Coxing FAQ


Novice registration meetings

Novice induction meetings are held every term, usually two per term. They are scheduled as far as possible on two different days of the week, one in first week and the other in second week, to maximise attendance. They typically start at 6:30 and will take around 1 hour 15 minutes from the time we begin talking. We ask that you arrive up to 30 minutes (and at least 10 minutes) before this to allow for admin to be completed before the start time.

Coxes coming to registration meetings should bring £3 and two passport-sized photographs. They must stay for the whole meeting, otherwise they will not be registered.

Coxes who have enough experience before coming to Oxford to be registered at X or S status still need to come to the briefing, but will be able to attend a shorter briefing rather than the full novice briefing if they wish to. It is essential that such coxes have an induction meeting with RQ or the OURCs Captain of Coxes before they steer or coach at busy times on the Isis or at Godstow. The decision on status will be taken once we have a full coxing CV to look at.

May I go out coxing as a novice before I attend a registration meeting?

You can cox without attending a briefing from the end of Term until the first registration meeting of the next term. Even if you plan to attend the second briefing, you must not cox without a licence after the first briefing. We recommend that if you do go out before the briefing, and have no prior coxing experience, you only go out with a fully experienced crew. Handling novice rowers is difficult for all coxes, and if you're a novice too it can be very dangerous. What will help you is shadowing a more experienced cox: borrow a bike and go down and listen from the towpath so that you start learning what to do in the boat.

Pre-regatta meetings

Briefing meetings are held before all the big regattas (Torpids, Eights, and Michaelmas Novice Regatta). Bumps regatta meetings are obligatory for all those coxing at any point during the regatta, including Rowing On, but those who have coxed bumps before will be allowed to leave after the first section of the briefing (usually 20-30 minutes). Novices will be fully briefed in the second section of the meeting. Where possible pre-regatta coxing meetings will be held on the Wednesday of the week before the racing starts (i.e. two days before Rowing On in the case of bumps, and the week before the Michaelmas Novice Regatta.)

Any coxes who cannot attend such a meeting should contact the OURCs Captain of Coxes well before the meeting. For very good reasons alternative arrangements may be possible but are not guaranteed. We do not expect coxes to miss two bumps meetings in a row. Novice status coxes who cannot attend a briefing may be asked to send a representative from the stern pair of the boat they will be coxing in their place.

Coxes (or representatives from stern pair) need to bring photo ID - preferably their coxing cards. Those without coxing cards should report to the main desk on arrival and will need to show other ID, such as their bod card.


What changes under blue flag?

No novice coxes – X or S status only.

Spin early – between the ’Turn Early’ Post (on the towpath, about 50m downstream of Donnington Bridge) and the red and white post at

Haystacks Corner. Don’t go below the Haystacks Post.

There is also no spinning at Longbridges, other than for crews from that boathouse who are landing there.

Navigation of Iffley and Osney locks is prohibited.

What changes under amber flag?

No novice or experienced status coxes – senior status only.

Senior crews required (in addition to senior cox): at least 4 rowers with more than 1 year’s rowing experience, no rowers with less than 1 term’s experience.

Spin early (as on blue flag).

No spinning at Longbridges (other than for those landing there), as for blue flag.

Navigation of Iffley and Osney locks is prohibited.

Crews must be accompanied at all times by a bankrider who has with them a throwline (which they should know how to use) and a mobile phone containing the number of Iffley Lock (01867 777277).

Coxing status and upgrades

What do I need for experienced status?

At least three full terms of coxing experience. To be upgraded to X, it’s not necessary to have coxed the Michaelmas Novice Regatta or bumps but race experience is expected. Coxes with more than three terms of Oxford coxing experience can get their boat club President, Captain, or Captain of Coxes to ask to upgrade them without assessment (see below). Coxes may not apply for an unassessed upgrade themselves, whoever they are. Those with less than three full terms of Oxford coxing experience can get X status by being assessed during an outing.

See Coxing Competencies for a more in-depth explanation.

How do I get upgraded to experienced status?

For those with three full terms of coxing, the boat club President, Captain or CoC should e-mail the OURCs CoC and certify that the cox in question has at least three full terms of coxing experience and is competent to cox without a coach under blue flag conditions. For example:
"John Smith has done three full terms of coxing and is competent to cox unsupervised under blue flag conditions."
Note: You’re still novice status until your upgrade has been confirmed by the OURCs CoC.

Do not put a cox forward for an unassessed upgrade if they have registered less than three terms ago, or if they are not good enough. X status coxes who break rules or are shown to be incompetent/unsafe will be downgraded to novice status again, either temporarily or permanently.

If a cox doesn’t have the required amount of coxing experience for an unassessed upgrade, they, the boat club President, Captain, or CoC can request an assessment for upgrade from N to X status.

What counts as a “full term of coxing”?

We generally expect coxes to have done at least two-three outings per week throughout the term, as well as racing experience. If the river is at blue flag or above for large portions of a term, it may be decided that no novice status coxes will be able to count that term as a “full term” for their unassessed upgrade.

Terms are counted from the beginning of one term to the beginning of the next. Therefore if, for example, you register as an N status cox in Michaelmas of your first year in the University, the earliest you could be upgraded without assessment would be the beginning of Michaelmas of your second year, not the end of Trinity of your first year.

What can I do as an experienced cox?

Go out under blue flag, as well as without a coach.

Note: You’re now responsible for the safety of your crew. Be familiar with the British Rowing Water Safety Code and the OURCs Rules of the River. Assess the conditions and the ability of your crew before each outing, don’t go out if it’s unsafe. If your coxing falls below the standard expected of an X status cox or if you break BR guidelines or OURCs rules, you may be demoted back to novice status.

What if I haven’t done three full terms of coxing?

You may be able to be upgraded early, but you’ll need to be assessed during an outing by RQ or the OURCs Captain of Coxes. During N-X assessments, we’re looking for safe coxing, particularly your ability to recognise developing hazardous situations and take suitable avoiding action in good time.

What do I need for senior status?

A lot more. Senior coxes should have at least 6 full terms of coxing, unless they are exceptionally talented. Senior status is awarded to coxes who are not just competent, but genuinely expert. While we expect experienced coxes to be able to conduct outings safely while unsupervised, for senior status we’re looking for someone who can get the most out of the outing for their crew, without ever being unsafe.
For instance, moving neatly through gaps which are big enough, without wasting time dithering, yet without making any other crew or craft on the river have to get out of the way or stop early. Spotting a log-jam developing and finding a way around it without getting stuck, but without inconveniencing any other crew. Understanding how the movement of water in the river is affecting your boat and adjusting your commands and rudder use accordingly. Knowledge and application of the rules, obviously, but that’s by no means enough on its own. The judgement to apply your skills well in a tight situation and make quick, good, decisions to the benefit of your crew and everyone else on the river.

You need to have a really secure sense of watermanship and good steering/boat handling, be good at observation and aware of everything else happening around you so that you can take avoiding action early and help prevent accidents as well as keep your crew busy with its outing.

You should be able to contribute substantially to coaching, technique and the crew’s improvement during the outing.
Commands must be well given, not just OK, and using the voice tone to improve the mood and reaction of the crew.

Communication with other crews to facilitate the flow of river traffic is crucial.

We aren’t looking for squad-level motivation, or tactics, but an awareness of both is useful. Essentially a senior cox is someone who is good enough at all the coxing requirements to be able to go for one of the varsity squads, but who may or may not suit the mindset of OU coxing. Conversely, coxes can get Blues or half-blues but not seniority because their judgement is erratic and their safety awareness non-existent.

I’ve done a lot of rowing, can you give me experienced/senior status?

Unfortunately we need coxes to have real coxing experience before we can give them experienced or senior status. While many people with extensive rowing experience do a fine job coxing, there have also been quite a few who don’t, and it is impossible to tell which will be which without seeing their coxing for ourselves. Therefore, we don’t count rowing experience, but we’re always happy to assess someone in this situation early for an upgrade.

Similarly, footplate-steering experience doesn’t normally count for much, since you have a blade to correct your steering with (by adjusting the pressure), although it does add experience of having to work around other crews.

Can you assess me at Radley/Godstow/Wallingford?

No, assessment outings have to be on the Isis. We’re looking at how coxes react to hazards or obstructions which appear during the outing to determine whether they are suitable for an upgrade. This means that assessments must be done on a busy stretch of river, i.e. the Isis. If water time has been limited during a term, it also means that we can get more than one assessment done per session, so coxes aren’t kept waiting for upgrades.

When can you run assessments?

We need the river to be quite busy for assessments, so if it’s is too quiet then we may need you to wait until it becomes busier. For that reason, when you send a list of outing times to try to organise the assessment for, weekday mornings or the busier weekend times are best to choose.

X to S assessments can be run on blue flag, but N status coxes must be assessed on green flag.

Can I be upgraded before the end of my third term coxing?

Only by assessment. The deadline for unassessed upgrades doesn't move, even if you will do no more coxing before the next term. The only exception is those who manage to get a full Long Vacation coxing for a club, though we will need convincing proof of substantial vacation coxing.

I requested an upgrade ages ago! Why haven't you done the assessment yet?

A lot of captains request assessments for their coxes, but do not follow that up with a list of several suggested outing times. We can't assess you if we don't know when you'll be on the water, so please remember to send us a list of outing times with an upgrade request.

Once we've got some outing times, we'll pick one that we can do, and we'll e-mail you to confirm the assessment time.

Where possible we will try and pick a time when the river is busy enough, otherwise your assessment may be wasted. If we do not see the cox having to cope with more than one difficult situation, then we will not grant an upgrade.


I’ve lost my coxing card, can I have a replacement?

Yes, drop an email to the OURCs Captain of Coxes ( giving your full name and college, and a replacement card will be sent to you.

I don’t think my coxing card ever arrived, what do I do?

Are you sure:
    - you have given in two passport-sized photos?
    - you wrote your name on them if you sent them to RQ after the briefing?
    - you stayed to the very end of the registration briefing?
    - everyone else who registered from your college has received their licences, and they don’t also have yours?
If the answer is yes to all four then contact RQ explaining the problem.

What are 'cox-coaching' sessions?

RQ and the OURCs Captain of Coxes are available to discuss all matters to do with coxing in an informal evening format. Colleges should book by emailing and suggesting a choice of evenings. Coaches and rowers are also welcome, and the format is Q&A so that anything the college's coxes wish to discuss can be covered.

What should I do if I have any other coxing questions?

Email the OURCs CoC (


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