Going to a rowing classic race is a lifetime goal for many coxswains.  Getting there in the 9th Seat for a crew of former Olympians must be a dream come true.

Adrian Ellison got just that when he went to Boston Massachusetts, USA last October – and to crown it all he set a course record time and came away with a winning gold medal in the Event 50th Anniversary year. Images and links

Lucky Adrian had spotted a Facebook chat between two of the girls a year ago suggesting putting together a crew and he immediately offered his coxing services.

Key learnings for coxswains from Adrian’s story. 

There are some really helpful insights which you can use to improve your coxing – these are in Italics below.

For the warm up it was a classic where everything clicked into place – I was aware as it was going on that it was really high quality.  The pieces we did in the warm up were super-focused and concentrated and at the same time very relaxed. One of the things I learned from Katherine Grainger was to remind them to be relaxed at all times. 

Try copying this with your crew.

We did some race-pace pieces in the basin before the start - they seemed effortless and we hit rates above what we wanted easily and naturally. I knew from this that they were switched on and it was going to be a good race.  This is a sign your crew is ready to race.  The reason this happens is adrenaline kicks in and so when they are above race pace and you can ask them to cool it down and actually bring the crew down to a specific rate.

Check your normal rates against pre-race warm-up rates to see how your crew compares.

Once the race started I was focused on reciting the script [race plan] we had developed.  I learned in our previous race that they used the Leander Club race plan and it was immediately obvious that the plan was far more complex, intricate and detailed than anything I’d done in the 80s and 90s. 

Almost every minute there was something specific they want me to tell them.  We included two 100 stroke pieces - broken into 5 x 20s each one focused on a particular part of the stroke.  I had to remember as well to tell them where they were on the course (the crew doesn’t know it well).

I was just enjoying it and was there for the ride.  You don’t need to tell a crew like that how to row - you don’t need to tell them to push because they are fully committed to doing that all the time.

How can you get your crew to raise their commitment to this level?

One of the good things about the Comxate SX was I knew our target split.  We wanted to be going 1.40 splits per 500 in order to break the course record of 17:14 but just to be simple I chose to aim for 17 minutes. 

At the half way point I looked at the Coxmate and we were all on target to be under 17 minutes.  All I said was “we are still going fast; we are on target for a good time”.

Think about whether you need to tell your crew all the detail all the time or if a summary comment will do.

As we went through the finish line I looked down at the Coxmate I expected to see 17 minutes and it was 16:38.  I just screamed and was still yelling when they told us to stop and spin round!

It was such as good row - there are about a dozen top races I’ve done (the Olympic gold medal final wasn’t one) that was one of my all-time favourites.  If we went back and did that again a dozen times I think we wouldn’t replicate the quality. 

There wasn’t a single bad stroke - it was just perfect.