Sarah Ben-David is an Australian coxswain and coach. She coxed the U21 Australian Rowing Team in 2015 and 2016, winning gold in the Women's 8+ against New Zealand in 2016. Sarah is a senior coxswain at Melbourne University Boat Club and is looking to be selected in the Victorian team and U23 Australian Team later this year. Outside of coxing, Sarah is a rowing coach at Firbank Grammar School and studies at the University of Melbourne. Sarah has been kind enough to use our new products for the last 6 months and agreed to write a review.
I've been using the Coxmate GPS and Audio Unit on and off for the past few months while coxing masters, club and elite crews. I found the GPS unit intuitive and enjoyable to use. I enjoyed being able to customize the display with up to five measurements without compromising the clarity of the display due to the black text on a bright background. The distance per stroke measurement is useful to quantify the effect of a technical change and evaluate the change in efficiency when changing the rate. For example, I used the Coxmate software to review data from the 2016 Melbourne Head Regatta, and observed that our distance per stroke did not change when we increased the rate, and so we decided to maintain a slightly higher rate during the Head of the Yarra the following week.
The Coxmate software is easy to use, though I found the data to be inconsistent at times, e.g. two seconds of variation in consecutive 100m splits. This was also apparent when using the unit itself - the numbers sometimes jump around when rowing at a consistent pace, despite playing around with the averaging settings. This was later corrected with a software/firmware upgrade.
The navigation tool is interesting - I only tried it out for a couple of sessions while on camp. I didn't find it useful, because I can see where I'm going while coxing, but I can definitely see how it could be valuable to a rower. I think the tool would be more useful with a prediction setting, rather than responding to the GPS' current location. The current settings require you to be off-course before the display changes, but it would be better to know when you need to start turning. It would be ideal for training camps on unfamiliar and open waterways.
I found the suction cup mount worked well in Wintech and Empacher boats, but I couldn't find a surface to attach it to in any of the other boats I tried (though maybe I just didn't try hard enough). I found the Coxmate adaptor worked well with NK mounts in other boats or I would secure it with some 3M dual lock tape in other boats.
My favourite feature of the Coxmate GPS was being able to review my steering using the GPS data. The Coxmate website allows you to quickly and easily upload GPS files from the device using a USB cable, and review your steering on a map or satellite image. I've used this to review my steering in races and training sessions. This feature is by far the biggest advantage over other consumer GPS units that I've tried, and I think it would also be an invaluable selection tool for coxswains, offering some truly objective steering data to selectors.
I had a more difficult time adapting to the Coxmate Audio unit. The original unit that I tried had a fault which caused the unit to shut down - which was not ideal 20 minutes into an Australian Team training session. This was promptly fixed by Coxmate, and it appears to now last at least three 2 hour sessions without any charging. I particularly like the compact, lightweight design, and am definitely going to continue using the unit.
My main concern with the Coxmate Audio unit is that there is no way of knowing how much battery is remaining or what the volume is set to. I found myself sometimes pressing the volume button repeatedly, but not knowing if it was already at maximum. I'd also like to be certain that there is enough battery remaining for an entire session or race before getting on the water. I often have multiple races or sessions in one day, without any opportunity to charge the unit, so battery and volume symbols would be useful.
I found the sound quality of the microphone to be far superior to the NK microphone that I normally used. The sound is much clearer, with less 'echo' and isn't affected by wind. I also tried the Coxmate microphone with an NK CoxBox, and found that the sound quality remained, but I was able to use more volume. The Coxmate product is designed to be used with four speakers, though most of the boats I use only have three (as they're set up with the NK system which only has 3 speakers), hence the extra volume requirement. The headband was comfortable, and the Velcro microphone attachment makes it easy to make the microphone sit close enough to my mouth.
Overall, I really enjoyed both the Coxmate GPS and Audio, and I will definitely continue using both products.
Editors Notes: Sarah offers some great suggestions and improvements to our beta products that we have already acted upon in our retail products. The Audio unit provides a 60 minute (approx) power remaining warning in the form of a flashing LED light. If you feel that there is any way we can improve our products please do not hesitate to contact us and tell us what we can do better. Thanks so much to Sarah for the review and we wish her all the best for selection in 2017.
If you would like to try any of our products please contact us.