Who's Who in the Boat
The diagram below shows the configuration of an eight person boat with a coxswain.
There are a few instincts that must first be discarded from your thoughts. Firstly, if you are familiar with boating rules, you know that starboard is off to the right side and port is off the left side. Well, it’s sort of not like that in a rowing shell for the rower. Remember the rowers are facing backwards in relation to their direction of travel, so for them, port is to their right and starboard is to their left. A coxie, or coach will often yell out instructions relating to all the rowers on one side of the boat. “Port side, your hands are too high” or “More power on Starboard side.”
The rower sitting in the front of the boat, though facing backwards, is sitting in the bow of the boat. He or she is the first to cross the finish line, or in some unfortunate instances, is the first to crash into the marker buoy or a bridge. This rower is referred to as sitting in “bow seat” or simply “bow” or occasionally, “1 seat.” In the four or eight rower sweep rowing boats, bow seat rows with an oar extending to the left, meaning starboard side.
The oarsmen ahead of bow are identified also by their seat number, as 2 seat, 3 seat, 4 seat, 5 seat, 6 seat, 7 seat, and 8 seat. Actually, the rower in 8 seat is called the “Stroke” for sitting in the stroke seat at the “stern” of the boat. The stroke leads the crew by setting the rate of strokes per minute and rhythm of the boat as the captain of the crew. All rowers behind the stroke will look to the stroke’s oar and have to follow exactly that rate. The rowers on port side 2, 4, 6 and stroke seat will all have their oars on port side. Bow, 3, 5 and 7 seat will all have their oars on starboard side.
The coxie will be the smallest person in the boat, to keep the total weight of the boat as low as possible, although if so low to give an unfair advantage, weights may be added to a boat. The coxie, however, is the loudest person in the boat and believes he or she is a gift from God to be obeyed without question. The coxie shouts out instructions often in panic mode, to the crew, through a small headset microphone in the “coxbox” to speakers in the boat so that all the crew members can hear them. Sometimes the coxie’s crude but expressive comments can be heard by spectators on the shore and should be understood to be made in the heat of the moment. In return, it is tradition for a medal winning crew to throw the coxie in the water after the medal ceremony.
The coach sits in a small motorboat accompanying one or two crews or individual boats on the water. Coaches at most clubs have achieved certification in the National Coaching Certification Program, as offered through Rowing Canada. As well as training the athletes, the coach must take responsibility for safety of the rowers. In the coach boat there will be as many Personal Flotation Devices as there are people in the largest crew boat he or she is coaching. Many clubs also have Cold Water Rules stating, for example, that when the water temperature is below 15C, the coach boat must never be more than 500 metres away from the crews being coached. Coaches should also train the rowers in safety procedures in the event a boat capsizes, and ensure the rowers have the ability to swim 50 metres or tread water for extended periods of time.