The first thing you notice when you start rowing a coxless four is its lightness and acceleration as compared to the coxed four. The second thing you notice is that no-one wants the bow seat, because bow has to do the steering. If you have a straight, uncrowded river to row on, this may not be a big issue, but for most of us, the need to keep checking over your shoulder that you have the right line and that there is no traffic in the way is an obstacle to getting the best out of an outing. However, the coxless four is used in elite competitions and if you want to compete in a four at elite level you have to master this type.
Without a cox of course, the crew is also missing the cox’s contribution to their performance, so the crew have to cultivate their tactical awareness to a greater extent than in coxed boats. Luckily, the increased responsiveness of the coxless four means communication between the crew often needs no words. You can feel even subtle changes in the performance of your crew through the sound and feel of the boat.
The coxless four is often the premier boat in clubs which don’t have the numbers for a regular eight. It will often be rigged as a quad for much of the time for the simple reason that the quad is easier to steer.