Rowing Safety


Rowing is a challenging and enjoyable sport. Like all sports, and water sports in particular, there are inherent risks. Accordingly, it is essential that all Rowing ACT participants (including rowers, coxswains, coaches, Boat Race Officials, volunteers and supporters) are aware of, and follow, the on-water safety policies set out on this page. We have also included some useful information to promote safe rowing practices in the ACT. On this page you will find information on:

  • Policies
  • Guidelines
  • Top Tips for Safety in the ACT
  • Links to useful documents

After you have read the following information, test your knowledge with the Rowing ACT Safety Quizzes

When an on-water incident occurs you should:
  • Is Someone’s life in danger?

    Call 000 for emergency services. Also request Water Police Assistance

  • Non-threatening injuries or damage to boats?

    If required contact the Police Assistance Line on 131 444

    Non-threatening injuries or damage to boats?

  • After the event or Emergency services not required?

    Contact your club safety officer and complete a Rowing ACT Incident Report Form

Rowing Australia and Rowing ACT have development a number of policies, tools and guidelines to assist clubs with enhancing their safety protocols. All members of Rowing ACT are required to comply with the Rowing Australia Safety Policies. For more information click on the links below.

  • Club Safety Officer

    Every club has the responsibility to appoint a member as a Safety Officer whose duty is to coordinate the implementation of an appropriate safety program in accordance with local water safety guidelines, the RA ‘On water Code of Conduct’ and the recommendations provided within these Guidelines.

  • What is an Incident or ‘Near Miss’

    Rowing Australia defines incidents or a ‘near miss’ as: the loss of a person from a boat; the death of, or grievous bodily harm to, a person caused by a boat’s operations; the loss or presumed loss or abandonment of a boat; a collision with a boat; the stranding of a boat; material damage to a boat; material damage caused by a boat’s operations; danger to a person caused by a boat’s operations; danger of serious damage to a boat; danger of serious damage to a structure caused by a boat’s operations

  • Safety Equipment

    Every Safety Boat or Coaching Boat is required by law to have a paddle, Bailing Bucket, Anchor/Rope/Chain, torch, Sufficient PFD’s, Extinguisher, White light visible from 1km, emergency Rescue Blanket, 1-2 Spare Lights

  • Bow and Stern Lights

    In general, International Regulations for Preventing Collisions At Sea (in relation to vessels under oars) require
    rowing boats, in restricted visibility and between sunset and sunrise, to exhibit either: Two all-round white lights, one attached to the boat at or near the forward or bow end, and one attached to the boat at or near the stern end; A continuous white light is considered acceptable if it is visible in clear conditions from a distance of 1 kilometre.; or A flashing white light is considered acceptable if it flashes at least once per second and is visible in clear conditions from a distance of 1 kilometre.

  • Dangerous Weather Conditions

    Rowing ACT discourages rowing in the following Dangerous Weather Conditions

    Heavy rain, especially when accompanied by wind; hail; heavy fog (section 5.2 of the Rowing Australia Code does not recommend rowing if visibility is less than 1000m); strong wind conditions, for example with visible white caps on the water; storms and/or thunder and lightning; or without a coach or another crew between May – September.

  • Cautionable Weather Conditions

    Rowing ACT recommends caution in the following conditions: Darkness, especially without a coach or suitable lighting on your boat; Fog; Windy Conditions; Light Rain; Cold Weather; Extreme Heat (35 degrees plus).

    When in doubt, don’t go out!

  • Winter Rowing

    All rowers must comply with the following requirements between 1 May and 30 September: Use sufficient lighting before sunrise and after sunset; Wear appropriate clothing; and Report any capsizes to Rowing ACT ( Rowing ACT strongly recommends that rowers only go out on the water in winter if accompanied by a coach or another crew (ie not alone).

  • Winter Clothing

    Suitable items to wear in a rowing boat!

    For warmth, Rowing ACT recommends that you wear several layers of close-fitting thermal garments with high wicking capability rather than bulky tops or pants. Cycling jerseys and vests are also handy. ; Woollen or thermal socks. Water proof socks are also handy! Head gear such as a beanie, ear-warmers, hat or buff; pogies (rowing gloves); and for coxswains and coaches: puffer jackets, wind proof jackets and pant, and hot water bottles can be good sources of extra warmth.

  • Capsizing or Swamping of a Boat

    Stay calm. If with other crew members, keep in contact with everyone and make sure that everyone is alright; Stay with your boat!  Do not attempt to swim for shore. Your boat will act as a flotation device, even when it is full of water; Where possible, keep your head and face out of the water to avoid consuming lake water; If you have fallen out of the boat, attempt to get back into the boat; If you cannot right the boat, or get back into it, try to rest your body on top of the boat/out of the water to preserve energy and warmth; and try not to move around too much so that you don’t lose too much body heat.

  • Traffic Flows

    Always stick to your bow side when rowing on Canberra’s lakes. Follow the traffic guides for Lake Burley Griffin and Lake Tuggeranong when training to reduce the risk of an incident.

    Rowing ACT has also produced guidelines on tinny usage which can be found at the maps and guides page

  • Rowing ACT’s Top Safety Tips

    Some easy to remember pointers to help stay safe out on the lakes.

  • When in doubt, don’t go out

    If you are unsure if the conditions are safe for rowing, don’t risk it! Maybe jump on the erg instead.

  • If a boat is coming near, make sure you stay clear.

    If a faster boat is approaching you, make sure to give them space to overtake. Overtaking boats should use all care to avoid slower boats.

  • When coming out of a bay, check and give way

    Boats leaving bay areas need to give way to all on-coming traffic.

  • For a rower’s best, keep to your left

    All rowers should stick to their left (bow side) bank when training.

  • If you’re driving a tinny on the lake, watch out for your wake

    All tinny drivers should take care not to wash out other rowing crews when passing them.

  • For a clear line of sight, coxes and coaches should stick to the right

    Coxes and coaches should stick to their right hand side bank (bow side).

  • If the sky is night, don’t forget your light

    Legally, all boats must have a visible white light attached to the bow of their boat at minimum between the hours of sunset and sunrise

Regatta’s come with their own risks and rules. Make sure to check with your club about regatta day rules before your first competition!