What’s a Coxswain?

A coxswain is an essential part of the boat – just as essential as the rowers are. The coxswain functions as the “quarterback” of the boat. It is their boat, their crew and they are in charge. They lead, direct and execute race strategies.

A coxswain needs to be light, loud and have the ability to command the boat. They need to have the confidence of the rowers, be knowledgeable about the boat’s maneuverability, and understand how to effectively direct the crew.

Because the coxswains are dead weight in the boat, they need to be light. A coxswain needs to motivate a crew. The rowers depend on the coxswain to navigate the boat. In the last 500 meters when all the rowers are exhausted, they look to the coxswain to keep them focused and determined.

The coxswain’s primary job is to keep the boat moving straight. If the boat cannot stay in the lane, its will be disqualified. Coxswains steer the boat by making minor corrections in the direction of the rudder. If a boat is leaving its lane, the official behind it will wave a flag at the coxswain.

During the race, besides steering, coxswains need to keep their wits about them and to control the pace of the boat. They do this by using a cox box, which tells them the current stroke rate. If it is off the race pace, then they will tell the stroke (rower who sets the pace of the boat) to control the rate and bring it back to race pace.

Although, tradition has rowers tossing
This practice is strictly forbidden under local rowing rules for safety reasons. It will result in the disqualification of a team if it happens.