Who is the “boss” in the rowing boat?

The coxswain is the boss

Wikipedia : The coxswain is the person in charge of a boat, particularly its navigation and steering. (Photo Credit: Hägar, the horrible).

Good morning, Mr. Thiede, what did you have for breakfast?

Oh, very normal. Scrambled eggs, coffee, rolls, a bit of melon.

Does not sound like so much.

One always thinks, it is always like this with the rowers: The heavy guys eat a lot of steaks and side dishes, the cox only gets a leave of salad. It used to be that way, until 1996 the coxs’ weight was limited to 50 kilos and, thank God, it was raised to 55. If you keep yourself fit, you have no problem.

The cox needs to be slim and short? Any other function? 

Enjoy the water: The flying cox. Credit: International news

70 to 80 percent, the work takes place in training, on the water. You have to make sure the rowers harmonize and sync their strokes. As a cox, one senses whether a boat is running economically or not. The physics of a rowing stroke tells you that you do not have a constant pace, you slow down the boat every stroke, because the eight oarsmen move against the boat direction. The different boat speed, can be felt by the cox in the stern. As a cox, I have to try to optimize the boat run.

Do you have the coaching certificate.

The German A license.

Is the cox the extended arm of the rowing coach?

Right. The coach cannot be at the boat all the time, so the cox is the boss in the rowing boat.

Did you ever row by yourself ?

I never rowed, just liked it as a hobby, to have the feeling. I’m from another sport. From the weightlifting, I was really good, at the DDR (East-German) Championships I used to have fourth and fifth places.

Who is the boss in the rowing boat ?

What about authority? You came into the boat at the age of 19.

You acquire authority through knowledge and ability. 20 years ago, I was the youngest cox. As a team you search for maximum success. And as a cox the crew listens: What you say is an order, it’s the law. If you make mistakes, you will be punished later. You can make mistakes, but not always the same. I had a lot of coxing experience, the rowers appreciated that.

The cox is also responsible for applying the tactics. Do you remember in the Beijing races the discrepancies in the crew? You were in the final 500 meters when you realized that the Dutch were getting closer – but some in the boat hesitated.

500 m from the finish line I said, …the Dutch are killing the Americans. We had played the Americans, always counteracting them. I have realized the situation and gave instructions. You know, an eight is 18 m long. The person in bow is 18 m away from the enemy. The cox can observe the race much better. Anyway: Once you’re in the semifinals or finals none in the boat will hesitate. They all go full throttle.

Only the cox is speaking in the boat – or do other team members comment?

If the bowman realizes something important he will comment. There may be some motivational yelling. Or stroke shouts something in case he wants to do extra power strokes.  But overall there is not much time, rowers do not talk very much to save their energy.

Victory: The cox “flies” into the water


Have you ever made a steering mistake?

In my first year in Lucerne, we crashed into another boat, this was partially my fault. We won anyway.

You have experienced many crews. Do you feel if a crew can be successful?

There are real world champions, who take over when things get serious – first, you have to find out, who can handle competition and performs under stress. Such people are needed, and we have them in the German Eights.


Another cliché question: When does the cox “fly” into the water??

If you won.   . . . . . The rowers also use this in Essen (Hügelregatta) or else where. The first race of the season, at the end of April, at the beginning of May, the boys like to throw the cox into the water. Just to tease you. Not so pleasant.

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