How to Steer a Buoyed 2k in an Eight
(see rowing, coxswain, crew)
  • Develop a sixty yard stare.
  • When you are just learning to drive a car, a common mistake is to watch the road just in front of your bumper. This causes you to zig-zag quite a bit, since little mistakes show up very prominently, and then you overcorrect. What you want to do is look through your stroke's face; look in that direction, but focus about a length of open water in front of your bow. You should see a certain number of buoys on either side of your stroke; if you have equal numbers on both sides, congrats! You are now going straight. (In a largish eight with a 6'4", 200 pound stroke, I believe I could see eight buoys on a side, with about 10 meters between buoys.)
  • Make small corrections.
  • If you are doing a good job in general about keeping your boat straight, you aren't going to have to worry about your shell touching the buoy line if you don't jam the rudder. So be as gentle as possible.
  • "Keep those hands where I can see 'em!"
  • Hands gripping gunwhales, three fingers outside shell, fore-finger and thumb inside shell holding the steering string just behind the wooden/plastic handles. Always have both hands on the rudder, unless you need to quickly flick the coxbox or somesuch small adjustment.
  • Practice practice practice.
  • Though one doesn't usually steer towards a distant point on a buoyed 2k course (since stroke's body obscures your view of the finish target), this is usually the best that most people can do on most bodies of water. Be relentless, critique your coxswain daily on her course. In calm water, turn around after a piece; the turbulence from the shell's passage will trail after you for a hundred meters or more, and you can see any jinks or fakes where she was trying to ditch her defenseman. Steering is a skill that takes dozens of hours to perfect.
  • Don't touch the rudder during the start.
  • When your eight is doing practice starts, hands off the steering. If they aren't going straight in the first ten strokes, it is something that they need to fix, or else you'll be losing them countless feet right off the blocks by correcting. Keep doing practice starts until they are straight without the coxswain's interference.

As for the "steer on the drive only" versus "apply gentle rudder continuously" debate; I've never seen too much point to flipping the rudder back and forth 38 times a minute. If you keep it gentle and subtle, you don't have to worry about steering on the recovery.