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Manage safety

Coastal rowing is a risk sport.

Remember WWBBCC: Weather, Water, Body, Boat, Clothing and Communication

The following is to encourage you to think about your safety and understand the potential risksIf you have any comments or additions to the following, please email or call 01305 257 774 – thank you.

Where you row will effect the level and nature of risk. The following is a guide only as it cannot cover every location or situation. If you have your own boat, it is important to remember you are responsible for your own safety – so carry out your own risk assessment and remember things can change while you are on the water.

Identify and understand the risks.

Identify and act to minimise the risk.

Know what to do if there is an incident. 

If you are hiring a boat from the Coastal Rowing Centre, we have a duty of care, but you also have a responsibility for your safety. If for example you have a health condition, rowing could put you and other crew members at risk.



Things to consider:

  • Wind speed and strength of gusts.
  • The direction of the wind e.g. onshore, offshore. Is it due to change?
  • Temperature. How hot or cold is it now and is it going to change later?
  • How will the wind effect temperature?
  • Is it going to rain? How will your body temperature change if you get wet?
  • Is it going to get dark or foggy?
  • What will be the effect of the sun and reflection off the water?
  • etc

It is important to understand what the weather will be for the duration of the time you are on the water. You must be ‘more than’ capable of rowing safely in the expected weather conditions. You must be suitably clothed to manage changing external temperatures and body temperatures. You must protect yourself from the effects of sunlight.


Things to consider:

  • What is happening with the tides, are they strong, will they be changing?
  • Are there any strong currents, will they be changing?
  • What is the sea state? Is it due to change?
  • How far away from the shore is safe for you? How will I get back to shore if an incident occurs?
  • Are there other water users that you could collide with? – large ships, small boats, swimmers, kayaks, other rowers, etc – could you damage/injure them? Could you damage your boat or be injured?
  • Are there any rocks, sand banks, shallow water, buoys, fishing nets, floating debris, etc that could damage the boat?
  • Is the launching and landing site accessible and safe for the duration of the outing?
  • Are there any wildlife areas to avoid?
  • etc

It is important to be vigilant when you are on the water, regularly looking over your shoulder, so you know what is ahead. Take extra care when there are many people on the water. Carry buoyancy aids, tow lines in case you damage your boat. Have a first aid kit available to deal with minor injuries.


Things to consider:

  • How fit are you? How supple are you?
  • How experienced are you and fellow rowers?
  • Do you have any health conditions?
  • What is a suitable level of exercise for you?
  • How good a swimmer are you?
  • How do you cope with heat and the cold?
  • How aware are you of energy levels and hydration levels?
  • etc

Rowers are known for their high levels of fitness and sometimes extreme training. You don’t have to emulate them. Build up levels of exercise and fitness steadily. Rowing requires a degree of suppleness which may take some time to acquire. Boat speed is highly dependent on balance and a smooth and correct rowing action so if you are starting or re-starting focus on learning balance and technique rather than power.

Carry water so you can keep hydrated. Dehydration effects your ability to concentrate and row effectively. You and others are at greater risk if you are dehydrated. Consider suitable diet and calorie intake for the level of exercise.

If you have been rowing in cold conditions, when you come off the water the first thing you should do, after making sure the boat is in a safe place, is to wrap up warm to maintain your core temperature. If you are wet, change into dry clothes. Avoid your core temperature dropping, which can happen quickly, especially in a cold wind.

Protect yourself from the sun with sun lotion, lip balm, sun glasses and suitable clothing and headwear – it is all too easy to become sun burnt if you are on the water for sometime.

Remember there are absolutely “no prizes for busting a gut”.


Things to consider:

  • Safe loading and unloading from a vehicle
  • Safely fixing the boat to a vehicle or trailer when transporting
  • Safe lifting and handling of the boat on land
  • Safe use of trolleys and trestles
  • Be aware of other people around your boat e.g. avoid creating trip hazards
  • Safe storage of your boat and equipment to reduce risk of theft, damage, injury.
  • Check everything on the boat before putting the boat in the water. Check hull and deck, riggers, all nuts & bolts and gate settings: foot stretcher and position, heel ties; seat and wheels, that the seat runners are clean; storage hatch and bung are closed, tow line attached, sculls in good condition, buoyancy aid on board.
  • Before you launch check oars are stern side of pin, gates closed properly.
  • When launching and landing, be aware of rocks and stones in the water and on the beach, be aware of offshore winds or waves taking your boat off the beach without you. Be aware of potential damage to the fin.
  • If you capsize or fall into the water, are you be able to get back into your boat? Practise capsize drills in safe conditions with someone else at hand to help if required.
  • It is important to handle your boat with care, maintain it well and make the necessary checks before going on the water. Be aware of others. Investigate safe ways to lift, carry, transport and store your boat.
  • Develop a routine to double check everything before you row, especially if you are in a rush or tired, the time when you are more likely to make mistakes.
  • etc


Things to consider:

  • Do you have suitable clothing to keep you dry and warm before rowing?
  • Do you have suitable clothing for the expected weather and sea conditions AND if conditions change?
  • Do you have suitable clothing to allow for changes in body temperature during exercise?
  • Do you have suitable footwear to minimise risk of injury from stepping on sharp objects on land or in the water?
  • Do you have suitable footwear to protect your feet in the shoes/flex feet?
  • Should you wear a hat? Gloves?
  • Are you able to keep clothes dry on your boat if you take some off? Do you have a storage hatch or dry bag?
  • If you were to capsize, separated from your boat, would you be able to swim back to your boat in the clothes you are wearing?
  • Do you have suitable clothing to get warm after rowing?
  • Do you have a towel and change of clothing if you get wet?
  • Do you have suitable clothes when handling and washing the boats down?
  • If you are rowing with someone else who is less experienced, you may be less active and therefore become colder than usual – will you have extra clothing.
  • etc


Things to consider:

  • Have you told others, where you will be rowing? And expected outing time.
  • Do you have a e.g. white board, where you have put up your name, outing details?
  • If you or someone you are rowing with gets into trouble, do you have the ability to communicate with someone if you need assistance?
  • Will your phone work where you are rowing?
  • Should you carry a radio for the trip you are about to do? Will the radio work where you are?
  • Can you really rely on your mobile phone and the battery? Can you keep it dry?
  • Is phone/radio attached to the boat if you capsize?
  • If you use your phone when on the water and drop it (possibly the most common issue) – what will you do?
  • etc

If you have any comments or additions to any of the above regarding safety, please email or call 01305 257 774