Peterhouse Boat Club Fund

1948 Peterhouse Coaching Notes

Kindly typed up by Brian Oxley (2004)



BANK TUB . This is the most valuable for all oars, including old May colours, especially in the early stages. It is important that it should not be used just for striking bell notes. After the first few practice catches the stroke should be taken right through. The test of a good beginning is not just the bell note, but whether the blade comes through in one piece, and this can only be proved by rowing the full stroke. At the same time, the bank tub can be of the utmost value in building up the back muscles by drawing the finish right out with the arms.


MOVING TUB . All oars should do as much work in this at the beginning of practice as possible, not simply for coaching purposes, but in order to get their timing right and develop muscle – particularly of the arms and back at the finish. It is not necesssary to have a coach in the tub; a lot of good can be done by just going out with the cox or another member of the crew steering.


SCULLING AND PAIR-OARED ROWING . These are extremely valuable training for anyone and more can be learned about moving a boat than by rowing in an eight or four. Both depend on the finish rather than the beginning if they are to go well, and looseness is essential. Anyone who cannot get an outing in an eight or who can spare a bit more time should scull or go out in a pair.


EIGHTS . The most important thing is to get as much long hard paddling at a low rate of striking as possible. Except now and then round tricky corners or to avoid having to easy, paddling light can be dispensed with. Everyone must get fit and strong by a lot of paddling firm. Everyone will get very tired and then start to row well and together.


There are three things to aim at during these long paddles.

  1. BEGINNING. Clean and true with a bell note, as a result of a well-timed spring off the feet.
  2. FINISH. A long hard draw which will result in the blade coming out of the water clean and ensure the maximum work being done with the blade every stroke. Everyone should aim at sitting right back while drawing and while the hands move smoothly and without any hurry round the turn.
  3. RHYTHM. This means getting the maximum run out of the boat on the way forward. It can only be got if everyone is loose and relaxed, and consciously tries to make the gap between beginning and the puddles wider all the way through the practice. By doing this everyone makes it possible to gather and spring truly next stroke. It should feel as if there is at least TWICE as long coming forward as there is going back.

When it comes to rowing it should be remembered that this is not different to paddling though harder. Another thing is do not consciously reserve your strength till the end. The aim should be to row at such a pressure throughout that at the end of the course you are utterly cleaned out. The next time you do the row you will be able to row with greater power with the same result, and so on all through training. The man who can exhaust himself by half way and still row the same consistent blade over the second half is the one you want for your May boat. Another sign of a good row is one where everyone is competing with everyone else in the crew to produce the largest puddle, both when paddling as well as rowing.


The MAXIM throughout the term should be “MILEAGE MAKES CHAMPIONS”, but they must be hard miles and if possible miles without stops. At the same time the strokes must be hard and LONG at the finish, and the run of the boat the longest of all.


One more point about this term, the various University events of fours, pairs and sculls should not be neglected and entries put in where possible. It is all good rowing experience and you never know how good you may be until you try. This especially applies to scullers.





Except for the work done with the coach in the moving tub and the fixed tub the chief accent must be on the eights. A few long paddles to get the crew together after Christmas down to Clayhythe would be a good idea, after which racing must be concentrated on.


Regattas of all crews together if they can be arranged will not do any harm. They can all have bumping practice together, the first boat at the back and the bottom boat at the top and see who can bump first. This will be more valuable than rowing Ditches and pieces against the clock, the results of which are sometimes misleading. A course on Saturdays is very essential in order ot get fit, but remember that a cood course won’t necessarily mean you will get bumps as the chief thing is to get off the mark quickly and then race until you run into another crew.


If possible all crews should work with other colleges and a useful exercise is doing what we did at Henley – rowing while the other crew is paddling, or paddling while the other crew is paddling light, only of course it will have to be done one behind the other and the change from rowing to paddling or paddling to paddling light when the boats overlap.


It is very useful when working alone to practice rowing away from corners for ten strokes from the paddle. If this can be done well by shortening forward a little, drawing out harder and springing like mad, then you will be better able to do it in a race. The Gut, the ten away from Grassy and the ten away from Ditton are other crucial points. If bumps are not made by a fast start in the Ditch they usually occur in the Gut or in the Plough. It is only rarely, and then with boats at the top of the First Division, that bumps are made at the Railway Bridge or above, and it is VERY unwise to wait till you get to the Long Reach before making your effort.


Another useful exercise is rowing round the corners of the Ditch and Grassy. This is much better practice than rowing Ditches – anyone can do that, but not any crew can go round the corners fast. Again, do not worry about the stopwatch too much.


The following are useful tips if the boat not going well:

  1. BOAT NOT RUNNING BETWEEN THE STROKES. Try starting with five stokes rowing and then drop to a paddle, as we did at Henley.
  2. BOAT ROLLING. Take single strokes together concentrating on everyone finishing together and cleanly. The culprit will soon become apparent to himself and everyone else. Then take two strokes, then three, and so on.
  3. CREW GETTING BORED AND INATTENTIVE. Take air shots every five strokes without any command from cox. Paddle five firm and then five light without any command from cox. Work it up to a row and drop it down to a VERY low paddle light by simply watching stroke and seven. Roll blades round a complete rotation on the way forward. Paddle light with outside hand off the handle and on the hip.

All these tricks teach watermanship and make rowing more interesting and amusing. It never pays to get annoyed with a crew if things aren’t going well. One must find a constructive remedy and not a destructive one.


After term, take one or two crews to Putney for the Head. To do well it is absolutely essential, as it is in the Fairbairns, to row out the finishes, to take a complete rest on the way forward and to time your spring off the stretcher perfectly. Without these, no amount of work will achieve results. If you combine these threee virtues you will do well and it is well worth rowing at Putney to try and achieve them. On a long course without sharp corners there is no excuse for not acquiring the virtues better by the end of the race.





Work during the term is really rather a repetition of that in the Lent term, except that the finer points of polish can be acquired more by this time. The prime essential of learning to RACE must never be lost sight of.


  1. Long clean finishes by drawing hard with the arms and keeping the weight on the thole pin to the end.
  2. Eliminate rattling in the swivels by pressing out with the inside hand at the finish and making the hands oil round the turn while the body sits right back.
  3. Acquire a perfect boat control and be able to paddle a very low rate of striking when paddling light.
  4. Send the puddles down below the rudder at all times when paddling firm. This can be done by well timed beginnings, a long finish and a very controlled float forward.

When these points are thoroughly well grounded, then the beginning can be concentrated on almost exclusively, about the middle of the term. This must never be done at the expense of stiffness, however.


Remember, the beginning is not simply leg drive, it is a spring of the entire weight of the body on to the beginning of the stroke. This can only by gathering on the stretcher the last few inches forward, getting the weight of the body over onto the feet and keeping completely relaxed and controlled by holding the oar handle as LOOSELY as possible and using the hands more as hooks than as vices.


It should not be necessary to watch the blade except at the finish by this time. The beginning should be got by feel. If you watch your blade at the beginning of every stroke, you tend to make yourself screw round, you do not get properly on your feet and you do not time your beginning perfectly. So AIM for taking your beginning without looking at it. This applies more to experienced oarsmen and first boats (Ed: and scullers!)


Just before the Mays if possible send the first boat away for a weekend to the sea. We used to Hunstanton and it did us a lot of good.


If possible, get the boatman to give the cox practice with bung starts from the boat house frequently during the last week.


Have practice bumping races with other boats to get used to rowing in wash.


After the Mays, relax and then go to Marlow and Henley if possible. A few days off and May balls don’t do harm, in fact they probably do good.





I don’t need to say much about this, as it must be in the hands of the coach, but the programme we followed this year is probably as good as any. The chance of working and racing with other and better crews is invaluable. Don’t be afraid to get hold of them to do this. One full course row should be enough at Henley and two or three half courses.


After Henley, if anyone shows any aptitude for sculling it would be an excellent thing to compete at the Kingston and Molesey regattas whick follow. He could also compete at Marlow.







In these notes I have not dealt with the finer points of rowing. These can best be obtained by reading Steve’s books, by talking about rowing and by working your blade. The operative word is WORKING as everyone knows, but to repeat myself for the last time, it is not just working the beginning, but working the MIDDLE and working the FINISH and then taking a complete rest until the next time. The beginning or spring is of course fundamental and the Peterhouse boat of this year had it, but it proved to be not enough. The lessons for 1949 and 1950 therefore must be (1) to learn to spring the stroke RIGHT through and not HALF through by developing all the drawing muscles you can early on, and (2) to learn to row the boat along by racing other crews.