Trial Rows FAQs

So, you‘ve signed up for a trial row. What should you expect? Below are some of the most commonly-asked questions:

What should I wear?

Comfortable clothes such as sports gear. If the weather is wet or cold it’s a good idea to bring a waterproof top and something warm to wear afterwards. Wear old trainers or waterproof shoes for rowing. We do wade in the water when putting the boats out and bringing them back, so if you don’t want to get your trainers wet, wear wellies and change in the boat. 

It’s a good idea to bring a water bottle to keep hydrated when rowing. Anyone may choose to wear a life jacket or buoyancy aid if they wish (supplied if requested).

Where should I go?

Before any row, rowers meet by the plastic gigs on the quayside approximately 15 minutes prior to launch time to prepare the boats and get them to the slipway.  If you are late arriving, see us on the slipway opposite Flame Factory.

Who is in charge?

The cox is in charge of the boat at all times and will give clear instructions on the quayside, on the slipway, and on the water.

How do we prepare the boats before a row?

Experienced members will guide you in actual preparation of the gigs, but just to give you a rough outline of the essentials a boat needs:

  1. Oars: 6 of them, numbered according to each seat position. The blade is the end in the water.
  2. Pins: 2 per oar, one ‘hard’ and one ‘soft’ to locate the oar. Their differences will be explained.
  3. Cushions for the seats to protect your delicate bottom (and it may well feel delicate after rowing).
  4. Stretchers: adjustable wooden footrests, 1 for each rower.
  5. Fenders. Blue oval plastic. 2 usually required, left in the boat.
  6. Lubricant (such as vaseline) to grease the leather on the oars.
  7. Bung. Very useful to stop the boat sinking! This is found in the stern and is removed after each row to allow for drainage. (Best if we remember to put it back in before rowing again.)
  8. Cox’s supplies. The cox’s bag contains VHF radio, flares, first aid kit, etc. The cox will also have a VHF radio.
  9. Buoyancy aid for the cox and for anyone else that wants one. 

How do we get the gig to the slipway?

Wheels/Bogeys are placed under the bow and stern at the instruction of the cox. The boats are wheeled to the slipway on the bogeys. Great care and attention are needed when manoeuvring the boat to the slip. The cox will give clear instructions to walk alongside the boat, away from the wheels, at suitable spacing to hold/push the boat. Please be aware of members of the public on the pavement and on the slipway and of cars in the road.

What happens at the start of the row?

We do everything according to the instructions of the cox. We float the boat and may pull it alongside the slipway if there is enough water. We get into the boat and take our seat one at a time and we put our oars out. We pull away from the slipway and out into midstream where we can adjust the stretchers and our clothing.

What happens at the end of the row?

Follow the cox’s instructions. Stay seated until the cox tells you then leave the boat one at a time. Please help return the boat from the slipway to the quayside and to tidy it away.

What did the cox say? (And what the cox wants you to do!)

Gig rowing is a technical sport with its own terminology. As a beginner, listen to the cox, concentrate on getting your timing in tune with the rowers ahead of you – relax and enjoy yourself out on the water.

Here are some things you will hear the cox say. You don’t have to learn them before rowing. You will get familiar with what they mean over time. 

‘BOW SIDE’ – The oars on rower’s right-hand side.

‘STROKE SIDE’ – The oars on the rower’s left-hand side.

‘NUMBER 1’ – The rower furthest from the cox (in the bow).

‘NUMBER 6’ – The rower nearest the cox also known as the STROKE – sets the pace at which we row.

‘EASY UP’ – On dry land this means STOP and support the boat. In the water this means STOP ROWING.

‘OARS UP’ – Hold your oar vertically with the blade in the air.

‘READY TO ROW‘ – Hold the oar with your arms straight, knuckles down on the outer hand (end of the oar), knuckles up on the inner hand, then lean forward and be prepared to pull a stroke.

‘AND ROW’ – Well, you get it! Drop your oar in the water, keep your arms straight and drive your body back with your legs (that’s where the power comes from).

‘TAP DOWN’ – At the end of the stroke, your body will be leaning back, arms will be bent and outer hand will be close to your body. Tapping down is using your inner hand to push the oar handle down and away from you – this will bring the blade of the oar out of the water.

‘RECOVERY’ – After tapping down, you bring your arms straight, then bring your body forward and bend your knees ready for the catch.

‘THE CATCH’ – Dropping the blade of the oar in the water at the end of the stroke before pulling the next stroke.

‘MMMMUMBLE BLAH BLAH’ – It’s not always easy to hear everything the cox says – particularly at the back of the boat. Can cause confusion. Don’t be afraid to ask the cox to speak up.

‘CATCHING A CRAB’ – If you don’t tap down, the glide of the boat will tend to pull your oar blade deeper under the water and alongside the boat. It happens to us all. If you catch a crab, just raise the handle of the oar straight up over your head then pull the oar out of the water hand-by-hand.

‘TIMING!’ – You are going to hear this a lot from the cox. The boat moves smoothly and efficiently through the water when all rowers do the same thing at the same time. The Stroke sets the pace at which we row – the rest of us follow that lead. So the most important thing you can do as a novice is rock your body backwards and forwards in time with the rowers ahead of you.

‘WATCH YOUR DEPTH’ – No, you are not expected to be wading. The top of the oar blade should be only slightly out of the water throughout the stroke. Takes ages to get this right. Some of us never do.

‘OARS DOWN’ – Number 1 puts their oar down the centre of the boat, handle first. No 2 follows etc. We do this when coming back to the splipway.

What happens next?

If you want to give gig rowing a go then you are welcome to try it with us for three rows. Just email  or fill in the contact form on our website. 

If you enjoy rowing and wish to continue then we welcome you to join as a member – we would love to have you. You will soon feel ready to row for longer periods and more frequently.