Handbook: Safety

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British Rowing’s RowSafe guidance should be followed at all times. If you have any questions or concerns, please ask your coach, captain or the club’s Safety Officer (see the Committee page for details). Please note the local rules listed below.

Safety on the Water

  • Check the equipment when boating, paying particular attention to:
    • Bow ball – must be securely fixed and fully cover the bow of the boat
    • Heel restraints – must be secure, adequate and effective; heels should not be able to rise higher than the lowest fixed point of the shoe. Also check the general condition of the shoes and stretcher: a heel restraint attached to a broken shoe may not release your foot effectively in case of capsize!
    • Hatches to buoyancy compartments – must be secure and watertight
    • Outriggers, swivels, gates, seats and stretchers – should all be secure and operating freely

IF EQUIPMENT IS NOT SAFE IT MUST NOT BE USED. Report any problems that you cannot remedy via the “Equipment Problems” page of this website.

  • All participants in rowing must either wear a personal flotation device when on the water or be able to demonstrate both competence and confidence in and under the water by:
    • Swimming at least 50 metres in light clothing (rowing kit),
    • Treading water for at least two minutes, and
    • Swimming under water for at least 5 metres
  • Crews going out in the dark must have white lights fixed to the bow and to the stern, so that light is visible to other river-users through 360 degrees. In addition a non flashing red light must be fitted in the stern. The use of high visibility clothing, particularly by bow is strongly recommended. Lights should be fitted where indicated and not to riggers or head bands; they should be of such a brightness that they will not dazzle approaching crews. It is recommended that crews do not paddle downstream of The Plough unless they have a competent bank-rider/coach. Spin in the usual places wherever possible; avoid spinning opposite The Plough as you are likely to surprise other crews.
  • Check the river conditions, weather conditions and forecast before boating to see if they present any risks which must be managed (which could include cancelling the outing). In extreme circumstances, the club captain may ban rowing temporarily, but even if there is no such ban, each crew must make a decision based on their own capabilities, with advice from coaches and vice-captains. Ultimately, remember British Rowing’s maxim “If in doubt, don’t go out”.
  • Avoid boating when there is ice on the river, and definitely do not boat when there the thickness exceeds 2 mm thick more than 1 metre from the bank. Ice can cause capsizes when blades hit unexpected solidity, and can damage hulls.
  • No-one is to swim in the river except in an emergency.
  • If you are coaching beginners, take a throw line and a thermal blanket with you. These can be found in the lifejacket cupboard.

REMEMBER: The river can be dangerous. If you do not feel confident rowing or coxing in the prevailing conditions, get someone to accompany you, or DO NOT GO OUT. Always heed common sense.

First Aid

There are First Aid kits in the CRA and Cantabs boathouses, together with a list of qualified First Aiders. If you find any shortages in the kit, please inform the club’s Safety Advisor.

Watch out for the symptoms of hypothermia in others: shivering, turning pale/blue, losing coordination/concentration, poor judgement, speaking incoherently. If you believe someone is suffering from hypothermia, get them warm, dry and protected from the wind as soon as possible.

Avoid dehydration: keep sipping water regularly during training

For more information about First Aid, speak to the club’s Safety Advisor.

In case of an emergency on the river, there are a number of access points (listed below and on this map) available to the emergency services. A clear description of your location can save valuable time, so please try to learn the names of key landmarks.

Emergency Access Points – with postcodes and OS grid references

  • CRA Boathouse: Kimberley Road, Cambridge CB4 1HX – TL 456592
    • vehicle access via De Freville Avenue, on South side of Chesterton Road
  • Near Cutter Ferry Bridge: Junction of Manhattan Drive CB4 1JX and Cutter Ferry Lane CB4 1JR – TL458591
  • Combined Boathouse (Churchill, Kings, Leys School etc): Logan’s Way, CB4 1BL – TL463592
  • Riverside (The Wall): CB5 8HL / CB5 8HN – TL466595
  • Cantabs Boathouse: Pepys Court, Cambridge CB4 1GF
    • vehicle access via the Pepys Court parking area; use the post-code to avoid the incorrect route via Lynfield Lane!
  • Stourbridge Common (emergency access key required for vehicles), from Oyster Row: CB5 8NS – TL467598
  • Pedestrian/cycle access to Stourbridge Common via Green Dragon Bridge, off Water Street (near Green Dragon Public House): CB4 1NZ – TL467599
  • Site of former Penny Ferry (Pike & Eel) public house, Water Street, Chesterton: CB4 1PA
  • Site of Bumps Race Control (vehicle access via code-locked gate), Fen Road, CB4 1PB – TL470600
  • The Drove, next to 32 Fen Road, Chesterton, path (& vehicle access via code-locked gate) to the towpath (Haling Way): CB4 1TX – TL473602
  • High Street, Fen Ditton, CB5 8ST – TL482603
  • The Plough Public House: CB5 8SX
  • Grassy Corner – TL480609: access from Fen Road, Chesterton, CB4 1TU – TL479609. Cambridgeshire County Council maintains the field gate and provides the padlock. NB: As of 2018, Cam Conservators report this path is too overgrown for vehicle access. This record is left here for completeness in case path is maintained in future.
  • First Post Corner, Green End, Osier Holt, Fen Ditton, CB5 8SX – TL483610
  • A14 road bridge – TL483615: access via Baits Bite Lock
  • Baits Bite Lock: CB24 6AF – TL485620
  • Parking area giving vehicle access to downstream side of Baits Bite Lock: Fen Road, Milton, CB24 6AF – TL487621

In Case of Incident/Accident


  • Stay calm but act swiftly and observe the situation. Is there danger of further injuries?
  • Listen to what the injured person is saying.
  • In the event of an injury requiring specialist treatment, call the emergency services and follow their advice.
  • Do not move someone with major injuries. Wait for the emergency medics.
  • Attend to any minor injuries; first aid kits are available at Cantabs and CRA boathouses.
  • Deal with the rest of the group and ensure that they are adequately supervised.
  • Contact the injured person’s parent/carer.

Notifying Emergencies

If no mobile phone available, depending on the urgency of the situation and your location, go to nearest boat house with telephone, to a public house/shop, private house, or to nearest payphone. Public telephone boxes nearby include:

  • Near Jesus Green footbridge on Chesterton Rd, almost opposite Carlyle Rd
  • Hamilton Rd, near junction with Chesterton Rd
  • Outside the Spar on Chesterton Rd

Emergency Telephone numbers

Dial 999 in case of fire, if a crime is happening, or someone is in immediate danger. You will need to specify:

  • service required
  • contact name
  • location (see Emergency Access Points for post-codes)

Dial 111 for the NHS 111 service if you need medical help or advice urgently but it is not a life-threatening situation

Other useful contacts

  • Addenbrooke’s Hospital Accident & Emergency Dept (A+E): 01223 217 118
  • Cam Conservancy 01223 863785; Out of office hours (emergencies only) 01223 646459
  • Any member of the club’s committee should be able to access membership records, e.g. parent/guardian contact details for juniors, e.g.

After an Incident/Accident or Near Miss:

  • Promptly complete a damage/accident report
  • Report any damage to the equipment officer
  • Immediately label any broken equipment to prevent others from using it

Water-borne Diseases

Please read the British Rowing guidelines on water-borne infectious diseases to ensure you are aware of the potential risks from contact with river water, how to mitigate the risks and the symptoms to look out for. If you develop symptoms, ensure you mention exposure to river water to your doctor.

In Case of Fire at the Boathouse


  • confirm that the appropriate rescue service has been called (note: the installed fire alarm system does not connect with any external service and there is no Club telephone)
  • account for the presence of other crew members at a safe location
  • dissuade any person from placing themselves in danger such as returning to seek other crew members not accounted for or retrieving personal or Club property, and
  • liaise with and follow the instructions of the person-in-charge of the rescue services.

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