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April Safety Feature: Regatta Practice and Warm-up Areas

by Admin Admin | Mar 28, 2013
From novice to elite-level athletes, the problem is the same; not paying sufficient attention to what is going on around them. The pre-race practice and warm-up areas are dangerous, but there are some things you can do to help reduce the possibility of accidents.
A novice crew was warming up for its first collegiate sprint race. It was the end of the spring break training trip and were all primed and ready to go. The warm-up was going great, the rowers were focused on executing the planned warm-up, and the coxswain was making sure that they were focused and hitting their ratings. There was nothing between them and their first victory. Well, almost nothing. Actually, it was a 1,000-pound steel buoy, painted bright green, and it even had a little light on top, but they still hit it dead on.

They had rowed past this buoy 20 times and everyone knew where it was. But something happens on race day to the minds of even very bright people. They are focused like lasers on the race and the planned warm-up, but forget about basic situational awareness.

The story about the novices is true. So is the story many years ago of the U.S. eight and four that collided head on during practice at a world championships. Somebody was not where they were supposed to be and the neither crew was taking the time or energy to look for other boat traffic. What is even more unfortunate about the U.S. teams crashing, beyond the damaged boats, is that people were hurt.

From novice to elite-level athletes, the problem is the same; not paying sufficient attention to what is going on around them. The pre-race practice and warm-up areas are dangerous, but there are some things you can do to help reduce the possibility of accidents.

  • Teach your team to be aware at all times during pre-race practice and warm-up.
  • Home and visiting crews must always be aware of what is going on around them. Home teams may feel very comfortable with the warm-up area and know it well, but the visiting team may not and may be in the wrong place.
  • Make sure visiting crews have maps of the host team’s venue before they arrive.
  • Take the visiting coxswains and bow seats of blind boats out on the water when they arrive – this can be done while the rowers are rigging their shells.
  • Have a large map of the course, warm-up area and hazards posted in the boathouse for all coxswains, rowers and coaches to see and study.
  • If you are visiting a new venue, or if it’s new to your coxswains (just because the coach knows it well, does not mean that your team will) get a map before the regatta and go over the traffic pattern and hazards.
  • Never go out of the designated warm-up/practice area; now is not the time to go exploring a new waterway.
  • If you are a small boat or single sculler, you need to find out all of these things too. You can get information from the organizing committee or seek it out when you first arrive at a new venue.

Getting to the starting line safely should be part of every race plan. It seems simple enough, but the longer you stay in the sport, the more often you will see crashes and near-crashes because someone was not paying attention to their surroundings. Laser-like focus is good; just make sure it’s on everything to make race day a success.

USRowing Safety Committee
Casey Baker
Jim Cooper
Rachel Lemieux
John White
Margot Zalkind, Chair
Willie Black, USRowing Safety Liaison

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