Erfolgreichster Ruderverein Österreichs

Der Erste Wiener Ruderclub LIA wurde 1863 gegründet und ist damit der älteste Körpersport treibende Verein Österreichs. ...

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Ruth Wood: coxing or steering ?

Erasmus Studentin Ruth Wood steuert die LIA - Steuern aus der Sicht einer britischen Steuerfrau

Steering.

At uni in the UK, I cox boats. So do many other people. We don't row, we just cox. It's a thing.

A thing, it appears, that just doesn't exist out here in Austria. They have coxed boats of course; it's just that no-one specialises in the act of coxing. Instead, crews cajole young children or female lightweight rowers into coxing, or simply 'steering' them, a literal translation of the German steuern. These Steuerleuten (steering people) just steer. That's all they do. Every so often they will tell the crew to start or stop rowing or push harder.

Imagine then, if you will, the reaction of shock and pleasant surprise that greeted me when I got out of the Viennese Masters' VIII after my first training session here. I'm not pretending my coxing is spectacular - on a scale of "You crash into everything and scream at us all the time, and what you scream is wrong?"to "Your coxing makes our lives worth living" I'm probably "sound".  However, they had never experienced anything like it. A Steuerfrau (steering woman) who makes the boat faster? Wahnsinn.

I've been coxing that Masters' VIII for three weeks now. We've already won our first race (a gruelling 16km battle against crews from the rest of Austria, Germany and Italy) and are setting our sights on a regatta in Munich in just over a week's time. Earlier today I walked to the metro station 10 minutes away from the boathouse with P, our 4-man. He asked me when I had started rowing. I replied, 'I didn't. Well, I did for 6 weeks, but now I just cox and I've done that for 2 years.' His brow furrowed. He looked at the ground. Rearranging his features into an expression of polite confusion, he asked why. What was the appeal of 'just coxing'?

I attempted to explain as best as I could in German the complexity of the task which the Austrians call 'steering'. It's addictive. It involves constant multi-tasking. The cox must add speed to the boat which makes up for and exceeds the drag of their weight in the stern. To do that, he or she must bring something out of their crew which they didn't know they could give; in short, it's hugely psychological. P smiled at me and shook his head. We walked.

All of this made me reconsider what it is that I'm doing. Am I swapping coxing for steering? Is the difference between the two merely semantic? A friend from England, I, looked up the origin of the word 'coxswain' over Skype. 'The etymology of the word gives a literal meaning of "boat servant" since it comes from cox, a coxboat or other small vessel kept aboard a ship, and swain, an Old English term derived from the Old Norse sveinn meaning boy or servant.' So I am either a steering woman or a boat servant. Not much to choose from there, but I think I'll take steering woman.

Experiences like this are priceless. I've been living out here for just over a month now and have discovered the old cliché 'you learn something every day' to be entirely true; I'm just a steering woman here, but the British style of coxing has been taken on particularly well by my crew, who I've found to be one of the most supportive, trusting and knowledgeable eights I've ever worked with. I'll gladly steer them in any race they enter.  I want the victory just as much as they do because I know that it's not just a victory for the club, it's a victory for us as individuals; a victory for the cultural exchange and fusion of rowing and coxing styles that brought us there. Ultimately, it's a victory for Europe.

 


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