Coxing Commands

Coxing Commands

This section contains a heap of rowing vocabulary. By all means don’t try to memorize this! It’s just here so that you can refer back to it if you’re unsure about something.

(1) General Terms

Boat bits

BOW              Front of the boat

STERN          Back of the boat (where the cox sits)

GATE             Metal bit at the top of the swivel which holds the blade in place.

RIGGER        Triangular metal stays fixed to the side of the boat that carry the blade.

SLIDE            Each rower sits on a seat which moves on small wheels. These wheels

run up and down the slide.

RUDDER      Small piece of metal the size of a credit card which your cox uses to

steer a boat the length of a lorry whilst their view is obscured by 8

great big rowers

COX               Not exactly part of the boat, a person who shouts at you and

steers the boat

BLADE          Another name for an oar.

SPOON          Painted part of the blade which goes in the water.

LOOM            Long stem of the blade.

HANDLE       Wooden bit of the blade which you hold on to.

Things you might encounter on the river

These are the various objects that your cox will have to look out for and steer a course through

TUB                            Wide bottomed teaching boat

SCULL                      Single person boat, rower uses 2 oars

PAIR                          Two person boat, one sweep-rowing on each side

DOUBLE                   Two person boat, both sculling with 2 blades

FOUR                         Four person boat, two sweep-rowing on each side

EIGHT                       Eight person boat, etc etc etc

GEORGINA              Huge great floating restaurant that gets in the way

CRUISER                  Slightly smaller boat that gets in the way

HOUSEBOAT           In-between sized boat that gets in the way

FISHERMEN            Stroppy men on the side of the river


(2) Getting the boat out of the boathouse


Not as simple as it sounds – the boats are heavy and there’s the potential for rowers to get injured if they don’t all respond together.  When the boat is carried out of the boathouse it should be upside down (easier to carry that way) or on its side. There should be an equal number of people on each side of the boat. Each rower should be opposite to their rigger (why? Because its kind of difficult to hold onto the boat itself if you have to reach past the rigger, and positioning yourself opposite your rigger means there’s an equal spread of people carrying the weight of the boat). If the boat is on a low rack then the relevant side will have to lie on the ground to pass the boat over their heads, if its on a higher rack the boat can just be passed over their heads whilst standing/crouching.

HANDS ON               All rowers with their hands on the boat, ready to lift

LIFTING ON e.g.3   Lifting on the number called, so if your cox shouts “lifting on 3, 1..2..then lift on the 3, not earlier. The whole point of this is to get all 8 people lifting together, if two of the crew lift early then those two are going to drag the boat out and drop it on their heads before the others are supporting the weight of it.  This is not very clever. Also, as you lift the boat out of the racks, make sure that you don’t slam its riggers into the hull of other boats on the racks or conversely, slam its hull into the riggers of other boats.  Unfortunately a couple of our boats have suffered major damage because of this.

HALF-TURN                        Turn the boat on its side. There’s not enough space in the boathouse to carry it out level so we have to turn it on its side. If necessary the cox will say which way to turn it (e.g. “Stroke-side lift to shoulders”). Once there’s enough space the cox will shout to bring the boat level again so that its easier to carry.  As the boat is carried out of the boathouse your cox will keep an eye that its not going to hit anything.  If you don’t have enough space as you dodge the riggers of other boats then shout out and the crew will shift accordingly.

CLEAR – All of the boat is now out of the boathouse and you can swing round to bring it level with the bank

Novice method

Turn the boat over – bring the boat the right way up, cox will specify which way to roll it

Bow/strokeside under – Whichever side is nearest the water will come under/round the boat one at a time till all rowers are on the same side of the boat.

Move towards the water – Edge towards the water, feel for the edge of the bank with your toes

Put her in – Gently lower the boat into the water, make sure that its far enough out otherwise you smash the rudder onto the bank and it doesn’t work any more

Advanced method – probably more for the boys this one

With people still on either side of the boat, cox will shout

Heads on 3, 1..2…3   Rowers swing boat above their heads, moving to centre underneath the boat

Roll her in                  Rowers bring boat down towards waterside from over their heads

STROKE-SIDE HOLDING               Stroke side hold onto the boat to keep it stable while the others get in

BOWSIDE IN   Bowside get into the boat and first of all get their blades out onto the water to give the boat some stability before the others get in

STROKESIDE IN   Strokeside can then get into the boat

NUMBER OFF    Starting with bow, and going down the boat in order, each rower shouts out their number to indicate that they are ready to row


(3) On the water


Parts of the stroke

CATCH                     The part of the stroke where the blade is put into the water.

FINISH                      The part of the stroke where the blade is taken out of the water.

TAP DOWN              When the rower pushes the handle down to lever the blade out

of the water.

DRAW                       The part of the stroke where the spoon is pulled through the


RECOVERY                         Part of the stroke where the rower moves up the slide for the

next catch.

RATIO           The ratio of time pulling the stroke against time sliding on the recovery. For optimal rowing, you should spend longer on the recovery than you do on the draw.

ARMS ONLY           Rowing with arms only, no naughty use of your back

BODIES OVER/BODY-LEAN   Part of the stroke after the arms have ‘gone away’

HALF SLIDE            Taking the catch halfway to frontstops instead of at full slide. Similarly, cox may call ¼ or ¾ slide.

BACKING/BACK IT   Turn the blade back to front to take a reverse stroke

Blade positions

INSIDE HAND         Nearest the gate (does the squaring and feathering).

OUTSIDE HAND     Furthest from the gate, does the pulling and tapping down.

SQUARED                Blade perpendicular to the water.

FEATHERED           Blade parallel to the water.

FRONTSTOPS         Where you take the catch on a full slide stroke (at the front of the slide), blades should be square and buried.

BACKSTOPS            Where you take the finish, legs flat, sitting back (at the back of the slide), blades should be square and buried in the water.

General terms

STROKE (1) The person sitting nearest the cox, who sets the rhythm and rate.

STROKE (2) The repeating cycle of movements made by the rower and blade.

SIT THE BOAT”    Blade feathered/flat on the water, holding the boat steady and level. Sitting the boat is an active process – if the boat is tipped down towards your side, lift your hands, if its tipped up at your side, lower your hands and the boat should come level.  Why should you bother to sit the boat? Well, if its not level then the cox can’t steer properly, it’ll drift at an angle and people who are trying to row wont be able to you.  Then they’ll get annoyed and they’ll hold you responsible

WATCH YOUR BLADES – warning from the cox directed at either stroke or bowside to beware that there is an obstacle they may hit. If you hear this warning look around to the side and pull your blade in if necessary.

STROKESIDE    Rowers on the same side of the boat as stroke with the blades going out to their left

BOWSIDE          Rowers on the opposite side with the blades going out to their right

Lining up the boat/gentle manoeuvring

TOUCH IT                Take a very light part-stroke (eg gentle arms only)

TAP IT                       A light part-stroke

TAKE A STROKE   A full stroke (self explanatory that one!)

ROW ON                   Start paddling until told to stop.

Stopping the boat

LOOK AHEAD – Shouted at another boat which looks like it may be in your path, warning them to pay attention/get out of the way

EASY/EASY ALL/EASY OARS/EASY THERE.  Stop rowing but keep your blade off the water, and the boat will drift along

DROP             Drop the blade flat onto the water after easying, the boat will slow down a bit.

TAKE THE RUN OFF   Angle the blade against the water to act as a brake, this gently stops the boat

HOLD IT UP/HOLD IT HARD   This means that you’re about to hit something and an emergency stop is required. Square your blade in the water and hold it there.

SPINNING    Turning the boat around. Normally this means stroke side turning their blades to back it down and bow side rowing as normal.  Both sides should move up and down the slide together, blades flat on the water when its not their turn and then the whole side pulling/pushing together when it is their turn.

Coming in to land – Cox may tell you to take the run off on one side of the boat (e.g. strokeside) to bring you parallel with the bank

The term ‘Next stroke’ is usually used to alert the crew that a command is on the way, and is followed by an instruction of what to do and when.

e.g.   Next stroke … Firm pressure … Go

As soon as you hear the words ‘next stroke’ pay attention. You should not carry out the command until you hear the word Go, that way everybody changes together and we look professional.  If the command applies to only some of the boat then they will be specified before the command

e.g. Next stroke … Bow 4 out … Go

When you’re about to start rowing from standstill and the cox calls “from frontstops” (or backstops) you should all come forward (or go back) but keep your blades flat until the cox says ‘ready’. On the call of “ready” you all square you blades simultaneously with military precision. Again, this is designed to minimise any disruption to the line of the boat, otherwise the cox has to mess about with bow or 2 again so that you can move off in the right direction.  The ‘ready’ command is not generally used when the boat is moving.

Hear are some commands you may hear whilst the boat is moving, always remember to wait for the ‘Go’ before you follow them

LIGHT PRESSURE             Not pulling very hard.

FIRM/FULL PRESSURE   Pulling as hard as possible.

HALF PRESSURE              In between (theoretically).

RATING                                The number of strokes taken in a minute.

UP TWO (in the water)        Following the person in front, take the rating up in speed, during the ‘draw’ phase of the stroke

DOWN TWO (on the slide)  Following the person in front, take the rating down in speed, during the ‘recovery ‘phase of the stroke

UPSTREAM                         Direction into town

DOWNSTREAM                  Direction out of town

(4) Things that annoy your cox

Your cox is responsible for your safety in the water and they’re the only person facing in an appropriate direction to see what is ahead.  You must pay attention to everything they say whether you’re actively rowing or sitting still on the water.  A fast, co-ordinated response is essential.  8 people stopping when they’re told compared to only 6 of the 8 stopping when they’re told can make the difference between stopping properly or hitting the bank/other boats.  It’s worth paying attention.  Similarly, your cox is there to steer your boat. The river is very narrow at points and it can be difficult to get boats moving in opposite directions past each other. When boats have stopped, current and wind can blow them across the river, into the bank, into trees or at an angle into the path of oncoming traffic. Your cox needs you to be paying attention to them (even if you’re listening to a coach on the bank at the same time) so that they can manoeuvre to avoid this.


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