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R. C. (Rudolf Chambers) Lehmann.

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the angry old gentleman. I got into a boat to show him how
we understood the matter and executed it. His peals of
scornful laughter woke the echoes and startled the remotest
waterfowl of the Cookham reach. Then he ordered me out
and took my place, and for five minutes showed me the true
style. Several times, having failed to adjust the straps to his
feet, he fell backwards in the boat, but his ardour and his
contempt were proof against the catastrophe ; he waved it
aside and proceeded with his demonstration. It was a
remarkable lesson, and I have never forgotten it.

No coxswain in these degenerate days is quite so auto-
cratic as Mr. Shadwell was. Still, with all deductions made,
the steerer remains a person of very considerable importance.
He holds in his hands the fate of his crew. A little movement
on his part, a mere twitch of one of his hands, a failure of
judgment, or a momentary aberration, may win or lose a race.
He has none of the exhilarating delight of exercise. In wet
weather as in fine, against a bitter Nor'-easter as in the gentle



COXSWAINS 99

breezes of June, he has to sit still in his seat and watch the
course of his boat and the rowing of his crew. It is no light
task of endurance, self-control, and vigilance to which these
men submit themselves, and gratitude should be their portion.

Lightness of weight is, of course, important in a coxswain,
though, for my own part, I should always prefer to select a
man for his experience and his judgment rather than on a
mere consideration of avoirdupois. An automaton of 7 st. 7 Ib.
may lose you a length where an experienced Titan of
8 st. 7 Ib. would have gained you that distance and more.
Judgment and light hands are more essential even than lack
of weight. Light hands, indeed, are as important to a cox as
they are to a rider. With their help he can keep his true
course to a hair's breadth without disturbing his crew.
Nothing breaks up the rowing of a crew more or exhausts the
men to a greater degree than unseasonable and exaggerated
applications of the rudder. It is bad enough, though it is
necessary, to have to contend against the drag of the rudder
round the corners of such a course as that of the Cam or the
Isis, but in the straight reaches there must be a rest.

Let me imagine a cox to be seated in an eight. His legs
must be crossed tailor-wise. Into each of his rudder strings
he will have knotted a small wooden handle, so adjusted that
his hand may grasp it alongside of his hips on the outside of
the sax-boards. The crew is shoved out and the cox gives
his orders : " Forward ! Are you ready ? Paddle ! " His
first care must be to give these orders, and, indeed, all others
that he may have to give during the outing, in a very loud
and distinct voice. He is not conducting a private conversa-
tion with stroke, but must shout so that all the other men up
to bow may hear him clearly. His first impression, as the
boat moves along, will be that he can see nothing and never
will be able to see anything ahead of him except the too
solid bodies of stroke and No. 7. Soon, however, he will
grow accustomed to this obstruction and will see his course
distinctly enough. These are some practical points that he
must bear in mind



100 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

(1) He must sit firmly, balancing his body from the hips,
and not allowing himself to be bobbed about helplessly by
the movements of the boat.

(2) The pivoting point of a boat is not at her stern. She
swings on a point which is somewhere near No. 5's seat, and
a coxswain must realise that, as her bows move to the right
or the left, so her stern moves in the opposite direction. For
this he must learn to make ample allowance, and he must
remember, too, that a boat will continue to swing in the
direction he has imparted to it for an appreciable moment of
time after he has restraightened his rudder.

(3) To take a sharp corner in a workmanlike way it is
essential to give it a wide berth at first. Grassy Corner on
the Cam, for instance, can only be successfully taken by a
boat that has kept close to the tow path almost up to the
very end of the " Gut." If a cox goes over too soon he will
eventually find himself shot off into the tow path at the
beginning of Plough Reach.

(4) Knowledge gained on the Isis or the Cam is largely
inapplicable to tKe Putney course. There the longest way
round in appearance is often the shortest way home in reality.
A cox must learn the situation of shallows, the set of the
tide, the eddies and back-washes made by the buttresses of
the bridges, and all the peculiar intricacies of this difficult
course.

(5) A barge crossing the stream ahead on the tideway is a
dangerous obstacle. At a distance she looks stationary ; as
she is approached she will be seen to be moving very fast.
A cox must shape his course, therefore, to go astern of her.

(6) A cox should always easy his crew and, if necessary,
make them stop the boat rather than incur the risk of
smashing her by a collision. He must make up his mind in
good time.

(7) Unless a coach asks him to keep silence, as a coach
sometimes will, a cox must call the attention of his men to
faults of time and must admonish them if they look out of the
boat. It is for the coach to say how faults should be corrected.



COXSWAINS 101

A cox (save in exceptional cases) is not to concern himself
with the actual coaching of the crew. He must not, in any
case, drive an oarsman to madness by perpetual iteration.
A "Five, you're late," or a "Four, you're hurrying," or a "Three,
you're out too soon," at reasonable intervals will be sufficient.

(8) A cox in a bumping race or a breast race must judge
his own course for himself and keep it. In a bumping race
he must pursue, but he must not follow slavishly. If he does
he is sure to find himself in difficulties. In a breast race, if he
is sure he is in his proper course, he must on no account allow his
rival to press him aside. " I was much interested in the race,
but I was also very much bored," was the terse comment of
the Oxford coxswain at the Boat-race Dinner of 1894. It had
been a foggy day and the course was not easy. His sports-
manship had induced him to give way for some time, but in
the end he found himself compelled to exchange some terrific
amenities with his little light-blue rival. A sarcastic politeness
is eminently fitting for coxswains.

(9) A cox must shout with extra force when he requires a
special effort on the part of his crew. It is for him to judge
when the moment has come for ten hard strokes in a race.
Then let him bellow out, " Now give her ten : all together ! "
and so proceed to count out the desperate numbers from one
to ten. Only let him be sure that he counts each stroke
precisely on the very beginning of it. He must warn his
crew, too, against any slackening off when the ten are over.

(10) It is a coxswain's duty to encourage his men, but
always within certain elastic limits of accuracy. It is useless,
for instance, to tell a crew that they are gaining when they
are ten lengths behind towards the finish of a race.

(n) To tell a cox that he must keep his head may not
be very profitable, but the reminder must be given. As
Mr. Owen Seaman sings

" Remember there are things that sear

The soul with sore internal smarting ;
E.g. to cross your steering-gear
At starting ;



102 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

Or imitate the helmsman who,

Stop-watch in hand, acutely reckoned
The pealing of the cannon to

A second ;
Then dropped it, and himself was shied

Over the rudder like a rocket,
Having secured the bung inside
His pocket."

(12) Finally, a cox ought in training to do what he can
to help his crew in every way. When they come in from
rowing he must be ready to take his turn in rubbing them
down, and, generally speaking, he must try to keep them
cheerful under the trials and hardships of practice. Often he
will not find this easy, for a man in training is frequently
short in temper and difficult to console, but it is worth a
coxswain's while to make the effort. If he follows the varied
instructions I have given him he may eventually become the
trusted guide and counsellor of his crews, and take his place
in a little niche of his own in the Temple of Fame with Egan
and Shadwell and Tottenham and Davis and Sheard and
Maclagan and others. He may even follow the example of
Mr. L. Portman, the novelist, who, having steered Oxford in
1893 at 7 st. 7 lb., now stands 6 feet 2 inches and weighs
13 stone.



CHAPTER XII
WORK AND TRAINING

General Considerations A Country House Boat Club

A BOAT race, whether it be short or long, must always
be one of the severest tests to which a man's physical
organisation can be submitted. He has to concentrate into
a period varying from, let us say, five minutes to twenty
minutes all the strength and the power of endurance that he
possesses. If a runner, or even a sculler, becomes absolutely
exhausted in a race he can stop. This last resource is not
open to an oarsman rowing in a crew. However great his
exhaustion may be he has to struggle along to the finish with
the machine of which he is a component part. It is essential,
therefore, that he should prepare himself by the work that he
does during practice, and by obedience to simple rules of
health and diet, for the tremendous effort of the race to which
he looks forward. The theories and rules of style which we have
already discussed are based upon this : by duly observing
them the oarsman is to be enabled to lay out his strength to
the greatest possible effect with the utmost economy of energy
and the least possible result in exhaustion. A hard race, of
course, must always entail a certain amount of exhaustion,
but the oarsman who is well trained, who has prepared him-
self by steady weeks of work, will quickly recover and be
ready to row another race.

The first and most important point, perhaps, is that an
oarsman who intends to row in a race should submit himself
to the inspection of a properly qualified medical man. He
may be outwardly powerful and possessed of a well-built and
well-developed body, but he may also have some internal

103



104 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

organic weakness which would make the effort involved in a
race dangerous to him. He must, therefore, obtain a clean
bill of health from a doctor, and be pronounced sound in
heart and lungs and in all his other organs. The next point
is the amount and quality of work which may be necessary to
fit a crew for a race. All the. men in a crew are not of equal
strength, or of the same bodily equipment, and yet in the
actual rowing all must necessarily go through the same
amount of work. The only way in which a trainer can make
concessions to the weaker members of his crew is by easing
their work out of the boat, and by insisting less rigorously in
their case on dietary restrictions which he will have to maintain
in full rigour against the more " beefy " members of his crew.
He must study the appearance of his men and their appetites
from day to day, and must watch the way in which they go
through their work. In addition to this, the weights which
he must take every day will be an invaluable assistance to
him, especially in the later stages of practice. He must expect
that at first the weights will show a steady tendency to
diminish. The men are throwing off their fat, but have not
yet substituted weight of muscle for it. Then the weights
should begin to maintain themselves, and in the last week or
ten days they should begin to show an upward tendency.
After the first period has passed any sudden or any steady
diminution in weight may be taken by the trainer as a sure
indication that all is not well with the man affected.

Most modern crews, even those which are engaged in the
University boat-race, do too little work in practice. Let my
readers refer to the account given by Mr. W. H. Eyre, in
Chapter XVII., of the manner in which the Thames Rowing
Club crews used to be trained for Henley. They will realise,
I think, that during the last thirty years we have fallen away
from the high standard of training that ensured success in
those days. Of course a Henley crew composed of University
men would not find it necessary to go through a preparation
so elaborate and so severe. They will already during the
year have taken part in a considerable number of contests



WORK AND TRAINING 105

which may be looked upon as a preparation for the Henley
work. Even in their case, however, greater care and severity
would seem to be essential. Men are far too apt to consider
that work ought to be avoided at the very time when, as a
matter of fact, a few days of real grinding work are necessary
for them. I therefore advise coaches and crews not to be
afraid of hard work, especially during the early period of their
preparation, after the changes are over, and the crew is
definitely settled. A crew which has once been ground
together by many stretches of long rowing, which has had its
stroke gradually accelerated, and has had its bodily organisa-
tion brought to perfection by sound training, will never after-
wards fall to pieces. It will go from pace to pace, and even
if it should chance to be defeated, the men composing it will
realise that they have been able to do their very best. Long
steady stretches of rowing should form the basis of a crew's
preparation. These can be varied by shorter work at a
livelier stroke to teach quickness of movement, and to help to
train the wind. Even towards the end of practice there
should be no fear of rowing the whole course frequently,
provided the health of the men remains good.

As to the length of time during which a crew ought to
practise it is difficult to lay down a general rule. Much must
depend on the quality of your men, or the amount of rowing
through which they have gone immediately before, and the
length of the course that has to be compassed. For the
University boat-race the crews practise some ten weeks, but
the first part of this period is usually occupied in making
constant changes in the composition of the crew. If a
President could be quite certain as to the places in which
he intended to row his men he would find, I think, seven
weeks amply sufficient. At Oxford three or four weeks are
all that a college captain can secure for the practice of his
crew in the eights, while at Cambridge the "May" races
always take place in June, and a crew can therefore count
on six or seven weeks of practice. The statistics of Henley
Regatta show, I must add, that the longer period of practice at



106 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

Cambridge it was instituted in 1882 has been of consider-
able advantage to Cambridge Colleges, and has enabled them
to secure a larger proportion of victories than before, though
they can now only afford to put in a break of a day or two
between the Cambridge races and the beginning of practice
for Henley. The fact that Leander crews, largely composed
of College oarsmen in good training, have been able to win the
Grand with a practice of three weeks, or even less, must not
be taken as an argument in favour of short practice on the
part of other crews which have not this advantage. For the
London and Thames Rowing Clubs, for instance, Henley
Regatta constitutes practically the beginning of their season,
and a practice of some seven weeks is requisite for them.

One point I must insist upon. When the men are set to
do a piece of rowing work, whether it be long or short, they
should always attempt to " row themselves out." Exhaustion,
either at the end of a three minutes' row or of a full course, so
far from being a sign of the inferiority of the crew, is a proof
that the men have done their best to work hard. Without
such exhaustion it is impossible to get the men into good
racing condition. Gradually, as the work progresses, the men
will accomplish it more and more easily, and finally they will
be in perfect racing trim. When a coach has once decided
that it is necessary for his crew to do a piece of hard work,
such as rowing a course, he should allow nothing except
illness on the part of his men to prevent him from carrying
out his purpose. The prospect of rowing a course often
afflicts a crew (and a coach) with what is known as "a
needle," that is to say, they become nervous and shrink
from the task. They are heard to hint that " the wind is
in a bad quarter, that they are not likely to do a good
time, and that, on the whole, to-morrow would be a better day
for the performance." Under these circumstances a coach
must be absolutely ruthless. He must put his men through
the mill, and he is sure to find them all the better for it
afterwards.



WORK AND TRAINING 107



HOURS AND DIET

A crew is not technically " in training " during the whole
of the time that it devotes to practice. During the earlier
part of that time, at any rate, men may be left to themselves
to arrange their hours and their meals as they like. When,
however, a crew actually goes into training, certain fixed rules
as to hours and diet are insisted upon, and where this can be
conveniently arranged the men take their meals together.
So long as the men show by their appearance and their
weights that they are in good health, these rules must be
strictly observed. When, however, as sometimes happens, a
man begins to fall off, when he becomes either listless or
short in his temper, and when his rowing ceases to show the
usual vigour, the strictness should be relaxed. He may be
eased and coaxed back into condition by being allowed to
sleep a little later, and to choose for himself at meals such
eatables as may take his fancy. Ordinarily it will be found
that a day or two of such relaxation will bring him back into
condition. If work has been well arranged there must
necessarily be a period in the practice of the crew when they
will show the signs of it in fatigue and general condition.
This is not real staleness, but is a necessary preliminary to
the acquisition of perfect fitness and racing condition. A
careful coach will, at such a time, ease the men slightly in
their work, and may even give them a day or two of complete
rest. I cannot lay down any fixed rule for his guidance ; he
must judge for himself according to the circumstances of each
case, and the only factors which can guide him in his judgment
are the appearance of his men, their weights, the condition
of their appetites and the manner in which they do their
work in the boat. No smoking is ever allowed when a crew
is in training. I give here two tables in which will be found
details of training suited, (i) To a University crew for the
Putney and Mortlake race, (2) To a Henley training in the
summer.

\



108 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN



UNIVERSITY CREW

7 A.M. Out of bed, and without bathing or washing, dress imme-
diately in flannels. A cup of milk and a biscuit.

7.15 A.M. Out of house. A brisk walk with one sharp run of
150 yards.

7.50 A.M. Back to house. Bath, etc.

8.30 A.M. Breakfast. Fish, plainly cooked, without sauce. Soles,
whiting, and smelts, are best. Salmon is not allowed. Cutlets
or beefsteaks, or grilled chicken. Eggs, boiled or poached, or
fried, sometimes scrambled. Mustard and cress or water-cress.
Toast. Limited amount of butter. In an Oxford crew mar-
malade is allowed only during last fortnight of training. Not
more than a cup and a half of tea. Oranges.

ii A.M. At Putney, when the state of the tide permits it, exercise
in boat. It should be noted that the tide sometimes makes it
necessary for the crew to do its rowing in the morning, some-
times in the afternoon. Occasionally work can be done both
in the morning and afternoon.

i P.M. Lunch. Cold meat. Tomatoes plainly made into salad
with oil and vinegar. Toast. Small quantity of butter. Oat-
meal biscuits. One glass of draught beer, or claret and water.

3 or 4 P.M. (According to tide.) Work in the boat.

4.30 or 5 P.M. Cup of tea and biscuit.

6 P.M. Walk of two or three miles.

7 or 7.30 P.M. Dinner. Fish, as at breakfast. An entree of

pigeons or sweetbread, or spinach and poached eggs. Roast
joint (not pork or veal) or else chicken, with potatoes mashed
or boiled, and boiled vegetables. Stewed fruit with rice
pudding. Sometimes jelly. Two glasses of draught beer, or
claret and water. For dessert, figs, prunes, oranges, dry
biscuits, and one glass of port wine.

9.50 P.M. A glass of lemon and water or barley-water, or a cup
of water gruel.

10 P.M. Bed.

HENLEY TRAINING

7-8.30 A.M. Same as in previous table.

8.30 A.M. Breakfast. Same as in previous table, save for the

frequent absence of meat Marmalade allowed. Strawberries

or peaches without sugar ; no cream.



WORK AND TRAINING 109

10.30 or ii or 12 P.M. Out on the water.

1.30. Lunch. Same as in previous table.

4.45 P.M. Cup of tea, with a slice of bread and butter or a biscuit

5.30 or 6 P.M. Out on the water.

7.30 or 8 P.M. Dinner. Same as in previous table.

9.50 P.M. Same as in previous table.

10.15 P - M -



With most Leander crews, which are composed of ex-
perienced oarsmen, it has been found possible to abolish
restrictions on the amount of liquor, and to allow the men to
take what they want to satisfy their thirst, which at Henley
time is naturally more severe than it is in the early spring at
Putney. With a crew of younger and less experienced oars
such liberty of action is not to be recommended. The trainer
ought, during hot weather, to tell his men that if they really
want an extra half glass or so, they are not to hesitate to ask
for it. Men in training will, however, generally find that if
they exercise a little self-control during the first few days of
training, when the restriction on their drink seems specially
painful, their desire for drink will gradually diminish until at
last they are quite content with their limited allowance. If,
on the contrary, they perpetually indulge themselves, they
will always be wanting more.

Besides asking his men to drink slowly, a coach will do
well to see that they take no drink at all before they have
eaten a certain amount of food. Between meals, except as
set out in the tables given above, no drink of any kind should
be allowed.

Over eating, too, is a very common danger, especially in
the case of youngsters, and a coach must warn his crew
against it, and watch them to see that his orders are obeyed.

A University crew always has five weeks and a half
(generally from Ash Wednesday to the Saturday preceding
Palm Sunday) for its hard training. At Oxford and Cam-
bridge, during the earlier part of that period the men meet
for their morning run, and breakfast and dine together.
At Putney, of course, they live together.



110 THE COMPLETE OARSMAN

For a Henley race, or any similar event, the men should
have three weeks under strict rules.



A COUNTRY-HOUSE BOAT CLUB: ITS TRAINING AND

PRACTICE

For many years, from 1883 onwards, a few of us who
were keen on rowing used to spend a part of the summer
every year in getting together crews for Maidenhead and
occasionally for Goring or Windsor or other post-Henley
Regattas. First we rowed under the colours of the Orkney
Cottage Boat Club, with our pleasant headquarters on the
Bray Reach ; but later on we became the Fieldhead Boat
Club, and did our work on the Bourne End water. We were
all intimate friends, most of us University men, and we had
great fun. Still we could not afford to treat the practice as a
mere joke. In addition to the local crews we often had to
meet the crew of the Abney House Boat Club, another
country-house club, which commanded the services of Oxford
and Cambridge Presidents and Eton strokes. Sometimes,
too, Kingston would send a Four to Maidenhead, and if we
went to Windsor or Goring we were sure to meet London and
Thames. We therefore made it our rule to attend very
strictly to our rowing business : we nearly always practised
for close on three weeks, and during that time, though we
lived in the midst of plenty for there were generally other
visitors in the house who didn't care for a training diet we
observed all the regulations as vigorously as though we had
been practising for Henley. In spite of this we had a grand
time. I only wish I could live some of those delightful days
over again.

Most of the men who rowed with me in these crews were
youngsters either actually in the undergraduate stage or only
recently past it. Their rowing during the year had made
them hard and fit. I myself was always in pretty good
condition then, for I did a great deal of boxing and fencing,
club-swinging, running, and riding any kind of exercise, in



Online LibraryR. C. (Rudolf Chambers) LehmannThe complete oarsman → online text (page 9 of 39)