Tuesday 13 October 2009

Chesterton R.C. Night Rowing Policy


This document is based upon a risk assessment carried out in accordance with ARA guidelines. Its purpose is to explain the club procedures designed to mitigate the risks associated specifically with rowing at night. These measures are in addition to the safety measures required for safe rowing in daylight.


The club captain’s express permission is required for all crews wishing to row at night.

No coxless boat or scull may be used at night

No college boats may be used at night

No inexperienced crew members may row at night. Inexperienced crew are those who have taken part in less than twelve outings in fine, racing boats, or until judged competent by the Club Captain.

Only those coxes on the night-time coxes list may cox at night. All coxes wishing to be added to this list must discuss this with the club captain who will ensure that the cox is suitably experienced or trained.

No rowing in bad weather – common sense should be used. Remember poor weather conditions that are acceptable for daylight outings may not be acceptable for a night time outing.

No rowing if the river is in flood, sufficient to obscure the edge of the hard.

The bank party

There has been a great deal of discussion concerning bank parties, both within the club and within the CRA. The Chesterton risk assessment established that the bank party face more potentially harmful risks than the crew in the boat. Therefore Chesterton do not require that a bank party be present for night outings. The most serious risks faced by a bank party are a collision on the towpath, with either other people or objects, particularly if such collisions result in the bank party falling into the river. Therefore the following precautions emphasise the need for a bank party to be visible and to be protected if a collision occurs.

The bank party should wear:

* Warm clothing
* A high visibility vest
* Cycle helmet
* Automatic life jacket – this must not be worn under clothing.
* Their bike should be well maintained have both bike lights and reflectors fitted

The bank party should also carry:

* Attack alarm – there is a slight risk of an altercation with other towpath users. Bank parties should avoid confrontations and be aware of their surroundings. This alarm may also be useful in alerting the boats crew to other problems.
* Thermal blanket
* Throw line – you must know how to use this!

The bank party should be aware of the risks of following the boat and understand that they are not there to coach but to act as a lookout. Bank parties have responsibility for both their own safely and that of other towpath users.

The outing Equipment

Every night outing must be equipped with the following:

* Lights – bright white lights that shine 360 degrees. These may be 2 lights each shining 180 degrees mounted at the bow and stern. Make sure the boat is visible from the side. In addition a flashing red light should be carried on the stern. Spare batteries should be carried and the lights should be tethered to the boat to avoid them being lost overboard. In the event of a light failure the boat must not be moved until the light has been fixed or replaced.
* Reflective clothing – The bowperson must wear a high visibility vest.
* First Aid kit (stored in boats)
* Throw line – Should be carried by the bank party (if present) or in the boat.
* Thermal blankets – at least one between two (i.e. 5 are needed in an VIII).
* Extra clothing – Hypothermia is a serious risk at night. The cox must ensure they wear enough to keep warm and the crew must have extra layers in case of a breakdown or a change in the weather. It is advisable to leave a change of clothing at the boathouse.
* Crew members should not feel pressured to start or continue an outing if they are cold; victims of hypothermia may be unaware of their condition, and the crew should be aware of symptoms and be proactive in observing other crew members- especially the cox. The safety of all crew members takes priority over the outing.
* Tool kit – tools should be carried in the boat sufficient to make minor repairs- at least a rigger jigger and an adjustable spanner. Do not attempt repairs beyond your competence.
* Mobile phone, in a waterproof container. The phone must have the contact details of the Club Captain and Water Safety Advisor stored in it.

Before the outing

The Cox should brief the crew and bank party before the outing outlining the particular risks associated with night rowing. This briefing should ensure that each crewmember understands:

* Risks around the boathouse – extra care should be taken on the hard and around the boathouse in the dark, particularly in winter when ice may form.
* Man Overboard – In all cases the Club Captain and Water Safety Adviser should be informed immediately. The victim needs to be warmed and dried as soon as possible; in an emergency, the Penny Ferry restaurant or residential boaters may provide help, or a car may be brought to the riverbank, if it is deemed by the cox that the victim’s condition is sufficient to prevent the boat being rowed back to the boathouse.
* The Capsize drill – after a capsize the crew must stay with the boat. The boat provides buoyancy and is visible to other craft. Swim with the boat to the towpath side of the river, check for and treat any injuries and assess the situation. In all cases, a member of the committee and/or the emergency services should be contacted immediately. If the crew are all OK bail the boat out and row back to the boathouse. If anyone is injured or cold consider the risk of hypothermia and telephone for help. The safely of club members is more important than the equipment, if needs be abandon the boat and arrange for it to be collected by another crew.
* Responsibilities of the bank party – the bank party is primarily responsible for both their own safety and that of other towpath users. They can act as a lookout only when they are not engaged in looking after themselves.
* The role of the cox – the cox is the master of the boat and as such carries responsibility for the safety of her/his crew and boat, and the safety of other river users. This is a more onerous responsibility at night and the crew should understand that coxing commands are to be obeyed, as always, promptly and without discussion.

Boat Checks

The cox should personally check that all of the equipment listed above is available and in working order. In addition to the normal safety checks (bow ball, shoes and hatch covers, first aid kit, thermal blanket and tools) the boat should be inspected to limit the risks of it breaking down and stranding the crew on the river. See coxing check-list.

No outing should take place in a defective or under-equipped boat.

On the water

On the river, in addition to normal daytime safety rules, the following guidelines should be observed:

* Spinning – Spinning should be carried out well clear of corners, particularly on the reach, where boats should (as always) spin between the two posts situated by the Haling Way. If present the bank party should position themselves to warn any oncoming boat
* Firm pressure – should be used only on the long reach. In addition corners should be taken with care, especially the cross-over points and Grassy Corner, at low speed and as far over to the correct side of the river as is practicable. The bank party (if present) should cycle ahead to ensure the river is clear and warn the Cox of oncoming boats.
* Feet-out rowing must not be undertaken at night, as it prevents the boat from stopping quickly in an emergency.
* Breakdown procedure – Should the boat break down move to the towpath side of the river and stop. Assess the situation and ensure that the crew are warm. If the problem can be repaired then do so. If not then call for help and arrange for the boat to be collected. If the crew are cold or otherwise unsafe then abandon the boat and walk to safety. In particular no boat with a damaged rudder is to be moved at night (even if the cox would normally feel competent in moving a rudderless boat in the day). In this situation call for help and have the boat towed back to the boathouse either by asking powered craft for assistance or using the tub.
* Avoidance of swamping – the most potentially harmful risks identified are those events that lead to crew members or bank parties falling into the river. This is highly unlikely with a competent crew in an VIII or IV in good weather. One potentially risky situation remains outside of club control: it is possible that the wash produced by another vessel could swamp a rowing boat. If a cox feels that swamping is a possibility than they should stop the boat and have the crew sit it, and ideally turn to meet the wash bows-on. This should ensure the boat does not capsize even if it takes on water. No power boat on the Cam should be going fast enough to create a dangerous wash. In the event of crew members getting excessively wet, the situation should be assessed and the precautions against hypothermia detailed above should be followed.
* Other craft – the cox should be aware of the lights used by other craft on the Cam. In particular they should know how to interpret the visible lights and horn signals of moving power boats.


Rowing at night carries more risks than rowing in daylight but as long as the crew, cox and any bank party are aware of the procedures for mitigating these risks then it can be undertaken in reasonably safely. The purpose of this document is not to put rowers off night rowing but to ensure that night outings can be as productive and safe as possible.

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