Actions in the Event of a Capsize

Even in the summer the water temperature in the dock is low and so all members must act quickly so that those in the water are rescued as quickly as possible.

 If you are in the water

  • Stay calm and breathe deeply.

(The impact of cold shock can be dramatic and it is vitally important not to panic.)

  • Stay with the boat at all times.

(Your ability to swim is greatly reduced in cold water. The boat can act as a life raft.)

  • Do not try and climb out of the dock unless it is medically essential to do so.

(It is easier & safer to exit via the pontoon and you are more likely to get to a warm, dry place faster if you are towed. If you exit on the airport side the club is liable to be fined and excluded from the dock.)

  • If possible attempt to right the boat

(This makes the recovery of the boat easier.)

  • Arrange the oars parallel to the boat
  • Place yourself along the length of the boat, reach over the hull of the boat and take hold of a  rigger on the other side.
  • Pull the rigger towards you whilst simultaneously standing on the rigger on your side of the boat.
  • As the boat rights itself take care to avoid the oar in the gate by staying close to the hull.
  • Get out of the water and on top of the boat as quickly as possible.

(Heat loss is greater in the water than out of it. It is easier to attract attention from this elevated position.)

  • If you have a phone, raise the alarm.
  • Either, try and paddle the boat towards the pontoon keeping as much of your body out of the water as possible (this is only practical if you are close to the pontoon) or wait to be towed back to the pontoon.
  • Once you are out of the water, you must get warm and dry as quickly as possible.


The boat is your flotation device (whether it’s a Ix, IV+ or VIII+) so you must stay in contact with the boat the entire way through the capsize drill and also out on the water should a capsize or swamping occur.

Out on the water in most circumstances you will find yourself within easy towing distance of the bank, so knowing how to right your boat & tow forms the second part of the drill.

if you can’t tow the boat to the bank, then either try to self-right, or lie on top of the shell to reduce the risk of hypothermia. 

More information can be found at
British Rowing Hypothermia Guide

British Rowing Swim/Swamp Guide

 If you see a Boat Capsize from the Dock Side

  • Stop what you are doing.
  • Assess the situation and raise the alarm
  • Either direct another nearby crew to help if it is able to do so or call the LRC to ask for a launch rescue.
  • Ensure space blankets are ready at the pontoon.

 If you see a boat capsize whilst afloat

  • Stop what you are doing.
  • Assess the situation and raise the alarm
  • Either go and assist or direct another nearby crew to help if it is in better position to do so or call the LRC to ask for a launch rescue.


  • Only eights and senior fours are permitted to tow.
  • Attach the tow rope to a substantial part of both boats. Do not use riggers.
  • Tie the boats so that the bow and steer fully overlap in order to avoid potentially damaging “bumps”
  • Avoid merely holding the boats together. This is very tiring and could result in injury or other complications.
  • Whilst towing the cox/steer must not direct the crew to go “all eight/four”.