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Lessons from the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race

Lessons from the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race

When the unexpected happens the crew that makes the best decision in the split seconds around the event usually comes out winning. We all saw this in action in the recent Oxford & Cambridge boat race. Lessons can be learned for every club from this event, and as a boat club manager, it’s up to you to make that happen.

Firstly, work with the coaches. How to give yourselves the best chance of coming out ‘best’ is to do some scenario planning to work out in advance what you’ll do if an incident occurs.  Brainstorm all together best practice for common race incidents.

Common race incidents include:

  • A false start (in this case it was a re-start),
  • A clash of oars, steering corrections that unbalance the boat
  • A breakage (oar, rudder, rigger)
  • Wake or wash or waves
  • Wind gusts

Now these don’t even mention reactions to the relative positions of other crews.  What will you do if you fall behind, what if you are slowly moving up on the opposition, what happens if they have a bad stroke, what if your coxswain hears them start a big push. One thing is certain, always follow the calls of the Umpire.

If you are a coach, a simple test of whether your plan is understood in the same way by every crew member is this:  Ask the group a question such as ‘what will we do if someone crabs?’ and then pick one crew member to answer – then ask each of the rest, ‘Do you agree?’.  In this way you can find out if anyone has more to add to the answer or a different understanding of what they’ll do if a crab happens.

From a boat club manager’s perspective, your job is to keep everybody safe even the kid that swims in front of all the boats in the form of protest. Utilize strict safety standards in your club. Print out safety guidelines and keep them around the club, and hold a quarterly ‘safety meeting’, so that you’re sure even the single scullers aren’t left behind. Make sure each club member is well prepared for the unexpected, avoiding panic can mean avoiding mistakes and injury.

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