Introduction to Safe Rowing

Statistically speaking rowing is a safe sport. The incidents of death or serious injury are few. However we should never be complacent; the nature of our sport dictates that we are often being steered by someone who is facing in the opposite direction of travel (bowsteersmen, scullers) or by someone whose vision is obstructed by members of the crew (coxes). We travel in fragile boats designed for speed which are damaged on impact and can be swamped in rough water.

The stretch of river we enjoy is varied due to its tidal nature, where the passage of a few hours can turn benign conditions treacherous – and on some occasions this can even happen within the space of a few minutes! (On the plus side, this means that if you arrive at the club for an outing and the water looks horrible, it may well have improved by the time you have had a cup of tea and caught up with your crewmates. And if you are able to plan your outing times with some flexibility, then you can pick a quieter time mid-afternoon or early morning, and aim for a lower tide time with the tide flowing out, and enjoy mirror-flat conditions!)

The stretch of river between Richmond and Putney is also well used, by other rowers, paddlers, canoeists, sailors, commercial traffic, anglers and pleasure craft to name a few. Peak hours can mean considerable congestion; and on occasion tempers can get frayed as everyone tries to get the most out of their ‘leisure time’. The Port of London Authority (PLA) has a written a “Code of Practice for rowing on the Tidal Thames above Putney” which aims to cover all aspects of rowing where things we do might impinge on others.

No-one is allowed to take charge of a Club boat in the boathouse, on the foreshore, or on the river until the Captain (or club appointed coaches) is satisfied that they are competent. You would be considered to be “in charge” of a boat if you are a:

  • Cox
  • Steers-person (whether bow steers or from another seat in a crew boat)
  • Single sculler
  • Coach/Launch driver

When determining whether a particular person is competent, regard will be had to their understanding of the guidelines on performing a risk assessment and following the navigation rules. It is critical that all those who take charge of boats are aware of their responsibilities.


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