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029 | Steering: Fundamentals



Welcome to CoxPod - a podcast dedicated solely to coxing topics. I'm Sally. I'm Breana. 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: This episode is all about steering. In Episode 018, we covered stationary maneuvers and in this episode, we are going to be moving into what affects the course of the boat as it's moving. So why do we care? Primarily because this is the number one skill that you need to learn as a cox because if you don't, you are not going to move forward in your career. It is one of the aspects that coaches and rowers often comment on and they really do expect coxswains to be able to steer the boat. And most people think you just need to go straight. How hard could that be? 


SALLY: Yeah. How hard could it be, Anne?


ANNE: It's not hard at all. Right, Sally? I mean most of us have either ridden a bike, pushed a grocery cart … many of us have driven cars … so what is the big deal? Well, if you give me just a moment here and – yes, this is going to be a little bit of an exaggeration but not a whole lot of exaggeration - the analogy I'm going to use is that of a semi (which some people call an 18-wheeler; some people call it tractor trailer). But I'd like you to imagine this semi. And what I'd like you to next do is take the engine apart. And you're going to put pieces of the engine along both sides of this big vehicle and while we're at it, I want you to realize that none of these engines actually is doing the same thing at the same time. 


BREANA: And let's not forget that every single one of those little pieces of engine operates by voice command so you have no way of directly controlling it. 


ANNE: That's exactly right so you've got all these little engines on both sides that are all a little bit different from each other - and in some cases in rowing, a lot different -  but that's another point. Then what I'd like you to do is to take the driver who, by the way, is sitting in the front of the cab in a very comfortable spot - a nice, cushy seat. Oh, that's another topic, too … talking about moving this person to the back of the truck and putting them in a tiny little seat that often doesn't fit or feel very comfortable. And now they're in the back of the truck and – oh, it gets better than that. They can't see where they're going because there's obstruction of the truck in front of them. But wait - it gets better because it's so simple, right? Everybody thinks it's simple… 


SALLY: Are you throwing in the steak knives now? Like, how can you top this? 


ANNE: No - I can. How I can top it is now I'm going to take the main thing that makes this boat change direction and I'm gonna put it not at the front but at the back. And better yet, it's the size of a credit card. And we're not done yet. The one last thing to keep in mind is that the road … so-called road that you're on … is a liquid medium and often it is shifting. So not only can you not grip it, but it is shifting underneath this fantastic, long tractor trailer. Now that you've got this vision in your mind, you tell me - what do you think? Simple? 


BREANA: How hard could it be?


ANNE: Yeah. So how did you learn, Breana? What were you told when you first started to learn about steering? 


BREANA: I was taught to steer by my novice coach on my first day in the boat who walked me over to the seat in an eight and showed me the steering cables and said, “Okay. You grab onto these and then you move your right hand forward to go right, your left hand forward to go left. At least I think …” my coach said. “I'm not really 100% sure now that I say that because I've never been in the coxswain seat. I was a rower. So good luck.” And that was pretty much my experience of being taught how to steer … if we could call it that. And I imagine that that resonates with many coxswains out there. Let's move from Anne's initial semi-truck example to the real thing - a real rowing shell. And Sally, you can kick us off here by talking a little bit about the anatomy of the actual shells that we'll be dealing with. And we'll take a stern-loaded eight as our example for moving forward. 


SALLY: One of the things that you absolutely have to protect is going to be the fin or the skeg. It's that triangle bit that hangs down below the coxswain seat in an eight. It is not uncommon for novice crews to knock off that fin when placing the boat in the water. It's also not uncommon to lose or have that fin obstructed in some way by rolling deadheads or debris. You will miss it when it's gone. It's also important to know (just cursorily) - the shape of the boat and the placement of the fin actually have an impact on steering. So if you are in one brand name boat a lot and you suddenly get switched into another brand name boat, take a deep breath. Know that your skills are transferable but both shells will not steer the same way. There was one time when Breana traded one American brand for another American brand and had to reassess her entire philosophy on coxing, I think. Is that right, Breana?


BREANA: I can corroborate. It felt like I was a novice again. I really felt like I was back in the boat steering for the first time so that is absolutely an experience that is normal to have if you are jumping between different boat brands or if you get very used to one and then switch to another. It's a completely different experience - or it can be. 


SALLY: Another thing to think about in general - in North America - most boat manufacturers have the cable system of the rudder set in such a way if you move your right hand forward you're going to go to starboard if you move your left hand forward you're going to go to port. General rule of thumb. There's some European boat makers and definitely any boat I have ever been in in Europe doesn't hold to that. But in general for a novice - if you're just learning, just follow - point in the direction you want to go with your hands on the steering and generally that is the direction that the boat is going to go. Now that we've talked about the basics of steering, how do you guys hold on to those rudder strings? 


ANNE: Sally, what I do is something I think I saw in one of the coxswain books that I have trained with. And I put my hands on the gunnel and I very carefully brace my hands there … usually loop my fourth and fifth fingers around the gunnel and then I move forward and back. But I usually have two hands on the strings. Let's call them strings … some of them have little knobs on them but some of them don't. I have my hands on the strings moving forward and back. What about you? 


SALLY: It's super important in the coxswain seat for me that I am grounded and I am not moving as much as possible. So if I have to use my fingers to grab on to the hull I will do that to try to fight the check any way I can. So like you, Anne, I've got my fingers curled around the hull and I've got my pointer finger and my thumb resting on the rudder cables. How about you, Breana? 


BREANA: Yeah, what I do is very similar to what you guys described. I steer two-handed. I'll stick my pinky and my ring finger kind of on top of the gunnels and then down into the shell grabbing on to whatever options I have there for holding on to the strings, depending on the boat manufacturer. I'll use my middle finger, index finger, and thumb to hold on to those cables and then it's just a subtle movement. That's the nice thing - is that it's really just a movement of those three fingers that are actually holding on to the steering mechanism and that can help reduce a very common problem which is over steering. 


ANNE: So while we're talking about our position with our hands, I do want to just point out that our bodies should be back and braced in the seat but part of this steering thing depends on seeing where you're headed. And there are some times that you may need to lean out in order to see what's dead ahead of you because you literally have that blind spot. So you may have to lean out from time to time. Please keep that to a minimum because it clearly will throw the set of the boat off. So let's talk about that blind spot for a moment. What do we do to address the fact that we are steering but can't see directly where we're headed? 


SALLY: It's going to be a hyper awareness of the situation and where you are. So as you move closer to something  … as I'm sitting in the stern of an eight … as I move closer, my visual field is going to decrease I am going to have less understanding and visual acumen of what is directly in front of me versus if I am 100 meters out, I've got a better view of what's in front of me. And I just have to (kind of) pay attention to where the bridges are … where the rocks are … and plan ahead of time so that I am not right on top of them. I do my best to try to extrapolate what is in front of me by how fast we are going and where I am. 


BREANA: I find it helpful to add on to that map of the terrain anything moving in the area that I may be sharing the body of water with. So if I see, for instance, a faster boat come up behind me, then I have to be always aware that that's now part of my mental map of the river as well and keep an eye on. You know, okay, that boat passed me. I'm starting to pick up speed a little bit. Let me just lean out or whatever I need to do to make sure that I still have tabs on where that boat is or maybe it's gone (you know) - it's already moved far enough away or it's docked or whatever. So singles, (you know) larger boats, pleasure boats that might be out on the water, or stand-up paddle boards, all the different things that could be out there interfering with your course - try to keep tabs on those and know (you know) we're passing the dock for another boathouse … this is a place where many people launch. Let me just keep an eye out and make sure no one has just launched from here. That's kind of how I try to approach dealing with that blind spot - is making sure I note things when they are visible to me and if I don't see them, that's when I'll maybe pop up onto the deck and look around if I need to or lean out and just make sure I have tabs on where that moving object is. 


SALLY: Since most of us don't have echo location skills, when I am coxing alongside another boat, I find it very helpful to work off another coxswain because they can see in the front of my boat in places I can't. And so I will lean out to the other coxswain and go, “Hey Anne, am I clear? Anne, am I good for the next thousand meters?” And Anne will say, “Yeah Sally, you're clear”. And I can trust that. So the blind spot is definitely, definitely a challenge when coxing. What are some of the other challenges that you guys encounter when steering this giant shell that's not like a car or a bicycle or something we're a little bit more familiar with?


BREANA: Yeah, when you're in one of those types of vehicles, it's very responsive to you immediately. You move the steering wheel or you move the handlebars and the vehicle accordingly starts to move in that direction. When you're done with the turn that you intend to take, you right the steering and you're going straight again. On the water it's not that simple. So the reality - and this is difficult to learn … it takes experience and time in the seat to feel this out because it's so unusual compared to how we're used to things operating when we steer them - the reality is that the boat is slow to respond and it's slow to stop responding to your steering as well. This is such an important thing to figure out to help remediate that challenge of oversteering that many coxswains experience when they first start out. Or, in my case, it happened again when I switched to a different brand of boat. It's important to remember that you're not going to feel or see an immediate response when you first move the steering cables. You need to give it a stroke or two to start to respond and then the boat will start to move. And the other really important thing to remember is that you need to back off before your turn is actually complete. So if you're intending to move yourself from one point to another - your bow is going from one spot to another spot - you actually need to back off and reset that steering to straight before you are completely finished with the turn. And that takes a lot of time and experience to feel out but at least being aware of that as a factor can help you prevent yourself from waiting until you're already finished with the turn, righting the steering which would work in other types of vehicles, and then you're going to end up steering beyond the point that you intended. You're going to ratchet your hands the other direction and you're going to end up just in this frustrating situation of ping-ponging around. So reflecting on the fact that the boat takes time to respond and takes time to stop responding is one way to start combating that over steering experience that you may be having. 


SALLY: I think the biggest change for me from riding my bike or driving my car is that the water is fluid and reactive. If I am trying to avoid something, I have to plan ahead of time because that boat doesn't move the same way my bike does. I can't just turn and go. You're gonna have to be planning ahead of time to make this happen … that turn that you wanted and then stop before you get there. So I'm 100% in agreement with you, Breana. 


ANNE: And when you say stop, what you're meaning is that you bring your hands back to the neutral position which is where the actual rudder would be dead straight in the boat. There's often a mark on the steering cables or strings that indicates where that center position is. And so as much as possible, the goal is to have the steering in the straight position. However, that's really not steering - that's going straight. So why, why do we need to steer at all? Why can't we just get in the boat and just lock down that rudder and go straight all the time? 


BREANA: Well, one reason that we might steer that is critically important to our job as coxswains is for safety purposes. So maybe something has appeared in front of us that's unexpected. Maybe it's a stationary obstacle on your body of water like a rock or something that is always there that you're maneuvering around as just part of the course of your regular practice. Maybe it's something that is mobile - maybe it's another shell or a person in some other type of watercraft that you need to maneuver around. Maybe it's a log that you can see that's above the water that you're trying to avoid. So steering is helpful for that purpose. We obviously have to move out of the course of those obstacles when they arise. Generally we're steering because very few of us are blessed with a perfectly straight course of water that we can go out and conduct an entire practice and never touch the steering. That's just not how most bodies of water that we row on are made. So we're really trying to get ourselves from point A to point B - simple enough. But that's amid all of these different obstacles that there might be on our bodies of water. 


ANNE: So Breana, how do you navigate when you don't have a particular point that you are aiming for (you know) as your end game. So the coach says at the beginning, “I'll meet you down at the cove”. And to get to the cove, you have to do a lot of steering. How do you navigate that and keep your steering on target? 


BREANA: In most of the bodies of water that I have coxed on, I have taken the approach of steering more of a line. So that line is kind of following the shore - coming out for any obstacles as needed - but I will try to gauge it by keeping myself equidistant from that shore as I move along. And that's kind of how I'm gauging to make sure that I'm following the traffic pattern, essentially. You'll know the safe distance for your own body of water. Maybe you can get as close as half an oar length, maybe you're a full oar length away, maybe your multiple boat lengths away from your shore … whatever is appropriate for your body of water. I will kind of try to keep that distance the same and by constantly adjusting for that, I'm able to follow the curvature of the river without veering into oncoming traffic. That's how I have approached that on a lot of bodies of water I've been on that don't have any obvious landmarks way in the distance to point at. So instead, I take this approach of following the curvature of the body of water. 


ANNE: There's a similar situation when you are side by side with another boat. Sally, how do you handle it if you are out with another boat - another coxswain - and you guys need to stay together but you don't want to crash with each other. You want to stay equidistant. How do you manage that? 


SALL: I try to stay in constant contact and communication with the other coxswain. And we try to do what I call ‘picking points’ where I find some light or tree far off into the bow of the boat that I can point on and hold on so I can go straight because I've got a fixed point that I'm tethered to. And then I call out to the other coxswain, “Hey Breana, I'm pointed on the third light on the arch” and Breana goes, “Okay, I got the second light on the arch”. And together we try to keep holding that and if we drift far apart, I can say, “Hey Breana, we're moving too far. I'm gonna change my point”. 


ANNE: What I generally do is have one coxswain picking the point and then I work off of them as if they are sort of the shoreline that Breana was just discussing. But there are lots of ways to do this. That's just how I like to work that. 


BREANA: So generally we're steering to navigate our bodies of water which are very rarely perfectly straight and we may have additional unexpected steering on a day-to-day basis that's based on whatever mobile things are unfolding on our body of water. But no matter what purpose you're steering for, there are other factors that can impact steering and we just want to give those a brief mention here so that you have them as part of the whole suite of things that you are considering as you're steering. You know, like we said we're not driving on a perfect road. We're on water and there are other conditions that can affect us. So wind is something that can affect you and it could either be pushing you a certain direction that you aren't intending to go so you need to counter that with your steering or it might be supporting where you're intending to go and you need to steer a little bit less. Same can be true of current. Another factor to consider is the speed of the boat - that also impacts steering. A very slow moving boat is going to take a very long time to respond in terms of steering and might not even respond at all or not in a time frame that makes any sense. So for instance, maybe you've just shoved off the dock and you have rowers doing an arms only pick drill, that's not moving the boat very much … it's just a few people rowing arms only. And so if you have - especially if you have an urgent steering decision that you need to make … maybe there was a big log there that you didn't notice - then the steering is not going to be necessarily enough … steering with the rudder. That might be a time that you ask a rower to stop rowing or start rowing or you stop the boat and you make an adjustment and then you pick back up. So if the boat is moving very slowly, you can't expect your steering to be as responsive as when the boat is moving quickly.


ANNE: Would we be okay now if we took a slightly different approach and talked about some misconceptions that we might have heard from coaches or from rowers about steering because it's kind of fun to think about it that way. And I'm guessing that our listeners are going to recognize some of these well-meaning remarks related to steering. I'm gonna throw a first misconception that I heard and have read a number of times - it is: steer as little as possible. 


SALLY: Yep. We've heard that. 


ANNE: Why is that a misconception even if it is well-meaning? 


SALLY: So as a coach, they have interpreted the rudder as a brake and they see that every time you are steering, you are applying a brake to the hull. So therefore coaches and people who don't always appreciate what's going on in the boat will say, “Steer as little as possible because I'm putting in all this energy and effort into making the boat go forward and you're just slowing me down”. 


ANNE: So as well-meaning as that might be and how each one of us is committed - I know we are - to helping the boat go as fast as possible and not wanting to be that factor that slows the boat down, I'm going to toss out that I'm doing a lot of steering. And what I mean by that is: I am almost always making tiny adjustments. So that is steering. 


SALLY: Again, most coaches assume that the boat will go straight enough if you leave it alone and this fallacy is something I as a coxswain have been fighting for the past 30 years because the boat doesn't go straight. You have four different engines on either side that are each pulling at a different rate and a different pressure no matter how hard you try to unify them. You have wind and waves and currents playing on different parts of that 70-foot boat that's going to push the hull in certain places and pull it in other places. I know that there are monsters in the boat that will cause it to be unset and that unset boat - that imbalance - is going to cause it to list to port or starboard. So these boats … if you get behind them with nobody in them and push them … yes, they'll go straight. But there's so many different variables and you as a coxswain are subtly correcting for all these variables so that you can in fact go straight. I will tell you that I am constantly steering. I am constantly adjusting my point. I try to make lots of small adjustments with the rudder versus large sweeping adjustments with the rudder because that can offset things. But I am constantly countering wind and three seat over pulled this time but under pulled this time and four seat is always skying and missing the first half of the catch. I am always adjusting for that to hold the line. So I'm always on the rudder. And if some people say to get off the rudder, I have sat back very proudly with my hand on my head and showed them the direction that the boat goes without me. 


BREANA: And I really encourage people to try that exercise because I will third everything that has been said here. And from time to time, I've tried that just to see and in the boats that I've been in, you are so quickly off course if you actually do what some people advise - in the most extreme form of this comment - to steer as little as possible. And if you actually try to set that rudder even what is marked in your shell as straight and you just let it go as the crew rows, you will not be straight for long in my experience. So I - as both Anne and Sally have just shared - I'm also making constant anticipatory adjustments. You notice things getting out of whack as quickly as possible and then within one stroke you can get them back. But if you wait until things are out of control, it's going to take longer and you're going to end up doing that fish tailing down your body of water. And these things take so much time. Just to be clear - this is not something that any of us learn on our first day and are flawless at. For me, it was a years-long trajectory that is still ongoing (to be honest) that I'm always trying to improve on. And again, you hop in a different boat manufacturer's shell and you're back to square one honestly … sometimes. So we can corroborate - on behalf of all three of us - that our experience has been that you are always making adjustments and that is how you actually go straight. 


ANNE: Exactly. So I might rephrase ‘steer as little as possible’ as ‘steer as little as possible to get the job done’ which means you're going to be steering almost all the time. 


BREANA: I like that a lot. 


ANNE: So how about another one and every one of us has heard this: get a point. 


BREANA: Yep. This is one that coaches like to just (kind of) generically shout at coxswains to suggest ‘I don't like the direction that your bow is pointed in right now’. And when people say ‘point’ that's what they mean. But as we already talked about earlier, the bow is a blind spot for you. You have eight people's bodies - in a stern loader - in front of you so how are you supposed to accomplish what people say which is to point your bow at something in particular? That is not always practical so I'll share one strategy that I take on. As I said earlier, I'm not always following an explicit point  -something way far off in the horizon … a large building … a very tall tree … something distinctive. I don't always have that on my bodies of water so when I don't, I'm often following a line along the shore instead. But when I am trying to get a point and I have something big in front of me that I can gauge off of, I will often mark that thing off of stroke seat’s shoulder. So every time they come to the finish - that's kind of when they're hunkered down the most … their body is the lowest it's going to be - so I will mark a building in the distance or something off of their shoulder. And that's where we tie into the previous point - so if I notice that that building is suddenly behind their head, I can't see it or it's way far off to the right and it's not behind their shoulder anymore, that's when I'll adjust back until it looks right again when they reach the finish. So that's one thing that has worked for me to maintain a point. 


SALLY: Sometimes when a coach in a launch tells a coxswain to get a point, you have to remember that they are sitting in a launch three and a half feet higher off the water level than you are so things that are visible to them are not visible to you. So when the coach says, “Get a point on X”, there are things that they can see … being that much higher off the water … that you cannot. And that has been a constant level of frustration because they'll go, “Sally can't you see?” And no, I cannot see what they are looking at because I am sitting behind (you know) a 6’2” stroke and I'm sitting under where the coach in the launch is. So it's all about perspective. But it's definitely something you have to consider when calling points and trying to discuss this with a coach because they forget what is available to your visual realm. 


ANNE: Great points. 


SALLY: I see what you've done there, Anne. I applaud. 


ANNE: How about another one that I'm gonna throw out there that you might have heard, which is: never use the rudder - rely on the rowers to steer. I want to start off by saying there are definitely times when this makes sense. 


BREANA: Yeah. I think those times that it makes sense include when the boat is moving very slowly … like we introduced a little bit ago. if you're doing a very light drill with only part of the boat and you need to genuinely make a steering correction and it needs to be done reasonably quickly, sometimes modifying the pressure of the rowers on one particular side or adding a person or dropping a person for a stroke or two can accomplish that. I've always found this advice to be a little unwieldy if applied very stringently because you don't want me, coach. You don't actually want me during a regular piece to have my hands frozen in place and be asking the rowers every second to be making an adjustment because you'll just ping pong down the body of water saying, “Port pressure. Okay, even. Starboard pressure. Okay, even.” That doesn't make any sense. Trust me. You would rather that I be making those subtle steering adjustments and just not saying anything to the rowers. If you're going around a huge turn, that's when you might do a mix of rowers adding some pressure and some steering. There are situations where it's appropriate to be using rower pressure. There are situations where it's not. And then there's situations where you might choose to use both. 


SALLY: But wasn't there a situation, Breana, when some goof off coach sent you into a race and you didn't have a rudder  (maybe) to steer with and had to rely on your rowers to get you down the course (maybe) but you stayed in your lane the entire time because you're awesome. 


ANNE: And for those listeners who are not aware, that coach that Sally is referring to actually turned out is her. Just so you know she's not dissing anybody else. 


SALLY: No, I'm taking full ownership of the fact that I put Breana in a very bad spot but she handled … 


BREANA: This coach - who shall remain nameless except not - yes my steering was not actually connected to the rudder so I was up there thinking I was doing stuff in this bow loader and nothing was actually happening. This was a sprint race where we got locked onto the stake boat after a somewhat weird feeling warm-up and then went down the course having nothing but pressure to steer with. And it was a nightmare. It literally was everything I had to stay in the lane. It was constant calling of pressure from either side. You never sent her out without that rudder working properly and so as soon as I would tell one side to back off, I'd be veering to the other side of the lane and I would need to tell the other side to put on pressure. So I can say from on unfortunate experience that that approach does not work as well as just letting the coxswain make small adjustments with properly connected steering. 


SALLY: So empirical data. This is not a theoretical discussion. Also, Breana is awesome and I am sorry.


ANNE: I'm going to toss out another hack based on Breana's first comment about the boat moving slowly and steering. When I launch off our club dock, immediately after that there are two navigational buoys that are right there that you need to swerve around. And so if I'm doing a pick drill and stern 4 are rowing us off the dock and we have to steer to starboard quickly around one of those buoys, I will often have one and three seat also hold water just a little bit so that they're acting as a little bit of a lever to scoot around and that will make a nice sharp turn at a low speed. And then as soon as we're straightened out, I have them just feather and sit easy. 


BREANA: That's a great tip. 


ANNE: How about another well-meaning comment that is a pretty popular one actually - and by popular I mean frequently voiced - which is: steer only on the drive? 


SALLY: I think we should absolutely avoid absolutes in all circumstances. This falls back to what I believe is the misconception that the rudder is breaking the boat. And the rudder does feel different when you use it on the drive and it does feel different when you use it on the recovery. Different coxswains have different preferences. And it's hard to steer only on the drive because it's the short, segmented pulse. I'm gonna just advise you do what you need to do to make those short little constant adjustments and worry less about falling into the rhythm of the stroke because there are times when you do need to steer on the recovery to counter somebody's digging or there are times you need to steer on the drive to counter the power application. Again, absolutes absolutely don't work so I'm gonna advocate - just get a feel for it. And if somebody tells you that, go “Huh. That's a really good idea. I'll try it next time”. Try it for a few strokes and figure out what you really want to do but then again, I chafe at rules. Breana? Anne?


BREANA: I like that advice, Sally, to respond to this by saying that you'll give it a genuine attempt. I have attempted in the past - this pulse steering of some people call it - and I found it to just be very erratic … very cognitively demanding … just very taxing and not practical, frankly. I've honestly heard people argue both ways – steer only on the drive; steer only on the recovery. And I just find both of them to not make any sense in the context of the steering I've actually needed to do. So frankly, the way that I do it is simply by moving the rudder in the direction I want to go. I hold it as long as I need until I'm gradually moving it out of that turn. I make those movements gradually but there's often times where I'm holding that rudder in its turned position for more than a stroke or two. And I think the reality as well is that most rowers are not able to perceive that anyway. Some who are very highly skilled absolutely are and if you're in a boat like that, that might be the time to attempt that. And that might be all you need … is some little adjustment that is very quick and you can pull every single one off only on the drive. But my experience (again) has been that that has not been a very practical way of steering and I think many other things are throwing off the set more than me happening to be on the rudder on a recovery here or there. That's my take on that. 


ANNE: I'm with you on that one for sure. Why don't we toss out our final often-heard misconception which is: be sure to tell the rowers when you're steering. What do we think about that? 


SALLY: I have many thoughts and it kind of dovetails a bit into what Breana was saying before. There're going to be people who are listening to this who we know are going to throw back the hydrodynamics of rowing and rudders and all this stuff at us and will say, “No, no. You must steer on this because …”. And I'm not gonna disagree with them that the physics and the hydrodynamics of the boat are impacted differently when you are steering on the recovery or you're steering on the drive. And also the stiffness of the boat and how new the boat is when you are steering - it's going to feel different. The truth of the matter is 98.7% of the time, none of us are going to be in a boat that stiff and when we are in a boat that stiff that you can truly feel the impact of the rudder, we are not going to be rowing with rowers who are skilled enough to appreciate the feel of the boat and will try to correct for your correction. There have been times I have been in boats with Incredible athletes and when I'm on a rudder, if I didn't tell them, they could feel something was going on with the hull and they would change their rowing to compensate for my compensation. It is amazing when you are at that level and you will know when you are at that level and when you have to call it. And you call when you're on the rudder … like Breana said when you're holding it for two or three strokes. But unless your rowers can understand what is happening … unless that boat is stiff enough to respond the way it should … it just becomes a distraction. That is my opinion. 


ANNE: I'm going to agree with what both Sally and Breana said. The cost-benefit ratio here - the analysis here - for me is: steering only on either the drive or recovery whatever your coach is trying to tell you or telling your rowers when you're steering (again, unless you're at that super elite level) - the amount of concentration and effort that it requires takes away from the many, many other things I'm doing as a coxswain. So I say just let those suggestions pass and if you need to have a private conversation with your coach about that … if the coach is continuing to mention those advisories … have an on-land discussion with your coach. That’s my suggestion. As we get close to the end of this episode, I just want to invite our listeners to put up on Slack some common things that you may have heard - well-meaning (again) but that actually in reality … once you've spent some time in the seat … you find maybe not so much a hard and fast way to proceed. So look forward to learning more about your thoughts and your experiences. And in closing, I just wanted to really emphasize that steering is very, very complex. We started off with an analogy that was – yes - exaggerated but really hopefully drives home … drives home … the fact that it is a complex and difficult process in these boats. And we also talked about the mechanics of steering. We also talked about some common things that you might hear from coaches or rowers and consequently I want to lurch - this is not our final episode on steering. We will definitely be visiting this topic again with some more advanced concepts. So I want to remind everybody - we have all been there. We have struggled especially at the beginning. Please be very, very patient with your trajectory. I know I am still working on perfecting my steering because it changes with every boat that I'm in and every row because often I've got different rowers and even not the same rowers behave differently. Those engines all behave differently on different days on different moments in different conditions. So it really is much more complex than Breana's initial introduction to steering - just get in … push that one hand forward or pull the other one back whatever it is. Can we agree on that, ladies? 


SALLY: Yeah. There's not an app for this. 


BREANA: And since those days when I was a novice coxswain learning how to steer - like Anne said - it's become easier but I still feel I have learning to do on my trajectory and Improvement to make. Experience is really the best thing to teach you these concepts. Get in the seat as much as you can. There's really no substitute for that. But it can be beneficial to consult other resources to supplement the learning that you're doing actively in the seat. We really hope that this episode can be one such resource and as another example, we want to share our Quick Pick for today's episode which is a fantastic blog and accompanying book by a coxswain named Chelsea Dommert called “Coaching the Cox”.  It's really designed as a resource for coaches. We know we have coaches who listen - highly recommend this resource. It's fantastic but I also found it to be extremely valuable as a coxswain myself. Once I encountered this, I devoured everything that she had on this blog. I think it's fantastic and what we'll link you to in our show notes is the specific tag on the blog about steering. There are so many great articles that are specifically about steering because that's such a critical skill to teach coxswains but there are many others on there as well. So this is a blog that concluded in 2013, but the information is all still there it is still fantastic information. So highly recommend – again, that's called “Coaching the Cox”.


SALLY: And I think our Shout Out really, really needs to go to those incredibly kind and patient people who saw us through all the levels of our steering trajectories. Some of them on points. Most of them not. And those people who still forgive us and help us through the mistakes that after 30 years I'm still making. 


BREANA: Absolutely agreed. And as we finish up this episode, we want to thank you for listening. If you like what we're doing, please consider financially supporting us on Patreon. We are excited to bring you more content soon. And until next time, I'm Breana. I'm Anne. And I'm Sally - signing off for now.

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