Members Club Handbook

1. Introduction

This booklet is designed to provide an overview of all you need to know about being a member of the Skerries Rowing Club. It has been prepared by several past and present members to represent the most important things that you will also learn down on the slip, in the boat, through demonstration, through emails, or otherwise picked up by common sense.

It is designed predominantly for new members to the club but will also be of use to more experienced members, both for their own information, and also as a resource to help train in new rowers.

Reading this booklet will not make you a perfect rower or club member, but it will hopefully give you a shortcut to some of the answers you have yet to obtain, or questions you have yet to think of. Much of the content is general, although some will be amended each year.

2. The Club

2.1.     Ethos and objectives

At Skerries Rowing Club we pride ourselves on the friendly and welcoming atmosphere that our members create. We believe that to achieve this the club must work together, be respectful of each individual regardless of age, culture, disability, gender, language, racial origin, religious belief and/or sexual identity.  See the Club EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES POLICY in the members section of the club website. Bullying is not tolerated in our club as per our Anti-Bullying policy on our website.

The Club will therefore expect its members, coaches, associated individuals, and athletes to behave in a way that portrays the ethos and values of Skerries Rowing Club, as well as the positive attributes of Irish Coastal Rowing.


At Skerries Rowing Club we believe in:

  • Fostering the joy of rowing for all irrespective of age, ambition or ability
  • Encouraging and supporting all members to achieve the competitive level that they aspire to
  • Encourage and support members of Skerries Rowing Club in representing the club competitively at ECRC events, at national rowing events and internationally.

2.2.     What’s expected of members

Members are expected to work as a team, but to be independent. Every support will be given, but new members should be prepared to ask questions and do what is necessary to learn your way. You will find a club of friendly people from all backgrounds and walks of life, and you will find a sport that is likely to get right under your skin.

As members spend longer in the club, they are encouraged to get involved with all aspects of the club, including coxing, socials, fundraising, maintenance, helping with events, serving on subcommittees or the club committee itself.  As a member, this is your club. We all have to get involved with and help with the running of the club.

Our youth crews are central to the club’s present and future. All members are encouraged to include our youth members in all club activities, and to behave as appropriate mentors around them, including not using bad language.

Adult members are also encouraged to undergo the simple Garda vetting process as there are many juvenile members who may need assistance in any number of practical ways throughout their time in the club.  If an adult member intends to participate in a role as a juvenile cox, then both Garda vetting and Safeguarding training are essential.

The club has adopted the Codes of conduct for coaches, officials, parents, children and members as laid out by Rowing Ireland.

See links below:

The club has a healthy social side, including post-regatta celebrations, winter socials, table quizzes, bag packs and so on. Members are encouraged to get involved.

2.3 Communication & Volunteers

Please feel free to come forward with questions, suggestions, and comments for the club and the club committee members. Do remember that these are all rowers, they are also volunteers, and not full-time administrators. Email [email protected]

The club committee circulates club newsletters to members during the season to update you all on club activities. The club also has a member’s area on the club website, a private members page on Facebook and a club WhatsApp group which all members should join in order to keep up to date on club activities. See the members area of the club website for information on joining the club WhatsApp and private Facebook pages.

Volunteer Framework:  

Skerries Rowing Club values the involvement of volunteers in our club as without them we would not be able to succeed in our goals of being a competitive sports club that can contribute to the Skerries community in a meaningful way.

We recognise volunteers as a core part of the club as without them the club could not function. The club gratefully benefits from our volunteers’ vast experiences and enthusiasm in areas such as fundraising, boat maintenance & assistance with our club regatta and much more besides.

From time-to-time other sub-committees will be established to deal with the likes of our home regatta, other large events, fundraising, etc. These subcommittees will draw from members outside of the committee, as well as committee members.

If you feel you can help out, please let us know and get involved with these sub-committees.

2.4 Photography Policy

Skerries Rowing Club has a photography policy in line with that issued by Rowing Ireland. By consenting to be a member of Skerries Rowing Club you agree to abide the rules of the club. This document is available in the members area of the club website.

2.5 Club Structure

Skerries Rowing Club has a club structure that is in line with most other sporting organisations. See diagram below.

Contact details for committee members are displayed on the notice board in HQ and are also emailed to all club members at the start of each year.

3. How to row

3.1.     Preparing to row

Always come to training properly prepared. For rowing, a t-shirt, shorts, and runners, with a sweatshirt or jumper in cooler weather, usually suffice. Many days you will row without getting a drop of water on you, but sometimes, if it rains, if the sea is choppy, or if there is a wayward oar in the boat, you will get wet. Always prepare for getting out of the boat wet and bring a change of clothes if needed. A cox should wrap up well, even in summer.

Always bring a drink of water with you into the boat and be sure to bring your bottle home with you as no single use plastic bottles are allowed. Personal items such as phones and keys are best kept in a dry-bag in the boat.

Our boats are currently stored in a temporary pen, behind the sailing club. If you are the first crew on the schedule you will have to launch the boat. The crew should arrive 30 mins before their scheduled row to allow for boat launch and to get safety equipment.

3.2.     The Rower and Oar

The basic technique is to reach forward, with the oar out of the water, place the oar in the water at right angle to the water, pull the oar, take it out, and repeat. Simple!

When getting into the boat, it is good practice to say ‘stepping in’. Keep steady and ask for help if needed. Try to place your feet as close to the centre as possible, preferably on the long ‘keelson’ down the middle. Never bring your weight down on the planks between the ribs.

On sitting into the boat, put your feet in the straps of the ‘foot rests’ and adjust if necessary so that your knees are at the appropriate angle at all points in your stroke.

When directed by the cox (‘oars out’) push your own oar out of the boat blade first. Holding on to the very tip of the handle, pass it through the oar lock, and in across your chest. The leather of the oar should be centred in the oar lock with the laces on the leather facing skyward. Your hand should be about two fist widths apart and centred on your mid line. Adjust your hand position until your oar’s blade is at right angles with the surface of the water. When pulling, the backs of your hands should be straight, in line with your arms.

You should pull the handle towards your ‘outside’ shoulder at the start of the stroke, and towards your ‘inside’ shoulder at the end of the stroke. By doing so, your handle will move along a circular path centred on the oar lock, and the leather of your oar will not slide in and out of the boat.

The stroke can be broken down into a number of key components, as follows:

The Catch

Reach fully forward and place the oars into the water. Oar blade square with the water surface and in up to ‘collar’ between blade and loom. No deeper. All 4 oars in together.

The Drive

Pushing hard off the feet, through the legs and back. Arms straight and loose. Move shoulders away from the oar, not oar towards the chest. Breathe out evenly. Use your bodyweight in the second half.

The Finish

Leaning back over the seat. When shoulders back as far as will go, pull arms in to the chest and then push handle down to clear blades out of the water. All 4 oars out together.

The recovery

Using hand nearest the oar blade, turn the blade 45° - 90° (feathering). Sit up, reach forward. Move blade level with water back to the catch position. Breathe out. Relax!

3.3.      The Crew

In rowing, rhythm and timing are everything. If you are pulling on your oar at a different time to everyone else, you will be moving the boat along by yourself when you are pulling and holding it back when you are not. It is imperative that you try to keep in rhythm or ‘in stroke’ with your crew mates. A good crew matches each other in stroke rate, length, power and timing. At all times, each rower matches the body and oar position of the other. When this is achieved and the crew is working as one, rowing becomes an absolute pleasure.

When you are learning, the first skill you need to work on is rhythm or timing. Getting your oar blade into and out of the water at the same time as the person in front of you is what you should concentrate on. You will make many mistakes and when you do, it is important not to panic and try to catch up, just pause and wait for the next stroke, or the stroke after that, and drop back in at the catch. Breathing can help with timing. Out on the drive, in on the recovery.

Everyone makes the same mistakes when learning, including bending their arms during the drive, losing timing, and not pulling the blade square through the water. It may seem like it’s not coming easy, but don’t worry, all your experienced clubmates went through the same phases. Get the timing right first, then technique, then power.

A big hurdle for beginners is learning to keep the arms straight for as long as possible during the stroke. The power in your stroke is mostly provided by large muscles of your legs and back working together. From the catch, and through 80% of the drive, your arms should be loose, like the string on a fishing rod, transmitting the power from the rod (back) to the hook (hands). If you try to bend your arms in the drive, your arms and legs will work against each other, the boat will slow, and you will get tired. Only when your back is as far back as it can go should you ‘break’ your elbows, and pull the arms to the chest, before the finish. Keep shoulders, arms, and hands loose, and this will come.

Feathering, the twisting of your blade during recovery, is used to reduce wind resistance and ease the burden during recovery. If learning, you will not want to do this to begin with. Start when you are ready.

At some stage you will ‘catch a crab’, which means your blade gets stuck in the water while the crew is in the recovery phase. The handle will come towards your face fairly quickly, and you’ll get quite a shock! The best thing is to duck, let the handle pass you, and then when you have regained control, twist the handle so that you can get the oar blade back to your starting position. Drop back in with the crew the next catch you can. If this happens to one of your crew mates, the best thing to do is keep rowing, if it is safe to do so, even if your stroke has to shorten. Stopping in sympathy slows the boat and breaks the rhythm. Plenty of time for slagging/commiserations later! If you can’t get your oar in the water because theirs is in the way, shorten your stroke, but keep in time. To prevent a crab, keep your oar square with the water, and at the right depth – the blade, the whole blade, and nothing but the blade!

Be sure to feel the difference between the drive, where the power comes on, and the recovery, where the body recuperates and the boat glides on. The long, steady, powerful stroke will beat the frenzied rushed stroke every time.

3.4.     The Coxswain

The coxswain or cox has the most important role in the boat. It is his or her job to be the tactician, navigator, strategist, coach, psychologist, race winner, taskmaster, diplomat, and between all that, to steer the boat. As well as needing to know the various calls, it is highly likely that at some point you will be asked to cox a crew. Not only do you learn a whole new set of skills, but it is a great position from where to learn how to row.

To steer the boat, pull the right tiller rope to go right, and the left to go left. Always pull when the oars are out of the water, and adjust your course with small corrections wherever possible. Many coxes sit with the tiller rope over their head, and around their waist.

Whether it is an experienced cox training a novice crew, or a novice cox training an experienced crew, the cox’s is the last word in the boat. By all means, all 5 should consult on the course of action for the session on the slip, or when warming up on the water, or indeed out on the water at the appropriate time, but the cox is boss. No rower should take any course of action (e.g. stop rowing) unless sanctioned by the cox. They may be counting on your input to negotiate some obstacle.

It is important that crews and coxes understand a common set of commands, and practice these. The most common orders are as follows

  1. Back Water, Back oars, or Back row – this means that you row in reverse, leaning backwards for the catch, and then pushing forward. This is used to manoeuvre.
  2. Bow side or Stroke side followed by another order – only crew members on the bow side (#2 + #4) or stroke side (#1 + #3) carry out the order. This is generally used for manoeuvring.
  3. Bow pair or Stroke pair followed by another order – refers to #1+#2 and #3+#4, i.e. the pair at the front or back of the boat. This is generally used for manoeuvring.
  4. Ship oars – When this order is given pass the handle of the oar out of the spur and bring the oar back into the boat and lay it along the seats, while keeping a firm grip of the oar the whole time.
  5. Hold Water – This order is used to stop the boats’ forward momentum. When the order is given, all the crew put the blade of the oar in the water and hold onto them firmly to stop the boat.
  6. Trail Oars – This order is given when there is a possibility of collision between the oars and something outside of the boat. When the order is given, the crew let the blades go limp in the water and let the handle slide up to the spur, so all oars trail loosely along the side of the boat.
  7. Timing/ All Together – This is usually said when the cox detects one or more rowers are out of sync with the stroke, it is a call for the crew to concentrate and work together.
  8. Oars high – a high wave or the wake of a passing boat is approaching. Keep the blades high above the water during recovery to avoid this.
  9. Arms Only – Row gently Sitting upright only moving arms forward and back.
  10. Bury the Blade – Submerge the blade totally in the water, with oar blades at 90° to the surface of the water.
  11. Check Oars – Oars in the water at 90° to the water, pull through the water and start to feather the oar as the oar comes out of the water.
  12. Gunnell Oars – Place the edge of the handle of the oar under the gunnel of the boat with the blade parallel to the water.
  13. Power 10 – 10 hard strokes at maximum effort.

Some useful tips for coxes to remember are as follows:

–     Clarity: Decisive, loud and easily understood. Be clear to all, even at the far end of the boat.

–     Tone: Everyone responds to an upbeat, encouraging tone of voice but be firm if required. A sense of humour goes a long way, in the appropriate situations.

–     Phrasing: Phrasing corrections to your crew in a positive way is more helpful to a crew

–     Silence: Often a cox tends to talk too much. Tempting as it is, the aim of the cox should be to help improve the crew, not to indulge in conversation.

Timing: When counting (usually 1 to 10, to help the crew keep their rhythm), make the numbers short and clear, at right at the catch (or finish) of each stroke. Don’t let the rhythm drift.

–     Balance: If bow side and stroke side rowers have different weights, the cox will need to sit to the right or left on their seat. Look at one of the beam seats and line it with the horizon. When the wind is blowing, you will need to adjust, as the wind can lift the side of the boat it is blowing against.

–     Names: A cox should know the names of all in the crew. If you don’t know, just ask!

4. Training

4.1.     Scheduling

The way that weekly training schedules are worked out is a result of some

basic facts:

  • Skiffs need 5 people (4 rowers and a cox). Unlike training for some other

sports, one more or one less does not work

  • We have a lot of members, and a finite number of boats to fit them in
  • People have different commitments outside rowing,
  • Race crews need to train together. Outside of that, it is often good to keep strong rowers together and developing rowers together, and other times good to mix things up.

When rowing crews have been formed, each rowing crew appoints a Crew Captain from amongst the crew. The Crew Captain will be denoted on the roster with “CC” beside their name so anyone that looks at the roster can identify the Crew Captain for the crew.

The Crew Captain will be the point of contact between the crew and the club. The best way to start off is for the crew captain to set up a WhattsApp group with the permission of crew members for the crew so the crew can communicate easily with each other. We recommend that the crew comes up with a name for their crew, a fun and unique name is encouraged! It helps your crew stand out.

It is really important that all crew members communicate with each other in their group. Things can happen but just keep your crew in the loop and the Crew Captain can liaise with the club to help sort things out. Having the Crew Captain as the point of communication with the club makes things easier for the club and crews to communicate, we are volunteers after all!

The crew captain will contact the scheduler who complete the schedule to book rowing slots on behalf of the crew, this is done by emailing [email protected]  ONLY.

All scheduling issues must be emailed. Please do not call or text the scheduler unless absolutely necessary. Your crew is responsible for ensuring a full turn out for your slot.

The schedule can be viewed in the members area of our club website.

Crew captains must check their crew’s availability and email [email protected] by Thursday 2pm for the coming weekend and week ahead for any changes to the schedule for the week or weekend ahead. The scheduler will do their best to facilitate your crews requests. Please remember we have limited boats and peak times. Before 6.30pm is always a good option if your crew can go out earlier.

Cancellations must be kept to a minimum. If your crew needs to cancel it is up to your crew to notify the crews either side of your slot. If no one can fill your slot, it is up to your crew to hold the boat.

Do not call or text the scheduler unless absolutely necessary. It is the crews own responsibility to ensure they request suitable slots and to communicate with other crews in the club. The Crew captain must check availability with your crew on a weekly basis. Give the schedulers a few options for times and days, there are lots of crews and the scheduler works really hard to get crews out as close to their time and day requested. The schedule is circulated weekly on the club whats app and on members area of the club website.

We recommend that crew captains exchange phone numbers and encourage their members to get to know each other. This can be very useful in case a substitute is needed. Additionally, members of other crews may be willing to fill in to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to row and no one is left without a crew. If you are short a crew member due to someone being on vacation or ill, please inform the schedulers, and they will assist in finding a replacement for your crew.

Crews are usually allocated 30 minute rowing slots on weekdays. At the weekend’s crews can row for longer periods of time. Crews must always be back in at the time specified on the roster so as not to delay the rowing time of the crew going out after them.

All crews must notify the scheduler of all weekend rows or rows outside of the normal rowing schedule for health and safety reasons as we must maintain an accurate log of all rowing activities.

The first crew of the day has to collect a VHF radio for their crew from HQ. Check the schedule to see if there is another crew out later on, if there is collect life jackets and radios for them as well. Call it “paying forward” …… some goodwill.

At the end of rowing for the day or evening, all safety equipment must be returned to HQ and the radios must be placed on the cradles to charge and be ready to use for other crews to use.

If your crew is a competing in regattas the Club Captain will be in touch regarding crew registration especially for ECRC regattas. Crews are registered by 9pm on the Wednesday night before the ECRC regatta.

To participate in the races, the Club Captain requires the names of the crew members to be emailed. The Captain will also contact the crews before the regattas to provide further information. More details on this process will be available once the regattas commence in May/June.

4.2.     Training structure

Rowing sessions are usually scheduled for 30 minutes to an hour. To get the maximum time on the water, crews should make sure they arrive 15 minutes before their scheduled slot in order to warm up. If your crew is the first crew out you will have to prepare and launch the boat, and go through necessary warm-ups. It is advisable to arrive 30 min before your allocated rowing slot if you are the first crew out. Always think of your crewmates’ and clubmates’ time.

How training sessions are laid out depends on cox and crew, on what the objectives might be, and on what the weather conditions allow. Options include sessions that focus on one or several of

  • Working on individual or crew technique
  • Interval training, alternating between high and low intensity
  • Race training, mimicking races with 700m straights and turns. Starts and turns can also be practiced on their own.
  • Strength training
  • Long rows to build up stamina
  • Long rows for recreational rowers

Irrespective of the training objectives, it is strongly advised that all rowers and all crews include stretches before and after rowing, to maintain flexibility and prevent injury. A short warm-up jog beforehand is also advised.

On the water, crews are advised to warm up, these will be devised by the club training advisors.

4.3. Off-water training

Circuit training, erg training and club jogging opportunities are provided in the winter/spring in advance of the rowing season and are available to all members.

All winter training will be notified to all club members and all members are encouraged to participate.

Once the club is training ‘on the water’, any additional off-water training becomes the responsibility of crews themselves.

5. Safety

5.1.     Know the conditions

On a daily basis, the first crew out and their cox assess the conditions. The cox determines if it is safe to row and to decide whether the entire evening’s training should be cancelled. However, everyone who steps into the boat should work on improving their understanding of weather conditions, and how they apply to the harbour and surrounds.

There are lots of free weather apps to give you information on weather, winds, tides and weather warnings. All members should have a least one of these downloaded to their phone.

Skerries RNLI will offer safety training usually at the start of the season. All members are encouraged to attend these events.

There are also links to safety videos on our club website that we would strongly suggest you take the time to watch.

There are also links to videos regarding the hidden rocks offshore, man overboard rescue and a presentation on lifejacket and buoyancy aid checks from Skerries RNLI.

All members are required to have read and agreed to our club’s Safety Briefing, which can be found here.

5.2.     Prepare and agree

Even if the designated person has not called off a training session, crews should not take to the water unless happy to do so. Safety and welfare is the responsibility of the crew. Conditions, forecast, sea state, and strength of the crew should be taken into account. It may be appropriate to restrict rowing to a certain area to take account of conditions. Be wary of a route selection whereby the wind and/or tide will help you on the way out but be against you on the way back.

It may be appropriate to reassess plans once on the water, either to change route, or abandon the session. Communication, caution, and common sense should prevail.

When rowing in a swell, the boat stays steadiest when pointing at 900 to the waves, whether going into the swell, or with the swell behind the stern. When coxing, try to pick courses as close to these angles in challenging seas. When taking a course across waves, use the tiller to angle towards 900 on passing larger waves. This applies to crossing the wake of a passing boat too. In addition, always keep the crew informed.

5.3.     Equipment

Each crew will have one VHF radio and should bring at least 2 mobile phones between them stored in a dry bag. Radio training will be given by the safety advisor.

Lifejackets must we worn by all rowers and coxes at all times, with the exception of formal regatta races. Skerries Rowing Club members provide their own life jackets, and it is the responsibility of all members to ensure their personal protection equipment is in proper working order. All juvenile rowers must always wear lifejackets. Satisfy yourself that your lifejacket is in fully working order and that you know how to put it on. Skiffs are very steady boats, and inshore conditions are very safe, but it is necessary to prepare for adverse situations.

5.4.     The harbour and around

It is important to know your way around the harbour and surrounding parts of the bay, in the interests of safety, and so you get the most out of your rowing.

When training within the harbour, watch out for anglers from the pier, and avoid as necessary. Within the harbour, at lower tides, there can be submerged rocks near the pier walls.

Also be aware that fishing boats are moving in and out of the pier so always give them plenty of room to manoeuvre. If boats are fishing close to shore please row in areas away from them and away from their fishing path, there is plenty of open water to row in. If there are sailing events taking place keep out of their race course.

Likewise, outside the harbour, there are submerged rocks all along the coast, so keep your distance from the shore unless approaching a harbour in an emergency.

5.5.     Rules of the Road

Look out! When coxing, always keep a watch where you are going, what other vessels are doing and what is coming up behind you. Note that sometimes not everyone else on the water does this so always assume the other person does not see you. Extra care must be taken when visibility is restricted.

Use all available means appropriate to the conditions to determine the risk of collision and act to avoid it. If making a course change make it large enough to be readily apparent to other vessels what your intentions are. Avoid small alterations in course. If necessary, get the crew to bury or trail the oars into the water to slow, stop, or avoid.

When two vessels are approaching head on it is normal practice when they see each other for them to turn to starboard (right) and pass portside (left hand side) to portside, again, like driving on the continent.

Large vessels will use sound signals follows

  • One short blast of the horn = I am altering course to starboard
  • Two short blasts = I am altering course to port
  • Three short blasts = I am operating astern propulsion

6. Racing

6.1.     Season structure

The club’s activities in the water each year depend on a number of factors, including upcoming races and challenges, but generally speaking there is organised rowing training from March to September, mainly weeknights, but sometimes at the weekend. The season has been extended in recent years.

The season’s focus is the East Coast Rowing Council regatta circuit, in which around 9 of the 10 sister clubs along the coast host a full card of races for the other clubs, from Under 12 through to Veterans. There are races at U 12, 14, U16, U18, 3 levels of men’s races (intermediate, junior, senior), and three of ladies (intermediate, junior, senior). There are also mixed races (2 men, 2 ladies) and novice races, for adult beginners. Aside from the last regatta of the circuit (usually Wicklow on the August Bank Holiday Monday), the regattas are spread out over June and July, and sometimes the end of May.

Aside from these regattas, there are other competitions that the club gets involved with, such as the All Ireland Coastal Rowing Championships

The Great River Race, Ocean to City Race in Cork, Hobblers’ Challenge out of Dun Laoghaire, the Boyne Race and the Barrow Race.

6.2.     Crew selection

Core crews are selected in the spring, before the racing season starts, by The Club Captain. Rowers will be selected for crews for the regatta season after careful consideration of the following criteria:

  • Availability for the regatta season
  • Availability to train with the crew
  • Technical ability
  • Fitness
  • Consideration of positions within boat and crew compatibility

As the season progresses crews can/will be changed depending on fitness, strength, ability and availability of each member. For non-regatta (non-ECRC) events, contribution to wider club activities will be added to the items above.

Successful crew selection and racing is dependent on a good communication flow between selectors and rowers. Whether on a crew or not, all members are encouraged to discuss their goals with the selectors, and are asked to keep the selectors abreast of any changes relevant to the criteria above.

Where 4 rowers approach the selectors with a desire to row together as a crew, this will be given a significant weight. Rowers who are not selected for crews at the start of the season will be given every opportunity to form crews mid-season. The mixed and novice races offer an option for such rowers on an individual basis.

Where there are several crews and limited boat availability for a regatta the Club Captain will look at commitment from crews involved – the more committed crew gets priority. Fitter, better crews are more likely to do well and will therefore raise the profile of the club. A race off between the crews may also be necessary to determine which crew gets the spot.

following number of sessions per week from mid-April to the start of August.


Sessions per week

Recreational rowers

As little or as much as wanted

Youth’s crews






Intermediate Ladies


Intermediate Men


Junior Ladies


Junior Men


Senior Ladies


Senior Men


In recent years, everyone who wanted to race and was able did race, so it is there for the taking. By the same token, many rowers are happy to train on a recreational basis, or to focus on long-distance events. There is a place for all levels of aspiration and ability within the club.


6.3.     Racing for rowers

East Coast races are run on a course with legs around 700m long. Men’s races are 4 legs (3 turns), while all other races are 2 legs (1 turn). Much of the strategy and approach to the race is individual to the crew, and worked out in training, but these guidelines may be useful.

A cox should know the lane drawn long before the start of the race. They should gather 20-30 minutes before the race begins with their crew, and do any necessary warm ups, as discussed as a crew or with a coach/club captain.



Boats line up alongside each other, usually with the coxes holding on to a start rope to keep the competing boats level. The crew dabble their oars (tiny strokes) to set the timing within the boat and to keep tension in the rope. At this point, it is vital that the crew keep the boat straight. Positions #3 and #4 are best placed to do this by putting extra weight on their oar if the boat drifts to their side. A cox may raise their hand while on the start of a race straight in the air indicating that their crew is not yet ready to start a race. When all coxes have their hands down, the race may start.

When the hooter goes, the strategy of the start will be down to the crew and cox to determine in training, but generally, crews will pull 3-5 short but heavy strokes, in time with the dabble, to get the boat moving, before setting in to their stroke length. Avoid looking at the other boats, relax, concentrate, and keep wasteful movements to a minimum. It is all about the oar.

All boats turn on individual marks or cans which line up with their starting position, 1 to 8. The anatomy of the turn is as follows but varies slightly with each cox , crew and race:

  1. The cox lines up the boat on a course to the left of the mark/can, gives an indication of distance remaining to the crew.
  2. With about 5 strokes to go, the cox pulls the tiller to the right, lining up the bow with the left edge of the can, at around 45° to the course.
  3. Just before the inside edge of the hull meets the can, the cox will shout “turn” or “bring her around”, and it all happens, with each crew member playing a different role. The following all happens simultaneously:
    – Stroke (#1) buries their oar and holds it in place hard.
    – 2nd Bow (#3) buries their oar and holds it in place hard.
    – Bow (#4) takes the lead, pulling flat out at a slightly faster stroke rate than before.
    2nd Stroke (#2) follows #4.
  4. After around 3 or 4 strokes from bow side, the boat has turned 900 and is at 45° to the course. 2nd bow (#3) resumes rowing, in time with bow side.
  5. Stroke (#1) resumes a stroke later.
  6. All rowers fall in on stroke, and the cox turns the remaining 45° using the tiller.

6.4.     Racing for coxswains

When preparing on the start line, it is a good idea to pick out your can, and to pick out a landmark behind it to aim for, as the can may not be easily visible in the middle of the leg.

It is your duty to avoid clashes of oars or collisions of boats at all costs. These mostly happen just before or after a turn. There is usually no problem if adjacent boats are level, or if the outside boat (furthest from the shore) is ahead of the inside boat (closest to the shore). However, as can be seen from the diagram of 2 boats’ courses around the cans, if the inside boat is ahead of the outside boat, there is a potential crash situation with the inside boat coming off the mark and the outside boat coming on.

The first boat to reach the turn has right of way, but good sense should prevail with both coxes prepared to adjust speed or course, to prevent a collision. If you are the inside boat in this situation, you should consider either a tighter turn around your can, or leaving the can flat to get out of the other boat’s way. If you are the outside boat, consider taking a tighter line to your can, or following the inside boat into their turn, rounding their can too, if necessary (allowable in the rules).

Keep a careful eye on the other boat, and communicate verbally with the other cox, if possible. If a crash is imminent, order your crew to trail or bury to avoid damage or injury, as necessary.

6.5.     Long-distance races

Long distance races such as the Ocean to City, The Barrow, Boyne Challenge, are particularly close to the club’s heart. A vastly different experience to regatta races, they offer rowers a chance to test endurance and stamina.

Unlike ECRC regattas, these long races and challenges require members to band together to book and cover the costs of transport and accommodation, enter paperwork, and cover costs. The club will almost always support members in such events, subject to logistics being available, and no significant adverse effect on the season.

A different set of requirements and advice applies. Always wear sun block, and bring a full range of clothing. Bring plenty of food and water, and wear your life jacket at all times. Additional equipment and training may be required, such as compass, VHF, GPS, etc.

 6.6 Crew Allocation for Long Rows

Rules for allocation of long-distance rows:

Only fully paid-up club members are eligible to apply for long rows. There must have a full crew of people and this crew must be the crew to compete in the event. Individuals who do not have a crew can make it known to the club captain that they are interested in doing a long race. In the event of a crew needing a rower it will first be offered to these individuals. The crew must have the appropriate experience and ability to take part in the event. Crews should start off with a shorter easier event if it is their first time to consider doing a long row and then build up on distance and difficulty each year thereafter.

Races are graded according to difficulty/distance/challenge of the event.










Castle to Crane






Dun Laoighre



Ocean to City



Great River Race



Lambay Challenge



All in a row

1 hour slots

All levels fun charity event

Hope Challenge


Regatta rowers of all levels

Crews submit interest in long rows in order of event preference e.g. 1, 2, 3.

Where more crews are interested than boat availability the following will apply:

  1. Preference will be given to crews who have not competed in the event before
  2. Where interested crews still exceeds boat availability crew names will be drawn from a hat to determine boat allocation

In the event of a crew being allocated a slot to complete a long-distance row subsequently withdrawing, the event will first be offered to other crews who expressed an interest in the event before being opened up the club membership.

Crews taking part in long distance rows must not register for events until approved by the Club Captain.

The crew must organise their participation in the event, cover all costs of the event and ensure the boat and club equipment is looked after properly and returned to the club promptly and in the condition, they received it in.

7. Boats & Equipment

7.1.     Anatomy

Appendix consists of a glossary of terms that covers much of the boats’ anatomy and terminology. This diagram should also help, along with the diagram showing parts of an oar in section 5.2.

7.2.     Skiff History

 East Coast Skiffs are found nowhere else outside of a 100km stretch of Irish coastline. The design has its origins in Scandinavia, and varying designs can be traced back up the Irish Sea, around the coast and Islands of Scotland, and back to Norway.

Originally, these were working boats, used for fishing, and predominantly for hobbling. Hobblers were freelance pilots, and competition was strong to be the first to board the approaching ships to pilot them in to port. Not only did the successful hobblers receive payment for this, but they were also awarded the contract for discharging/loading those ships whilst in port.

The skiffs worked mainly between Lambay Island just north of Dublin Bay and Wicklow Head, where competition was fierce between crews, often drawn from the same family.

 7.3.     FISA

In Dec 2020 we took delivery of a FISA quad boat. A new venture for the club and part of the club’s strategic plan to develop the club into the future. FISA boats are made of fiberglass, build for speed, have a much lower profile in the water. You will get a lot wetter rowing in these boats as water comes in over the bow, runs down under the rowers and out the back under the cox. Each rower has two oars i.e. sculling as opposed to one oar i.e sweep rowing a completely new style of rowing for us.

As this boat is very different to the skiffs we traditionally row, there can be a higher risk of capsize or falling out of the boat.

In order to row this boat, you must be able to:

  • swim 100 meters
  • bring your own buoyancy aid
  • complete health and safety training prior to getting in
  • be confident in rowing in challenging conditions

This boat is a lot longer than a skiff and must always be launched and retrieved from the south beach.

The boat must always be landed on sandy beaches only, fiberglass is more easily damaged by rocks than the skiffs. Please be careful!

See more at the following links:

World Rowing ‘Learn to row’

World Rowing ‘Coastal rowing’


7.4 Maintenance

Due to our boats being made of wood, they require maintenance over the winter, including sanding, varnishing, painting, and repairs. All members are encouraged to take part, and there is a job for everyone, from the technically illiterate to the master craftsman.

Not only is this work necessary, but it is a valuable way to learn new skills, get to know your clubmates, and appreciate the strange and wonderful craft we are lucky to row.

7.5.     Club Kit

Club members proudly wear our official club jerseys at all regattas and races and other events where the crew represents Skerries Rowing Club. Please check the club website regarding ordering club gear.

7.6     Environment

Skerries Rowing Club has a no plastic policy. All members are asked to bring reusable water bottles to rowing and to avoid single use plastic water bottles. Each crew should tidy the boat after their row and not leave any debris or rubbish in the boat.

The Club is enormously proud to be part of the Adopt a Beach project and we regularly undertake beach cleans. We encourage all members to try and collect three pieces of rubbish from the beach or sea after each row and to dispose of it in the appropriate manner in a nearby rubbish bin. 

7.7 Membership

Membership must be paid in full by all members at the start of each season. A membership form must be completed as circulated by the membership secretary and the membership fee paid in full before members can row. This is to ensure all members are fully insured before they take to the water.

Rowing Ireland offer insurance to rowers as part of their registration with Rowing Ireland and only costs €10 per year. It covers rowers against injuries sustained while rowing. Email the club secretary for further information [email protected]

8. Appendix – Glossary of terms


Side by side or touching

Arms Only:

Row gently sitting upright by only moving arms forward and back


Water thrown backwards towards the bow as the blade enters the water, less is best. Indicates the blade is properly planted before the rower initiates the drive.


To reverse the normal stoke i.e. push the water away as opposed to pull in order to propel the boat backwards.


A device used to remove any excess water from the boat. Beam: The centre section of the boat, away from the bow and stern. Also used to refer to the two centre rowers.


The flat end of the oar.


Place where the club gear is stored.


The part of the bottom of the boat that is below the water line.

Bow Seat:

The rower closest to the front or bow. Usually the last person into the boat and the first to fend off the boat when coming alongside.


The forward section of the boat.


The person who sits in the bow position. Responsible for race turns and has a key role in launch and recovery and watching for hazards.


The port or left side of a boat. Derives from the tradition of having the bow rower’s oar on the port or left side of the boat.


Marker which defines a course or a certain distance rowed/to go. Common sights around areas with maritime traffic.


When the oar is placed into the water at the start of the stroke.

Catching a Crab:

A rowing error where the rower is unable to timely remove or release the oar blade from the water and the oar blade acts as a brake on the boat until it is removed from the water. This results in slowing the boat down. A severe crab can even injure a rower.

Check Oars:

Oars into water at 90O to the water, pull through the water and start to feather as the oar comes out of the water


Part of the oar between the loom and the blade.

Coxswain (Cox):

The oar-less crew-member, who is responsible for steering, motivation, and race strategy.


The part of the stroke where the oars are in the water.

Dry Bag:

A waterproof bag that is often used to bring out equipment and to keep it dry.


East Coast Rowing Council. The association that represents coastal rowing on the East Coast of Ireland between North Dublin and North Wexford, predominantly in East Coast Skiffs.


A rowing machine used to simulate rowing on land. Also known as an Erg.

Fall Back:

drop the oar into the water and fall backwards pulling the oar leaning back as far as 2pm towards the bow keeping the arms straight for as long as possible and then pull the oar into the body at the end of the stroke


Turning the blade from being vertical to horizontal at the end of the finish; keeping it in this position throughout the recovery.


In which oars come out of the water.

Foot stretcher:

The part which attaches the shoes to the footplate. The footplate is part of the foot stretcher, and any adjustable components that can be changed by the rower, depending on their height. E.g. rope, adjustable bars.


check your grip. Outermost hand to the end of the oar. Hands a shoulder width apart. Overhand grip is preferable

Gunnel your oar:

place the handle of the oar underneath the gunnel of the boat            with oar blade parallel to the water


(pronounced: gunnels) The top rail of the boat.

Hands away:

End of Drive phase, hands moved away from the body

Hanging at the catch:

momentary hesitation at point of the oar blade entering the water

Hold Water:

place oars in water at 90o to the water in order to stop or slow the boat down


The skin of the boat that is in direct contact with the water. It is typically made of carbon fibre, fibreglass, wood or a combination of these. Since the hull supports the weight of everyone on the water, the hull is rigid and fragile and should not be stepped onto when getting in or out of the boat.


Irish Coastal Rowing Federation. The association on the island of Ireland that governs coastal rowing in Ireland. Associated with the All- Ireland rowing championships which are held annually.


The protruding section the full length of the bottom of the boat that makes contact with the slip.


A timber structure resembling the keel, but on the inside of the boat. The strongest part to bear weight.


A tubular piece of leather that wraps around and protects the oar as it moves in the spur.

Leg Drive:

Power applied to the stroke at the catch by the force of driving the legs downwards against the footplate


The part of the oar between the blade and the handle.

Missing Water:

Rower begins the drive before catching the water


A slender pole which is attached to a boat at the spur. One end of the pole, called the handle, is gripped by the rower, the other end has a “blade,” which is placed in the water during the propulsive phase of the stroke.


Device that holds the oar in place to act about a fulcrum to let it is pulled. Known as a spur in skiffs.


gunnel your oar with the blade parallel to the water


The rope attached to the bow of the boat.


Nautical term for the left side of a boat. Also used as the oarsman on that side of the boat, usually the odd numbered oarsman in a coastal rowing boat. Opposite of starboard.

Power 10:

10 hard strokes at maximum effort

Pull through:

Portion of the stroke from the catch to the finish


The distance an oarsman is able to extend his arm forward to catch. Also the distance towards the bow an oar can travel at the catch.

Reach Forward:

Stretch forward as far as possible on the stroke to maximise stroke length. Don’t lean any further than 10am


In which the rower’s body moves towards the stern in preparation for the next stroke.


End portion of the drive portion of the stoke where the oar comes out of the water.


This is a movement in the boat from side to side caused by bad timing or one side pulling harder than the other.

Seating Position:

Sit as upright as possible like a puppet held up with a string to maximise lung capacity

Ship Oars:

Pushing the oars out of the spurs and then into the boat, along the seats. This is usually done if another boat comes alongside, or if the crew are about to get out.


Oar too high in recovery phase, should try to keep the oar as close to the water as possible

Squaring a Blade:

Putting an oar perpendicular to the water level. Starboard Side: Nautical term for the right side of a boat. Opposite to port, and also used as a term for the oarsman sitting on the right side, usually an even number rowing position in a coastal vessel (skiff).


The rear section of the boat, where the cox sits.

Stroke (Seat):

The rower closest to the stern of the boat, responsible for the stroke rate and rhythm.

Stroke Rate:

The numbers of stroke per minute.


One complete cycle through the rowing process.


The starboard or right side of a boat. Derives from the tradition of having the stroke rower’s oar be on the starboard or right side of the boat.

Sweep Oar:

An oar that is rowed using both hands (sculling oars have one oar per hand).


A horizontal bar fitted to the head of a boat’s rudder post and used for steering. Used to mean the entire tiller and rudder piece in a skiff.


All rowers should be stroking in time with the stroke rower. All oars in and out of the water at the same time. One click of the oar locks, one splash is indicator of good timing of the crew.


Let the oars go limp and slide out of the spurs up to the handle, with blades coming alongside the boat. Used to avoid collisions.


Radio that is used to communicate in times of emergency while out rowing.


Water stirred up by a passing boat.