How to work with Boatmen/Riggers: tips and tricks


Rowing club boatman / rigger[/caption]

No, not the friendly piece of aluminium lying on the boat house floor, we’re talking about the guy yelling at you for stepping on the aforementioned piece of aluminium.  We’re going to take a quick look at how Coaches can better understand and get along with their rigging staff.  This is not a play-by-play how to get along with each other (that would be a 300+ page book and probably only cover Tuesdays, stay tuned for the other six books! Just kidding), but rather a glimpse from a Rigger’s perspective of the generally personality type of a Rigger/Boatman, and how they would like to interact with their coaches.

A guest post by Space Saver Rowing Systems – who sell awesome oar hanging racks

There seems to be a long held idea that Riggers/Boatmen are often cranky, irritable, and dislike the coaches they work alongside.  This truly (although sometimes it may seem) is not the case.  You will often find a smile on the Rigger’s face while they are away from the boathouse, partaking in a hobby, or commiserating with other Riggers.  So what is it about being around you (the coach) that makes them seem unhappy?

To answer this, let’s look at the basic “wiring” of a Rigger:

  • Mechanically Minded.
  • Responsible for taking care of things and fixing things.
  • Takes great pride in TAKING CARE OF THINGS.
  • Often will quickly lose respect for those who give off an “I don’t care attitude”.
  • Works very hard to achieve “the goal” (or finish the project).
  • Likes a variety of different work and problems to solve.
  • Hates monotony and repeating a task over and over again (i.e. fix the bow, fix the bow, fix the bow, fix the bow, fix the bow, and then fix the bow).
  • Likes logical things (motors work logically, why can’t coaches).
  • Understands fully the tools of their trade (looks down on people who do not).
  • Likes clearly defined tasks.
  • Generally likes to work alone.

So there’s a few good defining characteristics of most Riggers (there are plenty more, but we’ll stick to basics here). Now think about what how a Rigger might characterise you.

  • Are you organised?
  • Scatter-Brained and indecisive, or do you make a plan well in advance and stick to it?
  • Do understand the tools of your trade? (i.e. How your megaphone works, how to properly and safely operate your coaching launch).
  • Do you show care by encouraging Rowers to take care of equipment, clean up after yourselves and ensure the rowers do the same while creating an environment of responsibility and ownership?
  • Do you try to help yourself and spend time trying to learn how things around you work (or do you immediately ask someone else to help you)?
  • Do you fully understand what it takes to complete “Rigger” type tasks, the amount of time and effort put into replacing something as simple as a bow ball or an entire bow?

So while you’re thinking about that, let’s talk some more about how the Rigger sees things.

Sculling boat rigger and oarlock

Riggers are people with a diverse skill set that could make far more money as a plumber, electrician, engineer, pilot, boat captain, boat manufacturer, etc., however they choose to take a smaller salary than their true potential because they really do love the sport of rowing and having a variety of tasks in their job.  So they’re okay with taking this smaller salary to do a job that makes them work long hours, travel away from home, gets them very dirty, leaves them itching like crazy from fibreglass (whether or not they worked with it that day because let’s face it, its gets everywhere), sore from lifting heavy things themselves, and frustrated they often take money out of their own pocket to buy the supplies to do their job since the club/university/programme is too broke or cheap to pay for it themselves.  They’ve come to terms with all this, accepted it, and are actually still happy.

So Riggers are happy with their job!  We are actually perfectly okay with the dirt, grime, grease, long hours, etc. that go with our industry.  And a few simple traits/behaviours on the part of the coaches and rowers we work with are a sure way to greatly improve our day, as well as the relationship amongst the staff (benefits include: more positive environment, quicker repair times and better quality equipment, cleaner launches [you work together with the Rigger to clean up your own mess], and learning lots of new things to better yourself).  So here’s the part you want to read about, how do you improve the relationship with your rigger?

Target Behaviours:

  • When something like tools or cox amplifiers are already organised, slow down, take you time, and keep them that way when utilising (if somethings disorganised, take some time to help organise it).
  • Cleanliness, Live by this rule: leave it in better shape than you found it.
  • Plan ahead, let others know the plan, and stick to the plan.
  • Take some time to learn about the things around you (cox amplifiers, outboard motors, repairs, etc.) Lots of tutorials available at RowIntel.
  • Take ownership and pride in the equipment and facility
  • Try to do things yourself (just don’t make it worse and then ask for help!)
  • To do things right takes a long time, and Riggers do things right. Remember this.


Riggers often have their own sense of organisation, whether or not it makes sense to you, if we spent time putting things in certain places, put them back that way.  If you pick something up and know for a fact it belongs somewhere else and the Rigger didn’t leave it there on purpose, put it back where it belongs.  If you take something from someone else (i.e. a wrench) that they picked up from somewhere and then gave to you, figure out where it belongs and go put it there (make an effort).  And whatever you do, DO NOT pick up a tool from its place, and then leave it somewhere else.  These rules apply to your own things like megaphones, not just the Rigger’s tools.  We like order and don’t like those who mess with it.


Take this rule to heart and the Rigger might just be your best friend.  LEAVE IT IN BETTER SHAPE THAN YOU FOUND IT.  This could be: clean the table, pick up wrappers from the floor, take your coffee cup out of the launch plus the one that has been lying there in much for the past month, charge the drill after you borrow it, fill a gas tank after you use it, wipe down dusty equipment just because you can.  THIS IS NOT AN EASY RULE TO LIVE BY, but it is very necessary, find a way to make it happen.  If instead you find a million reasons why you shouldn’t go the extra mile (especially if one of those reasons is “hey that person isn’t doing anything extra”) then realize you are a huge part of the problem and you seriously need to change your attitude or spend the rest of your life struggling to get along with others in the workplace and your personal life.


Riggers like structure and like it when you make a plan and stick to it.  We also have lives of our own, and don’t appreciate being the last to know about a cancelled practice or extra practice added on.  Let us know far in advance, preferably by email or text, and don’t change your mind.  Make a decision quickly, and stick with it, if its wrong, learn and decide better next time, do not keep changing your mind.


Make a serious effort to learn about the things around you.  There are many resources out there to educate people with little to no experience in many topics, and help them become competent enough to practice and become proficient (i.e. operating motors, cox amplifiers, wiring, megaphones, general boat maintenance, and repairs).  A great resource for this is RowIntel.

Remember if you take an interest in the equipment, your Rigger will be more than happy to assist you in your learning journey (not teach you or spoon feed you, assist you).

Take Ownership

Riggers respect those who take pride and ownership in their equipment, and the things around them.  A big part of this is cleanliness, and leaving things (whether it be the coaching launch, boathouse, team truck, etc.) in better shape than you found them.  It also applies to doing everything you can to take care of the shells and your coaching launch (and other various equipment).  When something does go wrong, try to remedy it yourself (of course first you will probably have to follow through with the LEARN section so you know how to remedy problems with your launch or other equipment).  If you ever find yourself saying or thinking “Oh, that’s the Riggers job” or “We can have the Rigger do that”, then you have the wrong mindset.

Give it a Try

Try to help yourself with issues that arise.  Whether the launch won’t start or the coxswain’s mic isn’t working, try to solve it yourself instead of just calling the Rigger over to do it for you.  Once again, to be able to so these things will take some effort in learning how the things around you work, like motors and cox amplifiers.

Respect the Time

Be conscious of the tasks you are asking the Rigger to do and how much time it actually requires to complete. (Something as simple as getting a bucket for the coxswain to carry water bottles in may actually take 2-3 hours by the time the Rigger pauses what they are already doing or had planned to do, drives to the store, waits in line, drives back, and then picks up with what they had left off on.)  Really THINK fully about what as is involved in our jobs, and don’t ask for things that will cause us to be inefficient and take longer to do a job than necessary (i.e. A rigger being around during practice is very inefficient because most of the things they need to work on are being used and the rest of the stuff for them to do has people in the way).


In closing, to improve your relationship with the Rigger make a conscious effort to better exhibit the traits above.  Realise that you as a coach will never be perfect, and Riggers do not expect you to be (we just expect you to continually move in the right direction, getting better overall).  Slow down and take your time so you minimise mistakes.  THINK lots before doing anything so you do not make mistakes.  Never be in a rush.  Never rush the Rigger, and be very respectful of their time.  Be courteous towards the Rigger.  If you follow the outline above and exhibit those behaviours, and do your best not to say or do anything silly, then the Rigger will only have reasons to respect you and help you.  Good Luck!

Guest post by Jon from RowIntel originally published on Space Saver Rowing Systems blog

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How to work with Boatmen/Riggers: tips and tricksRowing club boatman / riggerNo, not the friendly piece of aluminium…

Posted by Rowperfect UK on Monday, May 11, 2015


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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Ian Bridgland

    What luxuries ! Boatmen? Riggers? The first Rowperfect article that causes me to wonder if I’m from a parallel universe.

    1. Rebecca Caroe

      Ian – this is “normal” if you are at a USA university or an Oxbridge College – made me laugh – they are certainly parallel rowing experiences.

  2. Glenn Malisauskas

    Wow….. where is this mystical boat shed? Do they only come out at night?
    I don’t know about the other coaches from earth but if I catch anyone holding a “tool” within 10m of my boats….watch out!

    1. Rebecca Caroe

      Glenn – in British English a “tool” is something different altogether.

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