The opportunity to row regularly in an eight is (sadly) an experience unavailable to some rowers who are members of smaller clubs. This is a shame, because the eight is both the fastest and the most forgiving of boats. Whether you are a complete beginner or a rower with decades of experience, an eight can offer a wonderful rowing experience.
Being the biggest competition boat, an eight offers a great platform for coaching a group of beginners – the crew members alternating between ‘sitting the boat’ (blades flat on the water as stabilisers) and working on their rowing technique. Graduating from rowing an eight in fours or sixes, to rowing ‘all eight’, is an important milestone for new rowers. For experienced rowers the eight is both the ultimate ‘go faster’ boat for the regatta season and the most comfortable option for ‘head’ racing on long, potentially rough stretches of water such as the Tideway (the tidal Thames in London).
Paradoxically, while it is a great beginners boat, an eight can also be a greater challenge to experienced crews than a smaller boat. While more forgiving of errors, it is also more difficult to ‘fine tune’ an eight and get it exactly right. For this reason, many coaches prefer to coach experienced rowers in smaller, more responsive boats before bringing them together in an eight.
For coxes, an eight presents special challenges. The sheer length of the boat can make it awkward to spin on a narrow river, while the distance between the cox and the rower at bow can be an obstacle to communication, even with a cox-box. Coaching from the cox’s seat of an eight is generally to be avoided in my view, as you simply cannot see enough of the bow rowers from the stern to coach them effectively.
In another article I will outline some elements of eights coaching which I find particularly useful, but if as a rower, you don’t get the opportunity to row an eight regularly, I’d encourage you to foster links with other clubs in your area and try out a composite crew. It will be worth it.