Helen Wilson–Cox and University of Nottingham’s Boat Club

What made you want to get involved in rowing?

When I first came to university I just wanted to try a new sport. I used to do athletics and cross country running for 10 years and I wanted to participate in a sport which had more of a team vibe.

I have heard the training sessions are tough and time-consuming.  Can you tell us a bit more about what they involve?

Being a cox I don’t have to do that much but a normal week’s training for the girls will consist of weights or using the rowing machine on a Monday; rowing on the river Tuesday morning and more weights in the evening; two water sessions on a Wednesday; rowing machines on Thursday morning and weights (yet again!) in the evening.  They finally get Fridays off but then they have two water sessions on both Saturday and Sunday. So pretty hectic!My only contribution will be to lose as much weight as I can before they race. This normally consists of sitting in the university’s sauna wrapped in cling film and bin bags for 40 minutes and going on sweat runs and sweat saunas the morning before the race. 1kg can account for 2 seconds over a 2km course!

Can you tell us about your experience rowing in Malaysia?

Malaysia seems like ages ago! None of us were experienced rowers so we had no idea what to expect, it was just nice to go somewhere hot and sunny as it makes a change to rowing in the grim English weather.

What do you think of the all-in-one lycra suits you have to wear?

If anyone can make a yellow all-in-one lycra look good it’s the sturdy girls of UoNBC, any excuse to get their guns out!

Have you got any funny/embarrassing stories from your rowing experiences at university?

Rowers are not known for being crazy animals.  Some things happened whilst we have been away but for everyone’s sake, especially mine, I do not think we will bring it up again.

What made you decide to transition from being a rower to a cox?

Height mainly. It only took me 2 years to realise that I could never compete to the same level as they could. Our coach always would say to us “what is your main goal” and mine was to be in the top women’s 8, so looking at it I thought which seat do I stand more chance of getting and that was the cox’s seat. Everyone always asks do I miss rowing and sometimes I do, but anyone who knows me will know that I do not need a microphone and speakers in order to be heard! Being in charge of the boat especially at races is so nerve racking. I would rather row but when they cross that line and I know that they have given everything I asked of them and we have won that is when I know I have loved being their cox!

I have heard about these weigh-ins… Is it difficult maintaining a specific weight so there isn’t an imbalance in the boat?

I won’t lie the weigh ins are awful. All year I have seen the girls put everything into training and if there is anything I can do to make the boat go faster then I will do it. Cutting down meal sizes 4 weeks before the race and cutting out carbs 2 weeks before as well as doing 7-10 km runs in order to burn of any excess fat is not fun and needless to say I get very irritable. And just when you think it’s all over the day before the race I will wrap myself up in cling film and sit in a sauna to get rid of anymore water weight.

Any aspirations to continue rowing beyond university?

After university I hope when I am settled with a job I can look to joining one of the Rowing Clubs on the Thames and still compete, but we have a very long and potentially exciting summer ahead of us so I’ll see if the stress of that takes its toll first!