One of the enjoyable aspects of rowing is that it is one of the sports where women and men can compete on the same team. Women often cox men's boats, and -- frequently in club and masters rowing -- there are mixed boats, boats where women cox men, and boats where men cox women. Athletes are athletes; we don't think twice about it…until we try to explain some of the terminology in non-rowing contexts. Hotel check-ins, for example. The interchange below was overheard from the lobby the night before a head race, when a women's masters 4+ checked in with their male coxswain. To set the scene: the crew was sharing a two-bedroom business suite, with the coxswain to sleep - as is customary on road trips -- on the floor or the living room sofa.
Desk Clerk: "Um, you are in the same party with these women?"
Coxswain: "Yes, they are my crew." (Turning around to show team jacket.)
Desk Clerk: "Cru?"
Two Seat: "We do whatever he tells us."
Stroke: (hastily trying to clarify the situation)
"I'm his Stroke."
Clerk: (eyebrows going up )
"Sorry, didn't quite catch that?"
Cox: "She's my Stroke. They're my crew. I'm their cox."
Clerk: "You're their WHAT?"
Cox: "Their cox. I steer. She and I work together to keep the stroke rate constant. And to maintain the leg drive."
Clerk: (pause, deadpan)
Cox: "I have to keep them at full pressure for 18 minutes--"
Clerk: (the welcome-to-our-lodging-establishment smile freezes abrubtly)
Two Seat: "A constant stroke rate at an even ratio is very important to, well -- you know -- get the most out of a crew.
Three Seat: "There's a lot of…discipline…in rowing.
Stroke: (nodding agreement)
It takes a very experienced and knowledgeable cox to keep four women at full pressure for 18 minutes--"
Clerk: (suddenly understanding)
Oh, you must be here for the head race. Here are your keys; enjoy your stay. (Turns to deal with next set of guests -- a men's 8+ with a woman cox)
Coxswain #2: "Hi, do you have any rooms with really long beds?"