packing in the days before a regatta … one thing that's always on my mind is food. Especially with these compressed schedules, you absolutely often as the coxswain, do not have time to sit down and enjoy a whole meal in the team tent between races or anything like that. I like to bring snacks that I can eat quickly in between races that are packaged in a way that's easy to get to and that don't require a lot of time or effort. So that's one thing to think about - you do need to eat during these regattas. It can be very easy to get super busy and forget about that, so make sure you have some easy snacks that you can just quickly grab in between races. 


ANNE: Another thing to consider is what you're going to pack for clothing keeping in mind that if you're coxing all day long or different ends of the day, the temperatures may vary (right?) both within season and within a day. So choose wisely - and no jeans. 


BREANA: Always good advice. 


SALLY: And you know, if you're hopping around between a bow loader and a stern loader, odds are you're going to get splashed somewhere. So make sure that you have something warm and dry to change into … even just in between races will make a world of difference. 


ANNE: That's a great point, Sally.


SALLY: Sprint racing is such a short amount of time. We have to figure out in a faster way how to get the best and the most out of people. I have less time to recover from a mistake. I have less time to fix things so I spend a lot of my time thinking about what I’m going to say in various scenarios. So part of my pre-race prep is really visualizing the race … visualizing warm-ups … visualizing how am I going to react in certain situations because there is so much less time to improve things. Anne, what do you do? 


ANNE: Well, part of my race prep, Sally - even before I get there - is looking at the packet which will tell me where things are laid out. So where are the docks? Where's the start line? Where's the finish line? Is there a marshaling area? That should be all in the race packet. And also there are things about the location … that it might be a place that has tides or islands. 


SALLY: Part of what I do is … you're looking for water flow where it's faster. I know - for point of reference - the Schuylkill has different water flows depending on the time of year … depending on how much water they're releasing upstream. And there are going to be faster lanes than others. And knowing that and knowing how to play that is really important. Looking at where the wind breaks are going to be and how that's going to affect both my course and my planning and how that's going to affect how the rowers feel. That's so critically important. And also visualizing the landmarks that the rowers are going to be aware of so that I can call out, “When we get to the power lines, we have 250 left. This is when we're going to do the move”. 


BREANA: There are other aspects of preparation that are relevant to both sprint racing and head racing and we discussed these in a lot of detail in Episode 016 where we talk about preparation for head racing. These include things like getting all the equipment that you'll need onto the trailer before you go to a regatta if you're traveling. That can oftentimes be a component of the coxswain's responsibility. And amid that, you want to make sure that you know where your cox box is … if you are responsible for bringing it … if it's going on the trailer, etc. That's important to know. You want to make sure that you communicate with your rowers about where they need to be and when … when should they be meeting at the trailer at the regatta site … when should they be ready to have hands on the boat, etc. You will likely have a coaches and coxswain's meeting that you may need to attend at this regatta if they're holding one. On the day of - or the day before - when you get to your trailer, you'll be rigging and double checking your boats. We have a whole list in Episode 016 of things that we check on our boats. And then when it comes time for your race, you'll need to oversee the process of getting your oars down to the launching site. And then another aspect of prep is holding a boat meeting - in advance - with your boat and talking through your race plan. 


SALLY: And you forgot the most critical part, Breana. 


BREANA: Making sure the rowers go to the bathroom? 


SALLY: Well, that's part of it. I was thinking, where is my caffeine? 


BREANA: True. True - securing your caffeine.


SALLY: The second most important thing is locating the portalettes. Is there sufficient toilet paper? How much time it will take before we launch? But where will we get our caffeine because we are gonna need it. 


ANNE: Sally's preparation has its own unique flavor, so to speak. I’m glad you mentioned the importance of those many steps before we actually get on the race course, Breana. Some of them done before you even arrive at the site. Some of them done at the site. In terms of holding the boat meeting. one of the key parts I want to emphasize in this episode as well is that I have a conversation with bow and or stroke seat as far as their responsibilities. And in particular because there's often a gaggle of boats up near the marshalling area, I want to make sure they understand when they can talk … what they should do in terms of safety and communicating with me. 


SALLY: That's so important, Anne, because it's not going to be this structured, linear thing as you marshal up. There's going to be a lot of confusion and a lot of distractions and a lot of things you don't ordinarily deal with at practice. So I think you are spot on in communicating that to your rowers. One of the things that's different about sprint racing is you're going to get a lane marker … not necessarily a bow number. The bow number in a head race is going to be like 231, 126, and the numbers are going to get higher as the race progresses. In sprint racing, you're going to get a lane marker which sits in the same place - usually lanes 0 through 7 … 0 through 8. And there can be multiple 6s in the warm-up area at a time … there could be multiple 5s in the warm-up area at a time. So you wanna make sure that you have the correct number for the lane you have been assigned for your race. It gets a little confusing but that's part of the pre-race prep. So ladies - we have our crew - most of them are back from the bathroom. Nope. Wait - we just lost another one. They will soon be back from the bathroom. You've had your boat meeting. What do you do now? God, they're back at the bathroom again. 


ANNE: This is when I begin to totally freak out because with this compressed time frame, I’m sweating buckets. While I’m sweating, I’m also listening for the announcement because in many, many sprint races there are often calls for different groups of boats to launch. Sometimes you hear, ‘Men's masters four - heat one - first call to the dock’ and then there will be a second call and if you don't make one of those calls, chances are you are gonna be arriving either way too early or way too late for your race. So listen for those and pray that every rower is back from the bathroom because it's just really horribly awkward otherwise.


BREANA: That speaks to the general attitude that I perceive at sprint races as well, which is that there's often a heightened focus on getting everyone who is in the same event in the relative same space and time. So in addition to those calls for launching that you might hear, I’ve also had times where race officials who are monitoring the dock may actually explicitly allow a boat who's in an earlier event to go in front of you even if you have arrived first. Unlike head racing where there's less concern about that, I find that happens more often in sprint racing. That's also a place where it can be very helpful in those interactions to know your race number, your heat number, your race name, your team name as it appears to the officials on the packet, etc. so that you can help them understand where you fall into the events.


SALLY: Now, your coach will probably give you some sort of objective for a warm-up. You need to know that this warm-up is just a guide. You need to understand what the coach is trying to achieve but there are dozens of boats with different lengths, different skills – different … so many different factors - you're going to have to be able to adjust the warm-up on the fly. You're going to have to try to achieve ultimately what the coach wants from you, but you're going to have to kind of think about what the goal is and what I can do safely. You might not be able to stay a hundred percent on script but you can still try to achieve the ultimate goal that your coach envisions for you. 


ANNE: I totally support what you're saying, Sally. I’m going to frame it this way: the objective of the warm-up is to get your rowers warmed up and sweating but it the main thing about the warm-up is getting to the start on time. It has to be adjusted so that you get to the start on time. Everything relies on you getting to the start on time. There is no grace period - or very little - so whatever you do, you're likely to have to adapt it to get to the start on time. Did I say that enough times? I think I did. Get there on time. 


SALLY: You also want to make sure that you are building up your rower's confidence and you're not giving them any seeds of doubt. Now is not the time to try something fancy. You don't want to do anything new on race day that you haven't done at practice because you don't want to risk it going badly and the rower's doubting themselves in a critical situation. 


ANNE: I agree, Sally. It's very important not to throw something new into that warm-up time as you're what - trying to get to the start on time. Also you've got that warm-up area that is markedly constricted. It is a lot that you have to pack in to a very short distance and very short time, so make sure that you know what the warm-up length is. You may not have any time on the water at all before you're practically in the marshalling area and so therefore, a warm-up on land is really pivotal and understanding that that might be the norm - I think that's important. Factor that in with the coach. Figure out where the warm-up happens. Does it happen on land with continuing it as you are rowing down to the start or not.


SALLY: So Breana, what do you focus on if you have an abbreviated start? What are your focuses when you're in the marshalling area … aside from safety and Anne’s - what is it Anne? Get to the line on time. 


BREANA: And that's still the ultimate goal. If you're late to launch - which definitely happens so it's good to spend a little bit of time mentally preparing yourself. So if you know third call has been made … your race is in a few minutes and you're concerned about making it up there, there's a few things to think about. I usually try to communicate with every official I encounter along the way. So that starts with the dock master. You arrive. You know all the information about your boat and you tell them, ‘I’m so and so … team such and such … we're in event blah and you know, this is our heat and our event is at such and such time and we're here.’ And I’m going to go as fast to the start as I can. And then if there's officials stationed along the way and launches, I’ll mention to them as well as I pass - just so that hopefully things are getting passed up the chain on their end that we are booking it to the start. You can communicate with other coxswains as well and if you're on the receiving end of this, treat them with respect. You know, a coxswain might be in crisis … might be on their way up and concerned about making it and so if they're asking to pass you and their event is well in front of yours, that's a place where we can communicate respectfully and help each other all have a positive race that happens on time. And then part of the additional triage that I will be doing is - like we said - your coach may give you a warm-up plan. But if you know that you're late to the start, you need to start skipping all the parts of that plan that slow you down. So this would not be the time to shove off the dock and start an arms only pick drill. We need to get all eight rowing immediately and get ourselves up to the start. So in situations where - whether it's because of time circumstances or because of space - I find myself very constrained, I have a little tactic I like to use where I will stop the boat. I’ll let a little bit of space open up in front of me as other boats pull away and then I will have my rowers sit ready at their start wherever that is: half slide … three quarters. I’ll have them do our start sequence. I’ll have them do five high strokes - power strokes - whatever you call them and then I will have them lengthen out for five strokes. You might call that a settle - a stride - something else depending on your vocabulary in the sport. And that is a really quick way to experience all of the parts of the race: the start … the high strokes where you're really powering off the starting line, the settle lengthen movement where you're changing pace down to your base pace, and then a few strokes at that pace. So that's a good little … the 5-5-5 is a good little (kind of) way to (kind of) get every little piece in in a very compressed time and space fashion. So that's something that I like to turn to a lot. 


ANNE: I also use the 5 -5  and 5 during the warm up. But I was wondering, Breana, if you could just describe a little more fully what you mean by 5-5 and 5 because maybe it's different for me? 


BREANA: Absolutely. So for me, the first 5 - these are not 5 full strokes - these are the 5 strokes of the starting sequence. Yours may not be exactly that many strokes and it may vary in terms of length. Everyone has their own opinions about half and three quarters etc., so it's 5 strokes of some probably shortened length as you get the boat up to speed. Then 5 strokes that some people call high strokes … some people call power strokes … some people call a blitz. There's all kinds of terminology for those early strokes getting off of the stake boat. And then we lengthen … or settle … or come into our stride of our main bulk of the race pace strokes. That's gonna be the remaining 5. So: start 5 – high 5 – lengthen 5 or whatever you're gonna call them with your boat. That's how I approach that. 


ANNE: And Breana, do you also do that with crews that you know really well and have practiced with? 


BREANA: That's a great question. Yeah, I like this strategy really for anyone. It takes some skill to be able to quickly perceive in that very compressed time frame what might be wrong and then I can quickly adjust from that. So okay, we were not on the same page as we lengthened out when I called that move. We totally lost power. We need to try to do that by bringing the rate down and not compromising on power. So we're going to do one more and then I see there's complete traffic up ahead and that's all we have time for so, we're doing one more. We're focusing on this. And so I’ll kind of use that regardless of whether I know the crew or not … to feel out what needs work. Another thing that I like to take note of - especially if I don't know the crew well - is if anyone is out -pulling other members of the boat because what you'd hate to do … which has happened to all of us … is go off the starting line and just careen into another lane. So if I notice that someone is a little overpowered in that situation, I might ask them to just go lighter on those first couple of strokes and then bring their full force to the boat just so that we can stay straight in our lane. So there's a lot that you can perceive in those first few strokes that you might get to practice. And that might be all that you get so I like that strategy. 


ANNE: And I guess … thinking about that a little more … I do try to do 5-5 and 5 at half pressure, half rate. And then (you know) because I’m so close to other boats, I’ll usually have to stop … wait for them to pull ahead or whatever … and then I will do at what we expect our actual racing pace to be. But I do find - especially with crews that don't row together all the time - that that is a very helpful thing. 


SALLY: One of the things I like to do is - if given the room - I like to do flying starts. So I don't actually stop. So I will use part of the warm-up and we'll keep rowing and I’ll go, “Okay. We're going to do the starting sequence - half pressure, half speed … in three strokes … in two strokes … on this one.” Then go half, half, three-quarter, lengthen, full. So they get to practice a little bit of the starting sequence with momentum. If possible, I do like to turn the boat and do at least one or two starts in the direction of the race course so they get the feel of the wind and the current and how it's going to affect the starting sequence. But I do like to incorporate the starting sequence on the fly … as we're rowing … because I think that's really helpful in bringing the boat together. When you do the starting sequence - when the boat already has momentum - it's a little bit more stable … the rowers relax. Again, we're using this time to help build their confidence. 


ANNE: And why am I so nervous now? Because I’m feeling like I’m in that general area and it's … it's … it's very exciting but it's a lot to take in. And I generally am deeply focused on safety - you know, relationship to other boats and pulling my crew together and understanding how they are behaving that day and responding that day. But I’m guessing Sally probably is doing 49 other things that I just don't have the skill set to do yet. Is that possibly the case, Sally? 


SALLY: Yes. I am watching everything and I’m watching the currents and I’m watching other crews and I’m paying attention to how they do their starting sequence. And if you turn the cox box up and I can hear you, I will use your race strategy against you. If you're gonna do a high 5, I might do a high 15. If you're gonna do a high 15, I might do a 10. I pay attention to how they start, how fast they start, does it look like they're gonna beat me off the flag drop, or do I think that we will beat them and have to hold them off. I’m watching what you do - who's listening to your coxswain and when they're listening to your coxswain and what people are doing. And then I’m slowly modifying my race plan to get the best out of my rowers and to give them the maximum advantage right up until the end. 


ANNE: I think it's a great skill set and it's something that is to me a very advanced level of skill that I aspire to. And for our listeners, I look forward to reading on Slack how you approach this - what are you doing on your way from the launching dock up to the start? How do you handle that compressed time … that compressed distance? Often lots of boats in varying aspects of their practice and warm-up … look forward to that. I think another thing as we talk about getting closer to the marshalling area, is it's really important to try to position your crew … your boat … on the side that's going to be closest to your lane. So as we get into that final warm-up area, it's really helpful to make sure that you are in the general vicinity of the stake boat, the pontoon, or floating start area so you're not having to cross perpendicular to all the other boats that are practicing, nervous, excited, and moving quickly. And all of that is magnified when you're in a bow loader. All the safety considerations are amped up when you are in a bow loader.


SALLY: One of the things you guys are clever to bring up is that everything is compressed - including how much area we have to warm up in. And sometimes - because sprint racing will happen in February - it's brutally cold and because of the basically … the trauma of the sprint … if your rower's muscles aren't warm, they can do serious damage. They can pull things. They can hurt things. Bad things can happen. So you can do things like stationary drills to keep your rowers moving  - (you know) backing … pushing … just to keep those muscles moving and warm. It's not going to be as warm as you like but if you're sitting there and it's cold, you're going to want to do things to help keep your rowers warm. And you're going to have to think a little bit outside the box because if they go into the sprint cold – (like) you have this fabulous warm-up … you get them warm and sweating and then they sit for 20 minutes - that's not helpful and that could potentially cause some harm to them. 


ANNE: And that is not an unusual situation, Sally, so thank you for reminding us all the importance of keeping those rowers moving and warm and not just sitting and stressing about the fact that they're lining up for their sprint race. 


BREANA: Sally, could you share some of the strategies that you use when you're in the marshalling area and you can't actually move forward and backward with the boat but you want to keep your rowers warm? 


SALLY: We have to think - am I working against the current … am I working against the wind? If that's the case that the wind is going to keep blowing me back, I can have the rowers take strokes. I can (you know) row by pairs and have other people provide check so there's more resistance. I can have one pair rowing and one pair backing. I can do sliding catch drills … you know, just being creative because you'll probably be able to move (you know) two or three feet forward, two or three feet backwards, but just enough to keep them sliding and the muscles engaged - even if it's just up and back on the slide, up and back on the slide with (you know) blades quarter-buried. Just something to keep them moving and not freezing. 


ANNE: Yeah. Good point. 


BREANA: And in Episode 022, we pick up from this area and talk in a lot more depth about what we do from the marshalling area through to attaching onto a stake boat - if that is part of your responsibility at a sprint race - and then being ready for the moment of the start. So that's where we pick up in Episode 022 titled ‘Stake Boats’.


SALLY: So before we get to the race and really that's why we're all here, Breana, you mentioned hot seating and needing a permission slip. I don't think I usually (um) get a permission slip. I just apologize profusely afterwards. But what do you mean about a permission slip? 


BREANA: Yeah - this can be a feature of some regattas. I have been at regattas where, in order to hot seat - so to bring in your boat or bring in some other boat and have something change … whether it's just you, it's the rowers, it's (you know) something about that lineup that is changing but that equipment is staying put and then you shove right off the dock again and you go to the race - that is what we're talking about when we say hot seating. I have been at regattas where there's a special dock for this so you need to know - if you're the coxswain arriving - that that's your responsibility. If you're the cox and hot seating into a boat you need to know where it will be and where to tell your rowers to be. And then I’ve also been at regattas where not only do those systems exist but also you need some kind of card … some kind of brightly colored physical card that you need to obtain from somewhere official at the regatta. And you need to brandish that as you're coming into the dock and that's a sign to the officials that you are intending to hot seat. So there could be any number of systems out there to indicate that you are hot seating. And if you are the coxswain who is hot seating into a boat - here let's talk about - you want to make sure that your rowers know when/ where to be. So again, is it a special dock … what time can they be expecting that other boat to come back? But make sure that they - since they'll probably be near a recovery dock - make sure that you don't have a gaggle of four to eight rowers clogging up that space as people are trying to bring their boats off the water who are not hot seating. So just make sure you guys are behaving respectfully in that area. You're ready to go down and change out quickly but you're not causing a problem that officials are going to have to talk to you about. 


SALLY: The problem with hot seating is you have to work out all the details for the second race before the first race starts. So you have to have your boat meeting and work out lane numbers and you have to work out where the oars are … where the people are … all of this needs to be communicated before you leave for the first race. And I’ve done it where there have been like diagrams and we've moved salt and pepper shakers around trying to explain who needs to go where and who needs to pick up what. But all that needs to be thought of and considered beforehand for it to go smoothly because rowing has so many moving parts. It is so easy to screw up a hot seat and so easy to miss a race because three rowers thought they were supposed to be on the recovery dock but went to the put-in dock and then they brought the oars and there was a wrong bow number and I’m in the boat - where's my cox box? - and this is the wrong weight. Like so many things can go wrong. And I don't have any coffee … the real tragedy of it all.


BREANA: Most egregious issue. 


ANNE: That's right. There should be a card for that, Sally. Sally's … uh … I need a quick sip of caffeine. But yes, hot seating -  boat, people, anything - it is quite the event. So for those of you who do that – enjoy. I think this is an opportunity for coxswains to support one another. That group that's the second race could benefit from having a fellow coxswain or other leader in the team come and help with that wrangling that has to take place in order to execute this, particularly when there are very, very tight centers. I mean - some sprint races have three-minute centers … meaning that the races go off every three minutes - that's a lot of planning and execution that needs to take place seamlessly. 


BREANA: I think we can conclude by reminding listeners that in this episode, we really focused on the way that sprint races are unique including how they're unique from head races that we've covered in prior episodes. We talked about things you can do to prepare for sprint races and the critical importance of appreciating these time and space limitations that come along with sprint race schedules and physical race courses. And as is true for many things in coxing, one of the biggest skills that you can bring to this is flexibility and adaptability to all of these changing situations. 


ANNE: You will break if you do not have flexibility and adaptability at sprint races even if you are coxing one in a day or 12 in a day, right? And so what do we feel about sprint racing? 


SALLY: It's so awesome. It's so awesome! And you go fast and then you get to do it again and then you get to go faster and then there's more and it oh, it's so awesome! It's like speed chess but better. 


ANNE: That should be the title of this episode: ‘Like Speed Chess But Better’.


SALLY: I love, I love, I really love sprint racing. I mean I love racing period. And I love that in head racing, I can bring more strategy, more nuance, more coaching to the crew. But sprint racing is just adrenaline and energy and instinct and I … uh … yeah, I’m a bit of a junkie.


ANNE: If you want to see Sally get even more excited, just wait till our episode called ‘Sprint Racing:  Start to Finish Line’. As we close, Sally, how about a Quick Pick?


SALLY: So one of my favorite sprint races is the San Diego Crew Classic. And what they do is, they give you these little pinnies. So every coxswain will wear a color - so lane one will have orange … lane two will have green … purple … blue - all this. So in addition to the bow marker, you have pinnies on so you can identify from a greater distance who's in what lane … who's in what group. It's just incredibly useful and incredibly helpful visual.


ANNE: Love that idea. Never seen it but I wish we could adopt that broadly. What do you think, Breana? 


BREANA: Yeah. Super cool - especially if they coordinate the stake boat holders with matching shirts.


ANNE: Yay.


BREANA: We're supposed to be in lane one - we're wearing green … they're wearing green … we're set. 


ANNE: Paint the pontoons that color - all the greens are lane one or lane zero. I love it. 


BREANA: Yup. And how about a Shout Out? 


BREANA: We want to Shout Out Linda Guida who was our guest on Episode 019 and is really the person who emphasized for us the importance of preserving our voices as coxswains. If you haven't heard that episode, we highly encourage you to check it out especially because our voices are really vulnerable during sprint race season where - as we've said here - we may have many races in a single day. So that's a bonus tip at the end of the episode here - to really make sure that in between multiple races (if you have them), you are resting your voice and truly resting it. And you can listen to more about that in Episode 019. 


ANNE: And we are ready to finish up this episode. And as we do, we want to thank you for listening. We invite you to engage with us on social media and join the discussion on Slack. If you like what we're doing, please consider financially supporting us on Patreon. 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.

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