row2k Features
Coach Tricks
Rowing Hack: The Coxing Plank
July 21, 2022
John FX Flynn

Ever have a '9th' who was not quite coxswain-sized? Well, there is hack for that that has been around for a long time: throwing a board across the gunwhales so a larger steers-person can sit atop the shell.

Then Rebecca Caroe sent us some photos of a very well-hacked version of this trick, so here it is as this week's Rowing Hack: The Coxing Plank.

That's right: it is a booster seat (or maybe anti-booster seat) for the coxswain station that makes it easier for a rower, or even a coach, to get in, or rather on, the shell. The benefit: getting crews out when there is not an actual coxswain-sized coxswain on hand--and it can even give a full-size coach the opportunity to get in the boat and feel what is happening.

As Caroe, who coaches at North Shore Rowing Club in Auckland, points out:

"When you need a cox but only a larger person is around - try this: A sculling seat screwed onto a plank. With a pink safety lanyard that hooks onto the steering wires in case it falls in the water - it then won't float away."

We can see how this Kiwi twist--adding an actual seat and 'butt pad'--is a solid improvement over the origins of this hack. We are pretty sure, back in the day, the 'board athwart the gun'l' was probably just half of an un-used lowboy, or maybe even scrap wood altogether.

In fact, when the Rowing Hacks thought back on the history of this Hack, one of the first examples that came to the hive-mind was FIT's founding coach Bill Jurgens--an anecdote that is a bit less fun to recall in the wake of FIT's recent decision to strip its men and women of varsity status.

But, back when Jurgens--who would go on to be the Athletic Director at Florida Tech from 1976 until 2020--would bring FIT's Varsity Crews to the Dad Vail, he would use the "cox on a board" hack, guiding his crew up and down the Schuylkill in lieu of having a launch and--rumor has it--attending intently to how the crew felt and was flowing so that he could give them the final coaching pointers that brought his crews such Dad Vail success over the years. Coach Jurgens, an imposing former oarsman, made for quite a sight as he often towered over his crew as he coxed them.

If your temporary coxswain is going to board your shell on this temporary throne, the lanyard you see here is a must. The board should float regardless, but if it does fall in, the lanyard will make it far easier to reel back in.

The Plank, in use!
The Plank, in use!

Do you have a "this should help" trick that gets boats out regardless at your place? If so, share your tips--and hacks--in the comments below.

If you have a great rowing hack to suggest for future inclusion, then please send it to us, like Rebecca did here, and we will feature your idea in a future column.

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