Thursday, August 21, 2008

Coxswain Courageous

My 13 year old granddaughter, Hayley, rows competitively as a Junior (ages 13-18) for ZLAC Rowing Club and sometimes serves as a coxswain for a boat. That is, she is the boss, she gives the directions, sets the stroke rate, implements the race strategy, and steers the boat. Last weekend, she was the coxswain for two boats at the Long Beach Masters’ National Crew Regatta. One boat was crewed by younger women, 30’s-40’s, and the average age of the second boat was 63. Speaking of Courage under Fire, it takes some chutzpah for a 13 year old to tackle coxing a team almost at an Ancient Mermaid age. And, she had to give up some time previously committed to her band to do their first recording session. I asked her to do a guest blog for us. I told her to show some humor, some vulnerability, and that she was welcome to include that her mother hadn’t asked her before volunteering her services. She wrote,

I don’t know how I was dragged into this. It happened rather quickly. My mom, without asking me, volunteered me to cox a boat at Masters Nationals in Long Beach if they couldn’t find another coxswain. This was three weeks before the actual event. For two weeks they strung it out and didn’t tell me, and didn’t tell me, and didn’t tell me. Fast forward to one week beforehand. They told me I wouldn’t be coxing, they had found another coxswain. So I went and said to the band on Sunday: “Yes, I will be at church next Sunday, packed and ready for the recording session.”

The next day the Masters’ rowers emailed my mom and said

1. We actually need your daughter to cox two boats,
2. Neither of them is the one we originally thought she would be in,
3. If the first boat makes its final, the final is 20 minutes after the second boat’s race, so we don’t know what to do, and
4. Could you possibly cox another boat at 2:00?

I said NO to the last, I have something I really have to attend, and I’m already going to be late for it. Then, the day before, my mom realizes she didn’t finish our hotel reservations for that night, and the hotel is now full. Our reservations do not exist.

So we wake up at 4:45 the morning of, leave at 5:30 from San Diego, and arrive at the Marine Stadium in Long Beach at 7:00 AM. I took my sleeping bag and all my overnight junk for the overnight recording session that I was supposed to go to at 10:30 that same morning. My iPod headphones were glued in my ears for about three hours waiting for the first race.

At this point, I was fairly sure the ladies I was coxing hated me, because the rowing club had made a rule stating that no Junior could cox a Masters’ boat. This was AFTER I had started coxing their practices. Well, they didn’t hate me -- as proved by the never-ending chorus of thank yous after the races.

I discovered that it is much more stressful coxing people who not only know what they are doing, they know what YOU should be doing and will call you out on it. The Juniors have no idea what you should be doing, although sometimes they think they do. I had an experienced Masters' coxswain rowing in the second boat I coxed, and she sat right behind me in the bow. She had to tell me how to do things once in a while during the race, like backing into the stakeboat in a crosswind. That was useful. The time conflict with the final was irrelevant, because we weren’t even close to qualifying. That was disappointing, but it was also a relief.

My first boat was very nice; they were the younger boat.

There was no wind at all for that race, and there was just the right amount of time for a warm up.
Boat #1, the "younger" crew

There are a multitude of brain-busting things for a coxswain to think about, so everything was easier than Junior events. Junior Events are badly organized and usually run late, the start officials are bow ball Nazis, and no one knows what to do.

[The bow, or front of the boat, is marked with a ball stuck on the end. The coxswain in a bow loaded bow is facing front, almost in a lay down position, the rowers are facing back, toward the stern. K.]

The Nationals race was well organized and had perfect conditions. It was fun, but I couldn’t think of much to say during the first race. That is bad for a coxswain. You are supposed to talk to them the entire race. Coming into shore, I was too polite, I guess, and let all the other fours land before we had any room. Oh, and I think we finished fourth out of five.

The second four were older of the two racing teams and had an experienced coxswain in bow seat. [The bow seat is the rower next to the coxswain in a bow loaded boat. K.] We had a little too much time to warm up, so we came to the start line 15 minutes early. We pulled up five minutes before our race time, and it was “two scull bow, two scull bow, two keep sculling bow, please”, until the official finally called, “2 minutes.” Then, thirty seconds later, “Attention. . . row!” I don’t know what happened to 1 minute. . . but we were still sculling bow when he called it. Oh well, bad start.

Bringing in boat #2, the "older" ladies

I had more to say during this race than the last one: I had actually thought about it this time. We came in and I was too polite again, so we waited ten minutes to actually land on the beach. When we finally saw the times, we were fourth. . . by half an second! I’m sorry, I neglected to mention that this was a straight final, and we could have medaled. Oh well. I got a shirt. And a Jamba Juice gift card. And experience.

I’ll probably be the only Junior to cox in a major masters event. Anyway. I made my recording session! Not at 10:30, but 3:00. That’s okay. I didn’t miss anything. We recorded until midnight, and woke up at 6:15 to record some more. We got two songs done with 11 hours of recording. Ouch. This is Kathie’s granddaughter, signing off.


Anonymous said...

Wow, there sure is a lot to coxing. I had no idea. You explained it like a pro, not to mention you look like tough chick with your gang in the boat. Great story! Keep 'em coming (maybe you should start your own blog page?).
Aunt Jen

Pat said...

What a great post...and way to go on the coxing! You can blog with us any time you want, little lassie.

Kappa no He said...

I learned so much from this. Thank you. And now for a guest post about that CD your recording. That sounds intriguing, too!


Katharine said...

KNH, I think we'll be hearing from Hayley again.