I, like many other coxes out there, was recruited into the sport predominantly because of my size (but partly because I was a gobby little so-and-so). Therefore I feel like the slightly touchy issue of weight is a good place for me to dive into this blogging lark.
1) I am biased on this subject because I really like, no, belay my last, I completely love, food. It’s more of an obsession really, an adoration. I am constantly thinking about what I am going to eat next.
2) I am very short, even for a cox, so have never had any major struggles with weight myself.
However, being the opinionated person I am, I am still going to pontificate on this subject. And I will start with a basic summary on my opinion – weight is not the be-all and end-all.
Far from it, in fact. I had a brief look through some old row2k polls and I came across this, which asked the question “What do you look for most in a coxswain?”
I think this speaks for itself really.
Let’s take a step back. How much does weight really matter? I remember hearing once that 10kg of extra dead-weight would cost you 2 seconds over a 2k eights race, in a perfectly efficient boat. Given the difference in speeds between a 4- and a 4+, this seems to be in about the right ball park (and if you can wrap your head around Anu Dudhia’s much more scientific analysis then please let me know the precise answer). So 1kg is therefore 0.2 seconds, but again I should stress, only in a perfectly efficient boat. I am no physicist, but it makes sense to me that the less efficient your boat it, the smaller the effect of extra dead-weight will be. Basically, the point I’m trying to make is, that unless you are in a world class boat, and you are winning or losing races by only a seat or two, and your athletes are not carrying any extra weight on them, or even have their water bottles or some extra kit in the boat….then a few kilos is going to make very little difference to your performance.
So what is going to make the difference? Well I can tell you for sure, there is one thing that is definitely going to have a negative impact, and that is if you are so hungry, so light headed, and so dehydrated from trying to lose weight that you steer like a drunk and make calls like a moron. I have seen numerous coxes starve themselves immediately before a race, crash dieting with an impressive display of will power, but nonetheless turning up on the day completely incapable of concentrating long enough to make a decent tactical decision or to find the right words to motivate their athletes when things get tough. And let’s be honest, no hungry person is fun to be around, who wants a miserable, snappy little rudder monkey when they could have someone who is confident, calm and completely in control.
Now don’t get me wrong, if you can safely afford to shift a few pounds, then please go ahead. I am not advocating that you don’t care about your weight at all, at the end of the day you are unlikely to be popular if you weigh 75kg and you are clearly carrying a few extra rolls of fat. But you need to know your limits, and you need to be safe. On the few occasions I have had to lose weight, I have done so well in advance of race day, by eating healthily and exercising regularly at a low intensity. Exercising is good for coxing, particularly if you are developing your core, and generally becoming a happier, healthier individual. However if you are 5″10, and well built, you need to evaluate whether getting to 50 or 55kg is really achievable. Perhaps you would be better off being 5 or even 10kg heavier, and putting your extra energy into steering the best possible line, or gaining an even better understanding of rowing technique, or really knowing what to say to motivate your 6 man 1500m in, when she has pushed herself completely to the limit. In my opinion, these are the attributes that make a great cox, not the number on the scales, and these are the things that will gain you those precious extra seconds on race day.