Though rowing is generally a safe sport, there are risks and the Tideway is one of, if not the most challenging stretches of water that rowers and coxes are likely to encounter. It is the responsibility of all Members to read the Club’s safety notice boards, and any safety notices which are issued via email and/or posted on this website.

All Members must join British Rowing. This enables you to enter all UK rowing events, and provides for 3rd party insurance should you be involved in an accident.

Vesta holds an annual safety briefing at the beginning of each season to outline club and local navigation rules and safety procedures.  It is mandatory for all new members, as well as anyone wishing to be on the steers list for that season.  All club members are encouraged to attend for ‘refresher’ purposes.

The best source of information about navigating the Tideway is the Rowing on the Tideway.  However as it is a rather lengthy document the PLA has also produced a chart which contains all the rules vital to staying safe on the Tideway.  Complete knowledge of that will ensure a pass on the navigation test.

RowSafe, the British Rowing’s guide to good practice in rowing can be found here.

This handy video on the key points of navigating the Tideway—very useful for newbies and veterans alike!

Additionally, please download the documents below which highlight the key danger areas for those of us located on the Embankment… NEW turning rules at Putney Pier and rowing under Hammersmith Bridge on the flood tide.

Rowing Safety

At Vesta, there are a few simple rules and practices that everyone needs to be aware of and adhere to, to both ensure individual safety and the safety of fellow Members, other rowers and the public. These are listed below along with a few brief notes on how things work at Vesta:

In and around the Club

First aid kits: located behind the Vesta bar, in the women’s changing room (on the shelf above the mirrors in the main changing room), in the gentlemen’s changing room (hanging from notice board), on the window ledge in the sculling bay and in each launch.

Resuscitation aids: located on the shelf under the cox boxes in the office and the window ledge in the sculling bay.

Phone and emergency phone numbers: located behind the bar, and upstairs on the wall between the bar and the front room.

Damage: all damage to Club property must be recorded on the white board in the crew room, so it can be fixed.

Boathouse: be careful walking around as there are many bits of boat sticking out.

Gym: do not use the gym until you have been shown what to do. We ask Members not to use the gym and particularly weights when they are alone.

Before rowing

• Swimming: all persons participating in rowing, including coxes, must be able to swim (100m in light clothing is considered a minimum).

Permission: do not take a boat without permission from the Captain or squad coach.

Equipment: before an outing check your boat is working and safe. Check the boat is in a fit condition, paying particular attention to heel restraints, seats, buoyancy compartments, bow balls, rudders and fins. If you are new to the sport and this means nothing to you, do not go onto the water until you are aware of what these are and why they are important. All crew members are responsible for the safe keeping of the crew, boat and equipment whether boating from Vesta or away at regattas. Safety Alert – Check Your Boat Before You Go Afloat

Mobile Phones: It is advised that a member of the crew or the coach responsible for the outing should have a mobile phone with them in order to call for assistance in an emergency.

Buoyancy: appropriate life jackets must be worn by anyone coxing or in a launch.  Coxes of bowloaders are reminded to never wear an automatic life jacket.

New members: New and novice rowers must have a coach alongside and must not go out alone. New experienced rowers will be allowed to go afloat alone once they have demonstrated their competency and proficiency on and off the water including familiarity with the navigation rules (which will be proved by undertaking a short written test), and have been added to the “Steers List”. The Steers List is a list of all Vesta coxes and steersmen/women who are approved by the Captain/Water Safety Adviser as competent to steer a boat unaccompanied by a coaching launch.

Signing In/Out: All outings must be recorded in the Signing Out/In Log (aka Log Book) which is an A4 file and will be on a shelf at the bottom of the gym stairs. This will also include blank copies of incident report forms. The white board at the top should also be filled in as this ensures that the club will not be locked up when you are out on the water.  The above procedures are a vital health and safety measure, if you go out and get into trouble and no-one knows you are gone you will be on your own!

Night rowing: we do not recommend rowing at night. However, anyone rowing at night should pay particular heed to the tidal conditions and floating objects in the water; this is especially important at low tide. Your boat must have a bright white light fore (flashing) and aft (fixed) from one hour before sunset until one hour after sunrise.  A good guide is that if the street lights are on, or are going to come on during your outing you need lights.  Bicycle lights are generally not fit for purpose as they are designed to shine straight ahead, and all around coverage is required.

No Vesta member coached or un-coached may row below Putney Bridge at night.

Turning at Putney Bridge: if conditions are bad on an outgoing tide and you are not confident about spinning at Putney Pier you should continue through the bridge and spin according to these diagrams.

• Rowing Upstream of Kew Road or Rail Bridge at low water: If you become aware that you can’t fit inside the buoys upstream of either Kew Bridge then when it is safe to do so you must stop and spin and return downstream.  If you want to do a long outing when the tide is this low, it is generally preferable to extend your outing by going downstream of Putney.

On the water

Conditions: Vesta Members may row all year round, in all types of weather condition. If you are not happy with the conditions before you boat, do not boat. If the prevailing conditions change once you are on the water, and you are not happy with or feel you cannot cope with the conditions, you must say so. In the worst case seek refuge at the nearest rowing club.  Fog can make rowing especially hazardous as large motor vessels use radar to navigate and will not be able to pick you up on it.

If the fog is so thick that you can’t see the far bank, you must not go out!


• Capsize: this very rarely happens, but if it does hold on to your boat and swim WITH the stream of the river towards the bank. Remember your boat is the best buoyancy aid you have. Vesta holds a capsize drill at a local swimming pool once per year.

• Incidents: should you be involved in an incident, you must tell your coach or the Captain AND the Water Safety Adviser. We need to know and we are not in the habit of blaming people for mistakes. There are three things that need doing: an incident form needs to be filled in (available from the Water Safety Adviser), the date, place, time and other details need to be logged on the incident log (on the safety board) -) and any damage needs to be logged on the white board in the crew room. Members are encouraged to report any unsafe acts of others to the Club Water Safety Adviser.

• Injury and sickness: as with all sports, and particularly water sports, there is a potential for coming into contact with viral or bacterial infections. We ask all our Members to wash appropriately as they use the Club’s facilities particularly the ‘crew room’. Please seek professional advice before training with an injury or illness.

Rowing Downstream of Putney Bridge

There are particular rules for rowing downstream of Putney Bridge:

  1. Crews must inform London V.T.S. on 0208 8550315 before going below Chelsea Bridge (the bridge after the Pink Bridge (Albert), heading towards central London).
  2. Due to commercial barge traffic at various freight facilities, rowers must not proceed below Fulham Railway Bridge for three hours before and two hours after high tide at London Bridge.
  3. Crews should not proceed below Wandsworth Bridge (the blue bridge downriver of the rubbish station), regardless of tide, unless an outing plan has been pre-approved by the Club Rowing Safety Advisor.
  4. No Crew may row below Putney Bridge after Sunset or before Sunrise.

With regards to point 3 above the following VRC rules apply:

  • All accompanied senior boats may row below Wandsworth Bridge, provided the tide and weather conditions are correct.  Coaches just need to confirm the number of boats and coaching launches and the approx start time of the outing.
  • Unaccompanied senior 8s and 4s may row below Wandsworth Bridge provided the tide and weather conditions are correct.  A member of the crew (preferably the steers) must confirm the boat type and approx start time of the outing.  This is only recommended for experienced Tideway rowers.
  • Accompanied novice/development 8s and 4s may row below Wandsworth Bridge, provided the tide and weather conditions are correct.  Coaches just need to confirm the number of boats and coaching launches and the approx start time of the outing.
  • Unaccompanied novice/development crews may not row below Wandsworth Bridge.
  • Unaccompanied small boats may not row below Wandsworth Bridge.
  • Veteran crews should apply whichever of the senior or development categories above that their level of skill matches.

Incident Reporting

To make things a bit easier for reporting incidents, we have drafted an electronic copy of the incident report form. This should enable you to complete the form and send it via email. Though paper copies will be available at the Club (in the log book), we would rather receive an electronic copy where possible. Drawings of incidents can be scanned and sent electronically to or left in the box in the office.

Please download a copy of the incident reporting form VRC Incident Report Template here.

All incidents involving injury, damage, rescue, conflict with another Club or vessel, and capsize should be reported within a max 48 hours to me as CWSA. I will then decide whether to report this formally to the Thames Region Rowing Council. If you are unsure whether you should report or not, please email for guidance.

If you have any further queries regarding health and safety or for information on the approved steers and scullers lists, please contact the Water Safety Advisor, Alexander Brown.