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A Guide to Coxing

Contents | Novicing | Basics | River Navigation | The Sport | Equipment | Job of a Cox | Outings | Races | Advice | Appendix I | Appendix II | Appendix III | Appendix IV | Appendix V

River Navigation

A picture of the Cam
To view the full size picture with labels, click here.

The river Cam is a narrow piece of water full of bends and corners and other obstacles. However, the piece of the river we use for rowing is not too long (from our boathouse to Baitsbite lock it is about 5km (3.2miles) so you will pick up the main landmarks only after a few outings.

On the Cam make sure you are always on the right hand side apart from the exception of the two crossover points in the Plough and in the Gut. They are further downstream so do not worry about them in your first weeks of coxing when you will not go all the way downstream to Baitsbite lock.

As well as this page, you can also view the course on Google Maps. Here are the main landmarks from Jesus lock to Baitsbite lock (going downstream):

Jesus Lock - it is quite narrow there so be careful when you spin an eight especially if there are barges moored. Use just stroke and six and bow and three to spin in such narrow places. Often the area to spin will be even smaller because the large pleasure boat Georgina will be moored here.

Elizabeth Way Bridge - a very curvy part of the river where you often are going very slowly to be able to use the rudder effectively to steer to stay on your side. Use your rowers to help you here. If only stern four are rowing ask people in bowpair to take strokes with them to help you around the corner. Alternatively if bowfour are rowing use sternpair taking the run off to help you (the person on the inside of the corner needs to take the run off).

Riverside Bridge (the white footbridge) - this is again a very narrow part of the river where barely two boats can fit therefore stay really close to the bank on the right. Be aware of the fact that the crews might be too close to each other and warn your crew to look out at their blades not to clash ('Strokeside blades in'). If you are coming upstream (back to the boathouses) there will be a lot of branches on bowside so warn your crew about that as well.

Chesterton corner (under the Green Dragon footbridge) - this is a very sharp bend to the right. You will need to steer max here and maybe use rowers to help you out (strokeside pressure, 7 take the run off, 2 join in etc.)

The P&E (also known as the Penny Ferry) - this is the wide piece of river downstream of Chesterton corner. You can spin here, and this is also where you will usually stop for some feedback from coaches and where (if going further) your rowers will take kit off and have some water. Once you have stopped stay on the right so that other boats can come by if they want to set off before you.

The railway bridge - this is a reasonably narrow part of the river on a corner so make sure you stay on your side of the river, but not so close as to hit the wooden walkway under the bridge. There are also signs in front and after the bridge on your right so beware of those too.

The (Long) Reach - is the longest straight piece of water you will row on (about 800m). It is also very wide and three crews can fit next to each other making it possible to overtake. The reach has several smaller landmarks on it for example 'the railings' are a fence on the meadow side kind of in the middle of the reach. There are also two posts on the top of the reach on towpath side - you spin between them when you spin on the reach.

Ditton corner - this is a very tricky corner where you need to stay on the right at all times to avoid dangerous collisions with crews often doing race pieces in the other direction. Stay on the right until the sign telling you to cross over.

Plough reach - you will need to cross over to the left on Plough reach. Do so only at the sign in one distinct manoeuvre to the left. If you are heading downstream to the lock and there is a crew coming in the other direction easy there and let them cross over first as they have right of way. If you are going upstream do not assume automatically everyone will stop so be careful! Coming downstream on the right is the Plough Pub where on race days there will be plenty of spectators watching you. Plough reach and the part further downstream is the only part of the river where you have to be on the left hand side.

Grassy corner - this is the most difficult corner on the river. It has two apexes making it difficult to steer and there are often crews coming in the other direction forcing you to stay really close to the bank to your left. You will need to use your rowers to help you around it and if you are not sure you can make it around the corner just easy there.

The Gut - this is a narrow and very tricky part of the river where you need to cross over back to your right. Do so only in front of the sign. If you are heading downstream (to the lock) and there is a crew coming up just stop and let them come past as they have right of way and it is much better to avoid collision in this narrow part of the Cam.

First Post corner - this is a not too difficult to steer corner. Make sure though not to cut it too tight, but do not go too far into the outside as the river is shallow there and full of plants.

Motorway Bridge (A14 Bridge) - this is the main landmark on first post reach (the stretch of river downstream of First Post corner). Some old photos of the bridge say 'Back where we belong'. This straight part of the river is quite narrow so again beware of blade clashing and try to prevent it by staying close on your side and watching your blades when close to a different crew.

Baitsbite Lock - after a small bend is the lock where you have to spin. Spin well ahead of the weir but not before the orange post on the towpath as it is too close to the bend and potentially very dangerous. Make sure when spinning you check the distance from the bank at the stern and bow.

Other crews and river-users

The river is quite narrow and small for the amount of crews on it. Especially in novice term there will be a lot of boats out making it quite stressful for coxes. Your primary duty is to keep it safe - stop when approaching a stationary boat. Stop when going wide on a corner and at any times you are on the wrong side of the river. All of us have made mistakes but it is very important to learn from it and handle it well. Apologise if you are impeding another crew and fix your error promptly. If another crew is on the wrong side stop and give them room to get on the right side. If a collision occurs stay calm and polite. Never be aggressive or use abusive language if somebody else was at fault! Always use words as 'please', 'thank you' when interacting with other crews, anglers or narrow boat users.

If you decide to overtake a boat make sure you ask first - "Can we come by eight?" or "Pembroke can we come by?" (knowing other colleges' blade colours is quite useful for this - see the blade colours chart). If the cox or the crew's coach says 'yes' start your manoeuvre. Make sure it is clear to overtake (ask your bankparty if in doubt) and do it quickly. Once you have overtaken a crew keep it moving if possible and thank the crew for letting you come by. If the cox says 'no' there should be a legitimate reason for it - traffic, they are about to set off, join in more rowers, go firm pressure etc. Generally do not overtake unless you are not clearly faster than the crew ahead of you and there is not plenty of room to do so. Do not overtake on corners and in traffic! If you are the crew being overtaken stay close to the bank giving enough room for both boats to fit.

Spinning is also a tricky manoeuvre. Make sure you know where exactly you can spin (between the two posts on the Reach and after the post at the lock) and if there are no other restrictions (early morning rules). Always look around before you spin not to impede other crews and if you do, thank them for waiting. Do not spin on and close to corners!

The Cam is not only used by rowers. There will be narrow boats, anglers and canoeists on the river, so beware of everyone and be equally nice and polite to all. Do not stop or spin in front of fishermen, if you have to - apologise and get out of the way quickly. Also be careful not to hit swans, ducks and generally beware of animals (swimming dogs, birds).

Because the Cam is so heavily used CUCBC (Cambridge University Combined Boat Club - set a list of regulations and rules to colleges about using the river. Most important is the one referring to boating which can be restricted by the use of flags - green, yellow or red. In case of bad weather a yellow or even red flag can be used to restrict boating only to experienced crews or ban it to all crews. Also no college crews are allowed when it is dark before lighting down and after lighting up. Therefore make sure you check the flag online before each outing and know when the 'Hours of Darkness' are.

Some of the regulations are listed below:

  1. Equipment
    1. You must wear a lifejacket over the top of all other garments.
    2. You must wear a working watch.

  2. Boating
    1. A flag is flown from Goldie boathouse. Although this flag is reproduced on the "First and Third" website you must always check the real flag in case it has changed. The following restrictions apply:
      1. No crew may boat if the flag is red.
      2. Only tub pairs may boat if both the red and yellow flags are flown.
      3. Only 1st VIIIs, 1st IVs, boats in the 1st and 2nd men's divisions of the May Bumps and boats in the 1st women's division of the May Bumps may boat if the flag is yellow.

    2. Even if you are permitted to go out you must still assess the conditions yourself.

    3. No College Crew may be on the water during the "Hours of Darkness" which can be found on the CUCBC website. These must be checked before each outing. In the morning make sure you do not boat early. In the evening, make sure you start returning to the boathouse in good time.

  3. Position
    1. Below Grassy Corner you must keep to the right
    2. Above Ditton Corner you must keep to the right.
    3. Between just downstream of Ditton corner and just downstream of Grassy corner you must keep to the left. The crossing points are clearly marked.

  4. When crossing over, make sure you are aware of all traffic around you. Avoid crossing the river either early or late unless there are no other crews around and you have a good reason not to cross where marked. If it is unsafe to cross then stop and wait until it becomes safe.

  5. Right of Way
    1. If there is any danger of collision the boat going downstream must give way to the boat going upstream.
    2. No boat ever has right of way when on the wrong side of the river.

  6. Stopping, Spinning and Overtaking
    1. When you stop you must pull into the bank to allow others to pass.
    2. You must not stop on a corner if it is possible to continue.
    3. You may not spin without first checking that you will not impede others.
    4. You may not spin or overtake on a corner or in Plough Reach or the Gut.
    5. A slower boat should allow a faster boat to pass.

  7. Miscellaneous
    1. You must not make any unnecessary noise between Jesus Lock and the Railway Bridge before 7:30am. Keep your coxbox at the minimum volume that can be heard by the whole crew. You should only issue essential commands. There should be no coaching until you have passed the Railway Bridge or it is after 7:30.
    2. You should not stop immediately adjacent to anglers and you should try to avoid them when paddling. If you find yourself in a confrontational situation you should be polite. Do not argue. Move on and, if you think it is appropriate, report the incident to the Captain.
    3. With the exception of certain race days (when new guidelines will be issued), you must paddle light pressure between Chesterton Footbridge and Jesus Lock.
    4. Be aware of moored boats. Avoid scraping your blades against them. If you have to push off a barge you should do using its fenders or under the waterline.
    5. You must be familiar with all the information contained in Appendix III of the CUCBC Handbook: Early Morning Traffic Restrictions.

You may also be interested in the following pages:

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