SCRA Safety Notice 3: “Racing Incidents”

During the course of 2017 the SCRA committee has received several reports of incidents during St Ayles skiff racing where there has been contact between skiffs or, just as worryingly, contact between the oars of one crew and the rowers in another crew.      They have occurred in a number of venues and race types.  For example crews in races where each have their own turning buoy have managed to collide when one is coming out of the turn and one is going in, and crews in round the island style races have collided when one chooses an inside line that was not there.

No serious injuries have been reported, but everyone should be working together to try to reduce these types of incidents.  Such incidents damage the reputation of the sport, as well as potentially causing serious injury and damaging equipment.

Specific recommendations arising out of the incidents as reported are as follows:

Race Organisers

  • Ensure that crews are going to be sufficiently spaced out at the turn.  If sharing a single buoy, ensure that there is sufficient length of course (at least 1km) before the turn to allow the field to thin out.  If each crew has their own buoy ensure that the buoys are sufficiently spread out (at least 20m, but more would be good) to allow crews to turn.
  • Ensure any conditions that will affect the line taken by crews are highlighted in the coxes briefing, including describing how they might change during the day.  If the wind or tidal conditions do change significantly, consider briefing coxes over the radio before the start of later races.


  • Umpires should ensure that they are well positioned at points where racing incidents are most likely to occur.
  • Ensure that you are able to communicate clearly with crews.  This may be by radio, by using a loud hailer or by using the human voice, if you can get close enough.  Order the cox to acknowledge receipt of the communication.  Clear communication is key to ensuring the safety of crews.
  • Intervene in every situation where safety is compromised.   Use your authority to prevent collisions if at all possible.
  • If a hull to hull collision takes place, or a collision between oar and a crew member takes place, one or both of the crews should be disqualified from the race.    As crews come to expect this, we anticipate that fewer collisions or near misses will occur.
  • Lesser penalties, such as a 360 turn, can be used to mark infringements that do not result in such contact.

Coxes and Crews

  • It is everyone’s responsibility to avoid a collision.  Everyone starting a race must accept that avoiding collision is more important than that crew’s own placing in the race.
  • Coxes have to build up their experience in races.  If a crew has an inexperienced cox, they must be sure to be supportive of them, and provide guidance to them where necessary.  The cox however remains the steersman and skipper of their boat. Their crew must obey orders of the coxswain, and the coxswain is the main communicator with other crews and with officials.
  • In multi buoy turning races, the crews should do a tight turn, and complete that turn before setting off again on a new course.


Everyone organising or taking part in a race should be familiar with the SCRA Rules of Racing which are there to promote safety as well as fairness.  We need informed and confident umpires, and would urge all skiffies to consider going on an SCRA Umpire Course, to help improve the quality of all our races.


Congestion at a Turn. Photo by Steve Thomson



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