WRC Rowing Procedures and Commands

The WRC’s goal is to ensure crew command and control over their shell both on and off the water is more consistent. Developing consistency will improve safety and decrease boat damage.

  • These commands are prepared based on existing rowing terminology used at the WRC;
  • These commands are to be used by crews at the WRC boathouse and when at regattas;
  • Rowing terminology varies by country/region which is important when attending regattas; and,
  • To learn more about rowing terminology, consult the sources listed below.

Attitude & Responsibility: As the coxswain (Cox) or Bow, it is up to you to make sure you get the boat on and off the water undamaged and to do so as safely and as efficiently as possible. This is easier than it sounds. There are a few important things to remember: the basics are: safety, steering, speech. If you master these, there is nothing to worry about.

If you are not the Cox/Bow, your responsibility is to do exactly what the Cox/Bow says when they say to do it, and be silent. This means no talking unless:

  1. You are asked a direct question by the Cox/Bow;
  2. There is an imminent (safety or boat damage) situation and you believe the Cox/Bow can’t see it or isn’t aware; or,
  3. The Cox/Bow has indicated it is ‘break time’ or you are ‘numbering off’ when ready.

Commands Generally: All commands should be made clearly and loudly enough such that the entire crew can hear them, and the tone should clearly assert the authority and control given to the Cox/Bow. Being authoritative may feel weird, but the crew will appreciate knowing you are in control and being able to hear you all the time. Note that boat carrying and steering commands differ:

  • On water – steering commands are to be acted upon immediately unless the Cox/Bow is explicit. Note the differences between ‘Let it Run’, ‘in 2 let it run, and ‘1-2 let it run’.
  • Commands for carrying the boat almost always have three distinct parts:
    • 1. What we are going to do; 2. A readying command; and 3. A timing word to initiate action.

Boat House to Dock: After your coach has assigned your crew to a shell, take your oars to the dock. To carry oars, carry either one oar (sweep/sculling) in each hand, or carry sculling oars back to back. Do not carry a big bundle of oars in your arms, as this can damage oars and increases the chance you will drop them. Place oars face down on the dock along with all other items you may need for your row. Set out stretchers if you need to check your boat before going on the water (highly recommended).

Assemble by your boat quickly. The Cox/Bow should ensure they know which direction they are heading on the river and should have signed out the boat. The Cox/Bow should at this point clearly take command and designate where they want their crew placed to carry the boat and describe the plan for getting the boat off the rack depending on its placement, and to the water (if at a regatta).

Commands to get the boat to water are as follows:

  • Hands on; Ready to lift, and, lift
  • Slide the boat out; Over the heads slowly; and, Up
  • “To waist on (starboard/port) slowly, Ready; Down; Walk it out slowly watching the riggers, on 2
  • One, Two” (crew walks boat out slowly watching the riggers in silence as described above. When the last part of the boat has cleared the flood barrier supports, Cox/Bow or Stroke says:
  • “Clear” Cox/Bow says:
  • Let it Run; to shoulders; Ready; Up; Over the Heads’ Ready; Up, Inside Grip; Roll to Waist” (away from stretchers; can say towards or away from bridge); “Ready; Roll; Keep it high; And, Back; And, Set it down” Check your boat for damage and set feet. When space is available on the dock Cox/Bow says:
  • “Hands on; Ready to Lift; and, Lift; Split; To shoulders; Ready, Down; To the dock in two; One; Two» When proceeding down to the dock the crew should remain alert and be aware of their surroundings to avoid collisions with other rowers or objects. After proceeding down the ram, the Cox/Bow will say:
  • Swing, (left/right)” this depends on river direction (always launch upstream). When they have reached the spot on the dock they wish to launch from the Cox/Bow sill say:
  • “Let it Run. Overheads, Ready and Up; Toe to the Edge; Roll to Waist, Ready, and Roll, Press it Out & In” Emphasis on out.

The Cox should walk beside the boat and ensure they have the best vantage point possible but generally remain by, or hold onto the stern. Always remind the crew to walk the boat out carefully, minding the riggers at all times. When putting the boat in and out of the water, the Cox should stand near the stern and make sure the rudder is well clear of the edge.

On the Dock: When on the dock always remain aware of your surroundings, move carefully and purposefully. This is important as you do not want to damage the equipment, hurt yourself nor keep your crew or others waiting. The Cox/Bow will usually hold the board while the rest of their crew gets their oars. It is customary to bring the oars to those who wait holding the boat. It this does not occur, the Cox/Bow will get their oars and equipment ready when at least one of the crew has returned to the boat. At no point should the boat be left alone as it may drift away from the dock. The crew should place their oars in the oarlocks (either as quickly as possible or when directed by the Cox/Bow). Dockside oars should be placed in the oarlocks first to help weight the boat onto the dock. Ensure you remove shoes and place the waterside oar and any other items in boat promptly. When placing your oar in the oarlock, ensure that you keep your centre of gravity between the middle of the boat and the dock; if your centre of gravity passes over the middle of the boat you will lose your balance.

Leaving the Dock: When the crew is ready to go (and after having checked that there are no oncoming crews), and it is otherwise safe to launch, the Cox/Bow says “Hands On; Waterside. Oars Across; Left Foot in*, and Down” (crews sit down in the boat and never ever place their feed anywhere except on the foot place or in the shoes). Once the Bow has assessed that each crew member has their feet in their shoes (or in a novice boat or 8+ the Cox can ask crew members to number off from bow when ready), then the commands should be: ‘Riggers off the dock” (crew leans away from dock); “Ready to Push, and Push” (all crew give a big push with their dockside hands). As this generally does not push the boat far enough away, the Cox/Bow’s command, the Bow should slide in their oar and gently push the rest of the way out with the end of their oar against the dock. The next command should then be: “Bow Pair Take it Away” or in a coxless boat the Bow can row across the river or ask certain members of their crew to join in.

*Advanced rowers may, after “Left Foot In“, do the following: “Riggers Off; Ready to Push and Push; And Down“. This is a one legged push where the rower is balanced on their other foot in the boat and the leg drive is used to launch the boat from the dock.

At the WRC, the crew should proceed directly across the river to clear the dock area. At regattas, crews should follow the local traffic pattern and clear the dock area quickly.

After having cleared the dock area, the Cox/Bow should stop in a safe area and ask the crew to Number Off from Bow/Stroke when Ready. Usually, in coxed boats it is from bow and in coxless boats it is from stroke. This is your time as a crew member to do a final check to ensure all of the equipment at your seat is in proper working condition:

  • Your feet are in the right place;
  • Your rigger, footboard and slide nuts and bolts are tight;
  • You can get to your catch and finish positions;
  • Your clothing is appropriately tucked in, removed or added;
  • Your water bottle is secured; and
  • Any last minute stretching is done.

When you are ready, be clear. If you have a problem, let it be known.

On the Water: The river is like a road. The banks are the curbs, and there is a yellow line up the middle of the river (halfway between the banks) that you should not cross over or you will risk a head on collision. Between the yellow line in the middle of the rive and the bank there are two lanes. A slow lane (near the shore) and a passing lane. This passing should generally do so towards the middle of the river. The exception is when working out in a group with a coach boat during period of strong current. A coach may suggest using the current to keep crews of varying speeds together. However, even with this exception, you should not cross over the yellow line to pass.

The most important words you need to know are “Hold Water“. This is your emergency brake call. Blades go in at 90 degrees and this is the fastest way of stopping the boat. Note that «Way Enough» is often said by Americans and it means «let it run and hold water», in case you ever hear this at a regatta, make sure you act.

Most often we say, “Let it Run“, which means stop rowing and hold your oars off the water (as best you can) until the Cox/Bow says down. «Let it Run» along with most other commands should most often be «on 2», meaning the Cox/Bow says what they want to happen then they say, «in two; one, two» and the crew reacts.

Some general comments on Steering: Novice rowers tend to respond a little slowly, and novice coxes tend to make calls a little late. This, of course, gets better, but try to make your calls as early as you can (anticipate events). On a similar note, if you feel yourself drifting towards the bank or the middle of the river, make adjustments to the steering as soon as you become aware of it.

Steering early for corners is essential. Make more small alterations using the rudder rather than less, more pronounced movements.

Spinning / Changing Directors / Turning: When spinning, make sure you have lots of room and then spin quickly. Always watch your stern and get the bow to make sure you have enough room. When backing with an oar, keep it facing the same way as you would normally row with it.

  • As you learn start by one side hold water and the other rowing.
  • As you advance you can have the crew alternate rowing and backing.
  • Once this skill has been mastered crews can learn to PICK, which means alternating backing and rowing using very short strokes often (equivalent to arms only or shorter).

Docking the boat: When docking a boat, it is extremely important that the crew is silent and they remain ready to act upon the Cox/Bow’s commands. Do not try to help, as you will interfere with the Cox/Bow’s plans.

You should always dock while traveling upstream into the current as this make the process much easier and significantly reduces the chances of damaging your boat.

At the WRC, our traffic patterns are clearly posted near the bottom of the stairs. When you are at a regatta or another club, ensure you are familiar with the traffic patterns for:

  1. Leaving the dock;
  2. Warm up;
  3. Getting to your start;
  4. Cool down; and,
  5. Returning to the dock.

This must be done before you take your boat down to the water. Often there are diagrams to show the traffic pattern; if you can’t find them, ask.

Learning to Dock: Until the coxswain and the crew know all of the commands and the coxswain has good steering skill, the coach has a responsibility to be on the dock and help the crew get in without damaging the equipment. Initially, the coach will have to give the commands to get the boat into the dock. However, the coxswain must be encouraged to practice docking the boat early in his/her coxing career.

When docking the shell, a novice coxswain should bring the boat in slowly (easy rowing in pairs or fours/bow only in sculling boats). Do not allow any talking in the boat. Pay attention to the wind conditions and adjust docking technique accordingly. For example, if there is a strong tail wind, the coxswain should bring the shell in more slowly than usual. Do not aim too close to the dock. Steer such that the blades are over the dock and someone can pull the shell in. As the coxswain gets more experience, s/he can get closer.

After you have learned to dock: You will understand that it is done most easily if you bring your boat in on an angle that is slightly less than 45 degree from the edge of the dock. Bring the boat in slowly using either the bow rowing alone or just the bow pair in sweep boats. Remain alert for the Cox/Bow call of “Lean Away“. This is done just before the the Bow’s oars reach the dock and will cause the waterside oars to dig in slightly while raising the dockside oars up and over the dock.

Exiting the boat: Cox or bow will call “Left foot up, and out”, and rowers exit the boat dragging the waterside oar across as they get out of the boat. In a new crew, the crew may not all exit at the same time. For example the bow may say “stern pair, left foot up, and out”.

Dock to Rack: Cox/Bow ensures that the crew is lined up on boat where they want them. Commands are: «Right/Left hand across, hands On» (wait until crew gets grips); «Ready to Lift (straight up) to Waist, and Lift; Over the Heads, Ready Up; Split, Head Up». Return boat to rack the inverse 19/27 of bringing it to the dock. Stop to put the boat on stretchers (you may need to check that some are available before heading up the ramp.) As soon as the boat is safely on the stretchers, the Cox/Bow assigns seat numbers/sides of the boat (sweep) to: dry the boat (open vents & check for damage) and get oars (recall carrying instructions which likely means two trips to get all the oars and your crew’s stuff).

Make sure you return the boat to the same rack you got it from, and put it back the way you found it (“rack” markers, and generally facing the same way as the boat above or below it). Ensure you place it on the rack gently. If there is any damage, whether caused by your crew or not, hang a «DO NOT ROW» sign on the boat and send an e-mail to boats@winnipegrowingclub.ca  with a description of the damage, and make a note in the damage log next to the sign in/out log.

Debriefing: After the boat is safely on the rack, crew should either return to tarmac, or if no one else is using your boat bay, the Cox/Bow should initiate a short crew conversation about the row (what went well, what didn’t). Feedback is important and the Cox/Bow should facilitate and encourage comments from all rowers.

Getting feedback is one of the best ways to improve, not matter what level you are at. Encourage this conversation whether it is a crew you row with all the time, or a throw-together crew you are unlikely to row with again.

In crew conversations, be candid, open and positive. With criticism, be constructive and avoid personalizing comments or blaming anyone for a bad row, as this is ultimately a crew sport.

If possible, try to include your coach in these conversations. If your coach cannot attend, but there are some particularly important revelations, try to get this message to your coach. If you are a single sculler, take some notes to talk to someone else, or keep a journal of your post row thoughts to help with your quest to improve.