Rowing in the Hours of Darkness

The use of club equipment for rowing/sculling after dark is at the discretion of the captain – please check before taking out a club boat!

When Are the “Hours of Darkness”?

The hours of darkness are those during which streetlights are lit. This requires drivers on the roads to have their headlights on and is commonly called “lighting up” and “lighting down”. It is generally about 20 minutes before actual sunrise and 20 mins after sunset. You can check sunrise/sunset on the BBC weather website. As an easy rule of thumb if the streetlights are on, you should have lights on your boat! (see further below).

Use of Lights – Rowing/Scullingboats

During the hours of darkness, a white light showing through 360 degrees should be mounted both:

  • in the number plate slot on the bow
  • atop the rudder yoke in the stern

If mounting the light directly onto the hull please take care to ensure that it is not hidden by the saxboards, and that it is properly secured.

Flashing lights are usually more noticeable than fixed lights, especially in areas with pools of ambient light such as central London. Their use is recommended by PLA/British Rowing with the following provisos:

  • upstream of Putney Bridge only the bow light should flash, allowing other river users to easily tell in which direction the vessel is travelling
  • flashing lights can seriously impair night vision, so if travelling in a group they must be above or below eye level

Tip: Many fixed LED lights can be converted to flashing by turning the battery over or by buying a different battery type rather than replacing the whole light.

Lights can also be mounted on a pole on the stern behind the cox or in the bow in front of a steersperson (although care must be taken to conserve night vision with this system).

LED sticks secured to the back of the cox or bow can also be useful, although only as an addition to the main lighting system.

More information on the use of lights is set out in the PLA “Guide to lighting and other safety tips for small leisure craft”.

Always remember that lights are no substitute for keeping a good look out!

Use of Lights – Launches

During the hours of darkness a pole light should be visible above the driver’s head height. In addition, launches should also have red/green port/starboard lights. There are light sets available for launches at the club – please report any problems/damage.

Additional Restrictions

Rowing in club boats during the hours of darkness is also subject to the following additional restrictions:

  • only experienced crews and coxes may row/steer in the dark
  • rowing/sculling in coxless boats during the hours of darkness is not permitted except by members of the senior rowing squads; any such rowing/sculling should be accompanied by a coach in a launch
  • inexperienced and/or junior rowers may only row in the dark as part of an experienced crew and, in total, may constitute no more than a quarter of the crew
  • in the case of junior rowers, parental permission must be granted
  • crews should wear white, light coloured or fluorescent upper body clothing where possible to enhance visibility


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