Coxing in the Family
13 Apr 2021

Pengwern Boat Club celebrates 150 years of organised rowing on The River Severn this year – we talk to mum and daughter coxes Helen and Jess Watkinson about commanding their crews and avoiding crashes!

Helen Says...

I started coxing when I was at university in the 1980s.

We moved house to Shrewsbury in 2014, and I joined Pengwern Boat Club shortly after.

Nowadays, I cox the Women's Masters crew 8s and 4s.

I love being part of a crew who are now also very good friends. We all train together and support each other. You can go down to the club feeling like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders and after an outing on a beautiful river with great friends you come off with a smile on your face and a spring in your step (when the aches and pains subside😊) Racing is a great thrill and winning is fantastic. 

Obviously being small helps! But also being positive, confident, calm and of course competitive in a race.

I think it’s great that Jess is doing it too and I am delighted she’s enjoying herself. She will make a fab cox. She is quietly confident and determined to succeed and can already steer the boat she is coxing better than I can!

Pengwern is a fantastic club. It is so friendly and everyone is made welcome no matter what your experience of rowing is. It’s not just about the rowing but the friendships and being part of a club.

Helen and Jess Watkinson at Pengwern Boat Club

The Men's 4 at Pengwern on the pontoon

Jess says...

Mum spends loads of time at the boat club, and she asked me if I wanted to give it a go, so I did.

At Pengwern Boat Club you need to be 13 to start coxing. 

The hardest things is trying to concentrate on steering, and remembering the commands all at once. 

I have been coxing a men’s crew of four. I was nervous at first, because I’d never been in a rowing boat before, and I didn’t really want to crash into the bank or drown everyone...

It’s fun, and nice and quiet in the mornings, and you get a different view of the surrounding area from the river. 

My crew are very nice, helpful and supportive of me whilst I learn. I’m glad to be able to have a go at it, and everyone is very friendly.

It’s a bit scary being on the river at the same time as mum, because I don’t want to crash into her as she speeds along!

She's helping by teaching me commands, although it's hard for her to teach me how to steer without being in the boat.

I think I will probably carry on with it, as I find it really fun and I'd love to be able to race some day!

Jess Watkinson at Pengwern Boat Club waiting to cox the men's 4