Crew changes are entirely your call. Many races have been won and lost by the timing of that call, both in terms of the stage of the race and how long it takes to complete the change. Remember you will need a powerboat as back up. Your extra crew rowers start the race in that powerboat and you may change your crew around as many times as you wish during the course of each day’s racing.
Changeover process and type of craft:
- Each crew makes the decision on the timing of the change over which is set around that crew’s race plan and tiredness of the competitor
- Each race crew must be supported by a power craft at sea. This craft can either be a suitable powerboat or a SLSA Inflatable rescue boat.
- The support vessel has a twofold role to deliver for its crew. First it carries the spare rowers used to change into the surfboats. Secondly it is the primary crew safety support vessel providing warmth, drink, and food to the rowers plus any basic first aid response needed.
- Obviously the larger the cabin boat is far better suited to provide the crew support from the elements and comfort.
- The IRB is more capable at getting into the middle of the race crews but when they are loaded with rowers they can struggle to keep up with the other power boats on a fast running day. Also competitors in IRBs are more exposed to the elements. Crews often find using an IRB for the changes and Powerboat for support the most effective method for the race.
- The other restrictor is availability of IRBs. All NSW clubs are required to have at least 1 IRB at their beach for patrol purposes/ emergency response.
- When the race crew want to change it is usually initiated by the sweep. He/ She often use a dedicated radio between the support boat or hand signals.
- The support boat or IRB will move from the side of the race and position themselves to make the change. This could be anywhere from 100 to 300 metres out in front of the race boat. On a signal from the sweep the spare rowers are dropped into the water.
- The support boat slowly moves out of the line of the incoming surfboat and remains off to the side and as the surf boat steers a course to link up with the rowers in the water. The Race boat drops the crew members being changed into the water and the fresh rowers enter the surfboat to commence racing.
- The powerboat waits for the opportunity once the race boat has cleared the area to then retrieve the other rowers from the water.