Capsize Drills

In your time at Oxford, it is quite possible to never capsize your boat. This is particularly true if you only row in larger boats that are significantly harder to capsize. However, we expect all clubs to keep their members informed of what is expected practice in the case of capsize. Some of the information that we would expect to be conveyed is found on this page.

Capsize Drills

OURCs rules require all persons to complete a capsize drill before using any small boats (singles, pairs and doubles). Capsize drills may be taken by any persons, regardless of the craft they will be using. The drill is held in a swimming pool and will typically involve:

  • A brief discussion of how one might capsize
  • A brief overview of some dangers of immersion or capsizing
  • A discussion of the need to stay with the boat at all times
  • Learn how to get into scull correctly, put your feet into the shoes - you will be pushed off into the centre of the capsize area.
  • When ready capsize the boat by moving towards front stops, then pushing the blade handles well past the rigger & saxboard, place hands back on the rigger – try and sit for as long as you can before rolling in.
  • Free your feet from the shoes by pulling on the quick release.
  • Tap three times on the boat whilst underwater – this shows you are in control & confident in this environment.
  • Look up, avoiding the riggers and surface.
  • Right the boat by standing on the rigger nearest you, reach over the boat and pulling the other rigger up off the water. Watch the blades as they swing over.
  • Move to the bows maintaining contact with the scull the whole time.
  • Tow the boat to the side, from the bow lying on your back. If you have a long way to swim with the boat, first streamline the blades to minimize drag (e.g. spoons trailing towards the stern).
  •  A brief discussion of techniques for re-entering a boat but no re-entry is required


Capsize drills are run by OUWLRC. They are expected to cost £10 per drill. To book a capsize drill, please email or


In the Event of Capsize

More information can be found at RowSafe 1.8 and 1.9

Please be concerned with:

  • Cold shock
  • Dry drowning
  • Hypothermia
  • Post-rescue collapse
  • Swim failure


Key Points

  • The boat is your flotation device (whether it’s a Ix, IV+ or VIII+) so you must stay in contact with the boat the entire way through the capsize drill and also out on the water should a capsize or swamping occur.
  • Out on the water in most circumstances you will find yourself within easy towing distance of the bank, so knowing how to right your boat & tow forms the second part of the drill.
  • If you can't tow the boat to the bank, then either try to self-right, or lie on top of the shell to reduce the risk of hypothermia. 









 If there are people in the water and/or your boat capsizes, it is essential that the priority for all is to safely remove themselves from the water. Heat loss from being ín the water represents a significant risk. This might include the following:

  • Try to have someone take charge. This will normally be the cox, but if he/she lacks experience or it is more appropriate, then an experienced crew member should take charge. Bankriders may also be of assistance but remember that their view is restricted.
  • Take a good look around and assess the situation. There may be other crews or craft around that need to be avoided. In some situations this can involve the need to swim or dive underneath approaching craft. Signalling all crews that there are people in the water by waving your arms is recommended. Motorcraft in particular will need to cut their engines and may not be able to manouevre or halt with any speed and so alerting them to the danger early can make a big difference. If you are safely above water, please check to see if any crew members require assistance. All craft should have working heel restraints but it is still possible that crew members may become tangled in the boat and require assistance to get them free.
  • Please make sure that all crew members are accounted for, floating, and not in any danger of drowning. Injury, inappropriate clothing and the cold water can make swimming difficult or impossible - so your fellow crew members may require your assistance to get them in a position where they may safely float.
  • Stay with the boat. The boat should float if upturned or swamped and provide a usuable life raft. Otherwise, an oar may be used (not if it is snapped). People may wish to clamber on to the top of the boat so that they are out of the cold water and so reduce their heat loss.  If you do remain immersed, try to keep your limbs tucked into your body to reduce heat loss. Letting go of the boat can be very risky. In higher streams, the boat is likely to move beyond your reach very quickly and so keeping with the boat at all times is recommended.
  • Boats may be turned over. This is easiest with smaller boats but it also acheivable with full 8+s with the crew's collaboration. This is normally achieved by standing on a rigger while reaching across the boat to pull the other side over. The boat is much easier to swim with once correctly oriented but note it then maybe harder to get people onto it and out of the water. Do not waste energy doing this if it would be to the detriment of those in the water. Be especially aware blades hitting your head if you do attempt it.
  • Rescue may be achieved using the assistance of any of the following; it is a judgment call depending on any injuries and the state of the boat:
    • Powered craft,
    • Throwline from the bank,
    • Swimming the boat using it as a floatation device to shore in an appropriate place, or
    • Re-entering the boat. Be mindful that the shell may now be swamped and without water removal will not be usuable with persons in it. Crew members should be aware of using riggers to tie throwlines to. Crew re-entry in an 8+ is significantly harder than in smaller boats. Using the bow and stern canvas, where it is lower to the water is recommended in any such attempt, although stronger and larger individuals may be able to simply haul themselves into the seating area while holding the blades and boat.
  • With regards to landing:
    • The easiest place to leave the Isis and re-enter the boat is on Christ Church meadow, where the bank is sloped and very shallow.
    • Rafts, while appealing, may not always be easy to exit the water from as they require lifting your entire body weight and the weight of the water absorbed by your clothing using your arms.
    • Ladders are present at the mooring post downstream of Longbridges boathouse and under the lower bridge.
  • Coaches should never leave their crew and remain on the waters edge while seeking further assistance.
  • When leaving the water immediately concern yourself with ensuring that all persons get warm and dry as quickly as possible. Spare clothing should be distributed to ensure that noone remains wearing wet clothing and everyone is in a warm environment. People may need to be monitored for a period after rescue.

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