In the sport of rowing, coxswains and lightweight oarsmen are required to be able to control their weights to the ounce upon demand, often without compromising athletic endurance.

Earlier this season, at C.R.A.S.H.-B. Sprints in Boston, there was a weight ceiling for my category of 120 pounds. Since I'm 5'5" and a former lightweight (in high school for about a year) rower, this was especially difficult. After months of winter training, being on the ergometer built up a bit of heavy muscle, which caused me to be over weight. (See Guide to making weight.

However, the spring season has a minimum weight requirement rather than a maximum-- which makes things much more complicated.

Because I cox the men's team, I am required to be at least 120 or 125 pounds, depending on the race. If a coxswain is below that weight, they carry weights to bring them up to that weight. The official doing the weigh-in usually shovels sand into a plastic bag, and seals it. Once in high school, one of the freshman coxswains was only about 4'10" and 85 pounds, when she had to be 110. Uncharacteristically, they handed her a bag and a shovel, and directed her to the beach. Two hours and a hole in the beach the size of a freshman later, it took the two of us to drag the sack of sand to the boat.

Boats go fastest with a lighter load. What I usually do is cut weight to about 115 or 120 pounds (depending on the race), drink about 2 liters of water before weigh-ins, which allow me to weigh in at over the minimum weight. After weigh-ins and before the race, I 'get rid' of all of the water I forced down. I go from 126 the week before(my normal weight) to 118 on regatta day. An hour before weigh-ins I drink enough water to get me to 125, and then 15 minutes later I'm back down to 118.

This is strictly illegal. (though everybody does it)

Sometimes, coxswains wear all the underwear they own under the unisuit, or stuff wrenches in the spandex. Wrenches and underwear are excellent, because they can be concealed under spandex.

Because of this weight-manipulation, our boat is only carrying 115/120 pounds of dead-weight cox while all the others are carrying 120/125. This is the eventual goal of weight gain.

At IRA's (Intercollegiate Rowing Association), the biggest college regatta in the States, they weigh the boats as well. There is a minimum weight, so as not to give an unfair advantage to a crew with superior equipment. A few years ago, Brown had a shiny new $50,000Resolute eight which happened to be below minimum weight. They put weights inside the stern deck so that it would come out above, planning to take the weights out before heats. However, the officials knew the weight for that particular model of boat, checked the inside of the boat, and removed the weights.

Brown was allowed to participate in IRAs that year, though they didn't win.

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