Capsize drill – how to get back in a rowing boat after flipping


Today we are going to look at several different videos teaching how to get back into a rowing boat after having fallen in.

British Rowing official capsize drill

  • The first minute shows a capsize using a camera on the boat
  • Note the athlete is fully submerged and then pulls her feet out of the shoes under water
  • There’s good advice about ‘simulating’ capsize in a swimming pool – remove backstays
  • At 1:15 she gets back onto the stern canvas and using her arms only paddles the boat towards shore.  A good technique if you aren’t strong enough to get in over the side
  • The video explains clearly how a coach can teach capsize drills

Daniel Gorriaran from Narangasett Boat Club

This has good instruction from the bank – worth copying

  • Feather your oars on the surface of the water before trying to get back in
  • Getting in from both sides – worth practicing
  • Recommends swimming underneath to get the far oar lined up perpendicular to the boat
  • Note if you are over 50 years old you have “3 tries” to get back in the boat and then you are likely too tired to succeed

Calm Waters Rowing

  • Elbow on top of the oars as you line them up parallel to the boat
  • Bounce in the water three times before getting hips onto the top of the boat
  • Once you have tummy across the boat, then twist around to a sitting position

This one shows a beginner (not a coach)

It is instructional because you can see what she does right and wrong

  • She tips out of the boat easily and the boat stays upright because she was relaxed as she fell and had let go of the oars
  • When getting back in, she stays lying on her tummy
  • And then instead of attempting to sit up, she straddles the boat cockpit with her legs dangling in the water – one on each side
  • From there, she succeeds in sitting up.  Note she keeps the oar handles low in the boat while doing this, which doesn’t help stability
  • Once sitting she moves the handles upwards so each spoon is resting on the water and the boat is level
  • Then the athlete makes a rookie error and lets go of one of the oars…. and falls in again

This last video shows a large number of beginner adult / masters scullers doing the capsize and recovery drill

  • Note the widely differing ways of falling in
  • At 2:25 a lady fails to raise her hands after getting back onto the boat and tips over again
  • And notice how quickly athletes get tired after being in the water – they rapidly lose strength to lift themselves out of the water

Now over to you – got any other capsize lesson videos or instruction sheets we can share?


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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jeff Arnott

    I recently had my starboard oar’s collar pop of during practice at lake Harsha for US club Nationals. I found myself having to climb back into my scull with only one oar. being proficient at climbing into the scull is very important.

    1. Rebecca Caroe

      Jeff – thanks for adding this. I once had a single oar breakage and didn’t flip – but I found I was very tense just sitting in the boat with one broken oar. Rebecca

  2. Rebecca Caroe

    We got this comment from Wayfarers RC by email and I wanted to add it because the message is SO important.

    Very useful video, thank you. Just one thing I would take exception to – in the second video the coach says “swim under the boat” to get the far side oar in position. I would NEVER do this – you do not want to submerge your head, especially if the water is cold. If you can’t reach the oar by leaning across the boat, then swim round it rather than underneath.


    Caroline Turnbull

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