Tideway Coxing Tips for Schools’ Head 2017

Schools’ Head is on the horizon, and with it a number of tideway visits from non-native clubs. Coxing on this notoriously long and difficult stretch is anxiety-inducing for most coxes, and so we’ve compiled some top tips from the most experienced and successful coxes in the country to help relieve some of this stress.


The 6.3km Schools’ Head course is notoriously hard to steer, but when done right, a cox can win valuable time for their crew. In order to do this, a cox needs to be fully aware of where the fastest water is found. Due to the stream, the fastest line from Chiswick Bridge to Barnes Bridge is much more central than one might assume. Stay wide as you take the first bend towards Barnes Bridge, making certain not to get drawn towards the red buoy. It is very easy to get drawn into the Middlesex bank, cut the first bend too tight and row the first 1.2km in slower water.


I’m sure you’ve heard it before but don’t cut the corners! The stream tends to be in the middle of the river so, if unsure, this is the safest place to be. There are only a few places not to be right in the middle: one is next to Chiswick Eyot on the Hammersmith bend (imagine the river without the island so the middle isn’t where you think it is!). The classic point to aim for coming out of the Hammersmith bend is to go under the second lamppost from the right on the bridge – you want to be moving in towards this (i.e. the direction away from the Middlesex, and towards the Surrey bank) to ensure that you haven’t taken the corner too tight.

Coming into Putney, it is important to steer staying towards the middle or (coxes’) right of middle. The ‘Fulham flats’ are an area of dead water with no stream on the side of Fulham Football Ground. Taking your crew through this water could easily add 30 seconds to your time so be careful!

Claudia Stanley – Emanuel School

Racing on the tideway can be long, painful, bleak and, to be honest, hateful. Particularly if it’s raining. So it’s important to come up with a race plan, using the landmarks along the river, to break the course up into smaller, more bearable sections.

Useful landmarks are the blue doors just after Chiswick Eyot on the Middlesex bank, which mark the halfway point; Harrods depository from which it is 2k to go, and Barn Elms where I would advise to begin your wind for the finish!
Amendment: This year the head is finishing at the black buoy, so these markers will be about 300m before each of these points

Before boating, make sure you go over the plan with your crew just so they fully understand what you want them to do. Take on board any comments that they have; they know what will make them try hard! This will also make sure there are no nasty surprises when you start screaming at them to push even harder with their legs, even though it feels like all four of their limbs are being ripped out of their sockets.

At the start of the race, keep your crew focused on rowing technically well and settling into a solid, sustainable race pace. It’s always helpful to think of finding race pace not as ‘settling’ but as driving down on to a really strong, powerful rhythm. Understandably they will get tired going through such a long distance and, as coxes are basically tiny cheerleaders (with more ridiculous outfits), it’s vital to keep your crew motivated as you make your way through the different sections of the race plan.

Rosie Margolis- Edinburgh University

The race is long and, for a cox, it can be a struggle to think of useful calls to make the whole way down the course. I would recommend listening to some recordings, and giving yourself focuses for different sections of the race (if you haven’t already done so with your coach/crew). Don’t scream the whole way down the course – your crew will stop listening very quickly! Save the shouting for big pushes, and other appropriate sections of the race. Make sure you’re aware of calls that will help in certain conditions however basic, so sitting up into the wind, or separating through the wash, for example.

The stream runs almost directly under the line of red buoys from Hammersmith Bridge, so stick close to these, but crucially staying to the left (cox’s view) of these; so still in the middle of river. As you approach Barn Elms, straighten up towards the line of boats. You want to be close to these along the final straight. Make sure you are well beyond the orange mark on the wall/Westminster School Boat Club before calling your crew down!


Short and simple- if you divide the river into 3 lanes then you want to always be in the middle lane no matter what as that is where the fastest stream will be.

Obviously these coxes will all have different views, and you may be given your own recommendations by coaches. However, we hope that this will be some help with the daunting job of coxing this nightmarish stretch.