What to do in the Event of Capsize, Swamping or Other Incident

General Guidance

From a legal standpoint, the cox or (in the case of a coxless boat) the steersperson is responsible for the safety of their crew. (If you are single sculling, this means you are responsible for your own safety!) This is over and above any coach who may be supervising the outing.

This means that if you are coxing or steering a crew (or a single scull) you are responsible for performing a risk assessment prior to boating, and reporting any incidents which occur.

As a general rule, we do not usually hold members liable for any damage caused to equipment accidentally. However, we reserve the right to do so in the event that serious damage is caused by recklessness. You may wish to consider getting insurance to provide cover in the event of an accident – note that if you have British Rowing membership then this will cover you for both civil liability and personal accident insurance. For further details about the insurance offered by British Rowing please click here.

Immersion in Water: Capsize, Swamping or Accident

Capsize is when a crew or sculler turns their boat over leaving the crew/sculler immersed in the water. Capsize is more common in the less stable boats, singles and pairs are most vulnerable but it has been known for crews to capsize doubles, fours and even quads and eights.

Swamping is when the boat fills with water and the crew are immersed in water with the boat upright yet partially or fully below the waterline.

Accidents might result in someone ending up in the water, either knocked out of their boat, or because their boat is so damaged.

Once someone is in the water, unless the weather is very hot and the water temperature high, they are in danger from hypothermia. An immersed sculler’s ability to think rationally and rescue themselves will be diminished in a few short minutes. It is recommended that you read Jane Blockley’s cold water safety guidelines on hypothermia and water immersion.

Current club advice (displayed on posters around the club) is that you should try to get back into your boat as soon as possible, but think quickly about what the best method might be – towing your boat to the bank, standing up and climbing in, climbing back in the middle of the river and climbing on top of your upturned scull and paddling it like a surfboard.

Getting your torso out of the water is the priority.

The best method for doing so will depend on how fast the water is moving and how high the tide is.

Remember you should swim with the stream, rather than trying to go straight to the bank at 90 degrees, because this will involve more effort.

For further guidance please see the section on capsize/swamping training in the British Rowing Row Safe Guide.

After any incident, you should complete an incident report.


Next Safety guidance page: Incident reporting
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