Among strength, endurance, technique and mental toughness, one tends to forget about a very important aspect when racing in coxless boats; steering.
In coxless boats, there is a rudder connected to a cable which is attached to the shoe toe of one of the crew members. They steer the boat by swiveling their foot left or right to keep the boat straight. If you have ever raced a 2km rowing race, you can understand how difficult this may under normal racing conditions.
This was best illustrated on Wednesday 28th of July 2021 at the Olympic Games A Final for the Mens Coxless Four.
The men’s GB team had won every coxless four gold medal since the Sydney Games in 2000 but the quartet of Sholto Carnegie, Oliver Cook, Rory Gibbs and Matthew Rossiter finished fourth as their hopes of a sixth straight win ended in tatters. Australia took gold, Romania picked up the silver and Italy took bronze – but the latter have every right to feel hard done by as the British quartet nearly crashed into them during the final stages of the race, denying them the chance of a silver medal.
Oliver Cook, the bowman, was in charge of the steering and could not contain his emotions and said he had ‘screwed up a bit’ with the steering, claiming his actions cost him and his team-mates further Olympic success.
The bottom line is that steering coxless boats is fairly difficult and even Olympic athletes don’t get it right sometimes!