The Role of a Cox in Boat Racing– Part 3

As we power through the water towards the finish line, this third and final part of our blog starts with the principal duties of a cox. The following list is in order of importance:

  • Safety and management of the equipment and crew
  • Steering
  • Giving out instructions
  • Motivation and enthusiasm
  • Technical corrections and giving out advice to the rowers

    Safety & Management of the Crew

    Safety & Management of the Crew

    The underlying goal of any cox has to be the safety of the crew, the boat and the equipment. Anything else is secondary. The cox must have full control of the boat at all times to protect his crew and look after the expensive equipment. To do this the cox must almost have a three hundred and sixty view all around the boat, both on the water and land. The cox needs to be constantly vigilant to look for dangers in the water, such as other boats, swimmers and debris such as flotsam.


    The cox’s position in the stern of the boat should be sitting upright with the feet bracing against the stretcher. This braced position is imperative if the cox is not to be slammed into the rear of his seat every time the boat lurches forward. Steering is done by means of the rudder lines that are held between the thumb and index finger. By moving the appropriate line away from the body on the side that the cox want the boat to go. And the best time to steer the boat is in the middle of a rowing stroke.

    Giving Out Instructions

    The cox is the one person on the boat who gives out commands, and how the cox communicates this with the rest of the crew sets the tone of the boat. A cox has to be confident and give out clear and precise instructions that cannot be misinterpreted.


    Giving Out Instructions

    Motivation and Enthusiasm

    A cox’s job is to motivate a number of rowers to perform to the best of their abilities. Rowers can sense the tone in a cox’s voice and pick up on any hesitancy. The cox has to develop a style of delivering instructions that is not tainted by fear or excitement. Different rowers have different preferences how they want to be instructed and motivated, and a good cox will know this. A cox should always be positive with the crew, and when possible have fun with them and to get them to relax.


    Technical Corrections

    A cox must be first and foremost a rower, so he can impart good knowledge and experience to the crew. He must be technically astute to order technical instructions to any rowers that are not performing, and the crew must respect his advice as somebody that knows what he is doing. A cox will also fully understand terms such as: roll ups, catch, and releases, and have no problem correcting mistakes. So, the next time you are watching rowing boats race in the Olympics or the great University Boat Races concentrate on the cox and watch just how important he is to the boat.