These details apply to Start / Taster Days for the F23-3 course
updated 10th Nov 2023
Please read this in full. It contains important information and instructions before you arrive for your first session.
For Sun 11th Nov, you should arrive at the Radley Tank (see directions below) and need to be on-site at 9.50am.
You should meet in the social area upstairs. If the gate isn’t open, use the code 913203# on the keypad. The side door (straight ahead through the gate), should be open. Make your way upstairs and to the right. The pop-up cafe might be open for coffee and a snack, if you’re early!
Please be ready for a prompt start as it would give us a bit more time to deal with any administration.
We cannot begin the actual course instruction until everyone has arrived otherwise some important information may be missed.
For insurance and safeguarding purposes, we are now registering our Adult Beginners online and you must deal with this before you arrive. If you haven’t already done so, click here to access the relevant page on the Falcon website. There is an option for “John Hill Beginner Course” which you should tick. There can be problems completing this form (dates sometimes are rejected) but they usually resolve if you keep trying.
Do not make any payments to the FBC online system at this stage. All payments for the course will be cleared through me and should be made via the details here: https://oxfordrowcoach.co.uk/learn-to-row/joining-a-course/.
Please make a note of my mobile (0794 641 9711) and text or call me if you have any issues on the day. Do not use emails for short notice messages as they are not generally checked during the day.
I would ask that you all, before you arrive, watch two short introductory videos “Around the boathouse – boats” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd00Zt3wZho) and “Around the boathouse – blades” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dh-vMr51BTw). This saves time and helps prepare you for what is quite an intense day.
There are a number of other video playlists which will all help you better understand rowing and sculling technique. Feel free to watch any of them.
Further, I would recommend the series of shorts I did for new scullers (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0zZhFdeY-eWizNgRp5tjGbtfRk8gHr-U). They occasionally refer to items from previous videos but they do stand alone as a teaching aid. They last just over 20mins in total and are “rowing gold” – probably!
Course content on the day
We have only a couple starters expected on the day, at the moment. These You will be joining others at the Tank who have started earlier. Once you have started, you can (and should try to) attend all further sessions which will be detailed via an online system (Squadlist) for you to sign up to. (Only one “First session”, of course.) I will email you each week with prompts and details of selections and arrangements for the sessions over the following days.
After your arrival, we will need to make sure everyone has completed their online registration (see above), so please be sure to do this. For legal reasons, these details need to be provided and a fee (or deposit) paid, before we can start.
We’ll begin with a chat about the format for the day. Feel free to use a face mask if you wish to use one for indoor sessions. (The club policy is to respect individual choice.)
We’ll have a look at the equipment before embarking on your first introduction to the technique of rowing, using a rowing machine – an ergometer or “erg”.
We will focus, where possible, on sculling, using boats for four (a “quad”) or eight (an “octuple”) people. (N.B. What’s the difference between sculling and sweep-oared rowing?) In due course, we’ll set up our “Sky Scull” on trestles and have you sit in (or on) it to experience handling the proper equipment. For reasons which I shall explain, you will also be doing sweep rowing in the early stages.
We will move to the Oxford University Sports Centre for a Tank session starting at 11.00. (We usually walk from Falcon BC.) The tank session will last for an hour. A Tank is explained elsewhere but essentially rowing alongside a swimming pool to practise handling oars. One is used in the video series “The Tank sessions” linked below, if you’d like to see it. In order to keep the content of your first day to manageable proportions, I do not aim to include a water session on your first day unless there are others with more experience to accompany you. Before your first water session, there is much to learn about the equipment. Water sessions involve handling a boat – i.e. taking it from its storage position (rack) and launching it. This will include quite a lot of “faff” time (i.e. lots of talking without much happening!) because you will need to learn from scratch everything about removing and carrying a boat.
N.B. Subject to the prevailing conditions (stream strength), there may be a water session of some kind on Sunday after the Tank session but it will be limited to those who have shown sufficient competence.
Looking forward, subject to “minimum standards”, those who have attended at least two Tanks can expect to be offered some water experience afterwards. It’s all a matter of juggling the numbers to give everyone what’s best for them. We must learn to be flexible, particularly in the early stages.
The day’s activities should take around 3hrs. It can seem quite a long time comprising a few separate but continuous sessions so I’d recommend you bring a snack to eat at some time and something to remain hydrated. There is sometimes a pop-up cafe at Falcon on Saturday morning but don’t rely on it. There are no facilities on-site at Radley. I haven’t scheduled any specific break times. If you’re without food or feel in desperate need, something can be organised.
What to wear
For your first session, you should wear clothing suitable for standing or sitting around in unheated areas doing very little! Long sleeve T-shirts or Rugby shirts with a gilet (a padded waistcoat) or tracksuit top over leggings or tracksuit bottoms is the kind of mix you require. Under-vests and layers are recommended, if it’s cold. Trainers are suitable footwear.
N.B. Please remind me to explain why, when we come to using the boats, I recommend that women bring an extra pair of light pumps / deck shoes or equivalent or thick socks as these are useful to slip into and fill up the man-sized shoes which are attached inside the boat.
I strongly urge against light coloured, “designer brand” or costly kit as clothing is susceptible to getting dirty with metal dust which doesn’t wash out. I would also advise against anything too baggy (e.g. floppy hoodies or thick puffa jackets with bulging pockets) as your fingers can get caught in the folds when you’re trying to row.
In the event of sun, bring any necessary protective sun blocks appropriate to your skin type. Conversely, a change of clothing – a towel even – might be appropriate if it rains. (I have not yet had anyone fall into the water – above the knees, at any rate – in over 30yrs of coaching beginners, although one did dive in recently, when his exit from the boat at the landing stage went a bit wrong!)
Try not to bring valuables unless you have a (waterproof) bum-bag or similar. Leave wallets etc in a car. If you cycle, there are a few small lockers you can use for valuables. You’ll need a small padlock to secure one.
– and beyond
You only need to attend one “First session” to cover the introduction to the basics and the rowing machine. After that, you should attend only Tank and water sessions, as appropriate.
Once you have attended the Taster Day, you should consider committing to the full course.
Those limiting their involvement to a Taster Day will, if they wish it, be invited back to join a water session at an early opportunity when others have picked up the basics of handling a boat.
Any fees you have already paid are credited against the full course fee of £180 for around 20 sessions.
The course will continue to run on practically all weekend days (Saturdays and Sundays), subject to coaching availability, local events and the weather etc, usually starting in the late morning and potentially continuing until mid-afternoon with each session lasting around 1.5hrs. We use an online system called “Squadlist” which details all the outings on offer. You will be required and expected to use this system to indicate your availability in advance, session by session, so that crew selection and scheduling can take place. (You aren’t expected to attend all sessions but will be expected to give the course some priority to avoid falling behind the general standard of the group.)
During the summer, there is a midweek evening session, if there are sufficient numbers able and willing to attend. To fit in with other club activities, we are targeting both Tue and Thu, currently starting at 6:15pm although we can discuss this.
Sessions in the early part of the course are usually doubled up, with time in the Tank followed by an outing on the water. You should allow up to 3hrs for these double sessions. When there are only water sessions, it takes around 1.5hrs. You will only be required to attend for the period you’re scheduled to row. If there are multiple water sessions (because more than eight people are available), that time slot may be anytime between say 11.30am and 2:00pm. This will all make it slightly more complicated to organise and we rely on your cooperation.
Online Registration and booking systems
Once you have decided to continue with the full course, you will be registered on Squadlist (https://frc.squadlist.app/login). Each week, you will need to check online to confirm the times for each session and indicate your availability.
You must use this to keep me reliably informed if you can or can’t attend. I need a degree of notice (at least 48hrs) as I will look to select crews, advise you of your allocated time slot and book boats.
You will be expected to check your emails etc at least daily, for any updates or requests for arrangements to be altered. With your permission, I will set up a WhatsApp group which has proved useful for short notice advice and communications about course content. Please provide a suitable mobile number for this purpose.
Use of the Tank
The early part of the full course should spend valuable (and expensive) periods in the tank where much of the basic technique is learnt before transferring it onto the water. It is important for everyone to attend these early tank sessions as a high priority, to prevent the chance of dropping behind too much. Learning to row when you’re in a boat is extremely difficult and I shall require a minimum standard of competence in the Tank before allowing people onto the water. If you have to decide between a water or a Tank session, always choose the Tank.
The course focuses on the technical aspects of rowing and will provide you with enough understanding to progress to whatever level of involvement you choose. Even if your aspirations are modest, a fuller appreciation of the skills involved will allow you to enjoy the sport better.
Where to arrive
Falcon Boat Club Meadow Lane (north of Donnington Bridge Rd / Weirs Lane) OX4 4BJ
What3Words App: CLAIMS.ISSUES.SUFFER (deliberately selected for irony!)
FBC Local view:
From Donnington Bridge Rd, turn north up Meadow Lane and take the 2nd entry on the left under the yellow height restriction bar into a free public car park. It may appear locked but you can lift the chain over the post and open the gate. Please replace the chain afterwards. If all spaces appear taken, you can park anywhere that doesn’t cause an obstruction (on the grass or even in the middle between the marked spaces on the right hand side.) Walk through the trees towards the river. Congregate on the river side of the new building on the right. Be sure that, as you face the river, Donnington Bridge is on your left. If it’s on your right, you may be at another boathouse (City of Oxford RC where I am also a member) which is downstream of the bridge on the same side of the river. In this case, walk under the bridge and further down the bank, past a large building (the Riverside Centre) round the back to Falcon.
Oxford University Tank (OU Sports Centre, Jackdaw Lane OX4 1EQ)
(NOT the same location as Radley College or Radley Sports Centre)
What3Words App: lifeguard.hint.impose Postcode OX14 2JP (to be confirmed)
Access via Kennington Gate, off Kennington Rd, about 400m north of main entrance to Radley College
After parking your car in the car park, walk towards the tennis courts and bear left towards the running track. Make your way round the track to the low buildings diagonally opposite. Walk through the arch and the Tank is set at the back.