Novice FAQs

Not sure whether to have a go at rowing, or unsure what to expect? Hopefully this page can help.

The only thing I know about rowing is from watching the Boat Race on television! Will I be able to pick it up from scratch?

Yes! All the 2015/16 captains learned to row at Downing – like most of the members of the club. Novicing is a great experience. We have plenty of student and alumni coaches, as well as having Ian Watson, a world silver medallist, as our Boatman – so you won’t ever be short of guidance! Our January training camp in Seville is also a brilliant way for novices to improve, while enjoying the sun and clear water.

I have previous rowing experience, does that make me a novice or could I be a senior?

Get in touch with either Charlie Slater ( or Izzy Edwards (, this year’s Men’s and Women’s Captains, for more information on the senior squad. They will help you to decide which would be the best match for you. There are usually a couple of people each year who join the senior squad straight away.

I’ve never been a sporty person but I really want to give rowing a go. I just don’t think I’ll be very good at it…

Every year a mix of people join DCBC. While some are already sporty, others are looking to try something totally new. The great thing about rowing is that, with so many different aspects to it, most people will have a knack for some part of it – be it power, technique or fitness. A lot of people find themselves totally hooked on the team atmosphere, the getting fit, and the being outdoors and away from the books.

Everyone talks about rowing, but what about coxing? What does being a cox involve?

Coxes steer the boat (no small feat – it’s the length of a double decker bus) and provide technical calls and motivation. On the water, you are very much the leader. The coach and crew rely on you to communicate and to keep them safe. When learning to cox, the most important thing is to be enthusiastic, confident and earn the trust of your crew. To find out more, read this – it has lots of advice on what you need to do to become a great cox.

Do you really have to row at 6am in winter?

In short, yes, most crews do have morning outings. However, if there is a choice between a morning and afternoon, we’ll always let you have the lie-in! The busy nature of Cambridge life means the time when nine people are most likely to be free is in the morning. At the weekends we can’t row until after 11am, and during Easter term, almost all rowing is in the afternoon or evening as it is light for longer, so there’s plenty of opportunity for sleep.

How much does it cost to row?

Your first term is completely free, and after that it is £15 per term, which goes onto your college bill. This includes use of all our facilities and coaching.

What kind of kit do I need?

You don’t have to have Lycra, and most novice crews don’t for the first term or so. It is, however more comfortable and practical to row in. And when you pull up alongside your opponents before a race in matching gear, you can always see the fear in their eyes.

Here’s what kit we suggest for when you’re starting out:

  • Good quality trainers
  • A thick pair of socks and several spare pairs (in case your feet are too small for the shoes in the boat)
  • Leggings (Primark leggings are cheap and cheerful!)
  • Tracksuit bottoms
  • Several layers of t-shirts and vests (it’s better to remove layers if you’re too warm than be too cold with no spare clothes)
  • A tight fitting fleece or jumper
  • A tight waterproof jacket
  • A pair of gloves (especially for coxes)

The emphasis is on layers and clothes that are tight so that they won’t interfere with your movement or get caught on the seat. And ALWAYS bring lots of water.

Not answered your question?

Get in touch! We’ll always be happy to help. Just drop an email to this year’s Lower Boats’ Captains – Lauren, Boyd and Colin – at

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