Next up In The Driver's Seat--where we hear from the folks who add that extra something to the teamwork of a crew—-is GB Men's eight coxswain Harry Brightmore.
Harry, now a two-time world champion in the eight, got an early start in coxing at King’s School, Chester and then went to Oxford Brookes University. He made three GB U23 teams while at Brookes, before his debut with the senior team in 2017.
Since he moved into the GB eight to start the Paris Quadrennial, the crew has rattled off two World Championships, and Harry has been in the crew for golds at two World Cups and a win at the 2022 European Championships as well.
In an interesting historical footnote, Harry was one of the six coxswains to bid farewell to the coxed pair: he raced in the last-ever "lead sled" A Final at the 2017 Worlds.
Let's hop In The Driver's Seat with Harry:
row2k - What do you see as the three most important things for being a successful coxswain?
Harry Brightmore - This is a tough one to kick off with, as the role of a cox is such a huge job that there’s a massive amount of things to do that could make you successful--but these are three of the things that I take pride in, so maybe they’re useful.
1: Knowing how to read a race. Mid race, I will take note of the oppositions rate, listen to their cox (and their tone of voice, if I can’t understand them!), take a look at their faces--all within a couple of strokes. If I know they’re about to push before they’ve called it, I’m one step ahead.
2: Understanding that there is always more to learn. I don’t think I’ll ever stop having that mindset.
3: Calmness in the high pressure situations goes a hell of a long way.
row2k - What is your favorite drill to run with your crews? Any tips on how to the drill well, for maximum effectiveness?
Harry Brightmore - It’s been said more than once on this feature, but feet out is so good. It teaches you to push your boat to the finish line and not pull it back to the start line!
Try to think about gathering your speed from a long leg drive, rather than quick sudden movements through the finish. Let your arms relax. You’ll be working well from the front in no time.
row2k - What's some of the best coaching advice you've received about your coxing?
Harry Brightmore - I once got told to go for a run, and imagine what info you’d want to hear. And how often. Would you want someone screaming “Legs!” every step? Probably not.
Give them a split, a rate, and give them a minute of working on something, and let them work. Works with an erg or cycling, too.
row2k - What is a mid-race call or move that you've made that you'll remember for the rest of your life?
Harry Brightmore - I really don’t believe in “pushes” or “moves”. I feel like in an eight, it’s down to whoever holds their speed the best.
That said, I do feel like the World Championships final probably came across as though we had a monster move at the 1000. In truth, we had been calm and smooth in the second 500 and looked to hone in on one clear focus as we crossed halfway as we were holding our speed really well. It ended up working so much better than I expected, and we ended up staying exactly the same speed in the 3rd 500.
As I was calling the split, I almost felt the crew believe in the call, and kept pushing for that feeling even more. That level of belief in what I say is totally empowering as a cox, and I was so proud of that.
row2k - Can you tell us anything about how you learned how to call the start?
Harry Brightmore - I’d love to say we have a really fancy start routine, but we actually just get going out at our pace as early as possible. I call it as calmly as I can, because I trust the guys to push onto the right speed.
You can watch both that start, and GB's non-move move at the 1000, in the race video from their win at the Belgrade World Championships, or skip right to the row2k video of the cox toss:
row2k - Tell us a bit about your best race/practice?
Harry Brightmore - The best practices for me are where you come off the water after a lightbulb moment. The synergy has stepped up a level and all nine of us have discovered something new, together, as a crew. Like I said earlier on, I’m always learning, even at this level. And so are the guys.
row2k - How about your worst race or practice?
Harry Brightmore - It’s been a long time since I’d say I’ve had a “worst” session. Maybe I’m fortunate that I’m with guys that have rowed with each other for years, or maybe it’s more down to my perception of things.
I do think a lot can be learned from bad sessions, it creates a challenge and an opportunity. For example, we lost a pretty good streak of wins when we got a silver medal in Lucerne this season. However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, we were excited to get into the details of what happened, and it exposed stuff we should’ve been doing already. Ultimately, it pushed us on into a good place before the world championships.
Thanks for riding along with Harry, and remember, this column is open to all "drivers" out there, so if you are an experienced coxswain at any level--from juniors to masters--and would be willing to invite row2k to join you in your ride, just contact us here. We’d love to hear from you about what you see from the Driver's Seat.