Charles Buell steers toward success

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Charles Buell steers toward success

Buell settles into the stern and prepares to steer the boat as the rowers undock

Buell settles into the stern and prepares to steer the boat as the rowers undock

Michyla Lin

Buell settles into the stern and prepares to steer the boat as the rowers undock

Michyla Lin

Michyla Lin

Buell settles into the stern and prepares to steer the boat as the rowers undock

Justine Chen

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Wedged in the stern of the boat, sophomore Charlie Buell faces the bow in which his teammates, ready to take his instructions, sit. After he calls out a change in stroke pace, the rowers listen and respond quickly in order to stay in sync and move forward efficiently. Looking out toward the water and back at the rowers, Buell searches for the shortest possible route to the finish line.

As a coxswain, or steersman of the boat, Buell trains with the Los Gatos Rowing Club’s (LGRC) men’s varsity team on the Los Gatos Reservoir, also known as the Lexington Reservoir. The team is coached by Colin Heneghan and Dustin Kraus, two highly experienced members of LGRC’s coaching staff.  Although Buell had previously rowed for two years on the novice team, he began competitively coxswaining a year ago after being told he was too lightweight.

“At first I was frustrated,” said Buell, “but I’ve found that I now prefer coxswaining much more than rowing.”

As someone with a slight build, Buell was a perfect fit for the role and began training immediately. Coxswains, who are responsible for steering the boat, coordinate the power and rhythm of rowers by calling out a variety of commands. Just as important as the rowers’ strength, a coxswain’s leadership and race strategy can often be the difference between a boat’s win or loss in a race.

During training, Buell conducts drills and gives technical feedback to the rowers. The men’s varsity team practices from 3:45 to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays and from 8:30-11:30 a.m. on Saturdays. The team trainings are either in the training room or on the water. In addition to rowing on the water, the team works with rowing machines, and the rowers also lift weights, run and improve their core strength. Most workouts are geared toward maintaining or building muscle, and typically last 30 minutes to an hour.

While there is no definitive race schedule or time, Buell’s team competes at least once or twice a month. The races vary in distance and time, although they usually participate in the 5000 meter event. The Los Gatos Reservoir is mainly straight; the most difficult part of Buell’s job is to use turns to the team’s advantage in order to pass others. Buell coxs in two boat types, the eight and the four, also known as the quad. In the eight boat, eight rowers row with one oar, and in the quad, four rowers row with two oars.

Transitioning from a rower to a coxswain in addition to being a new member of the varsity team, Buell initially struggled with his new responsibility and position. He was forced to quickly learn the ropes of coxswaining and transition into a second coach and captain of the team.

“When I first started coxswaining, I was really shy and it was difficult for me to talk to anyone, especially because almost all the rowers towered over me,” said Buell. “I’ve definitely become more vocal and not afraid to call out instructions.”

Although he is unsure as to where coxswaining will take him the future, Buell has gained a newfound confidence that he will carry for the rest of his life. Regardless of whether he plans to continue coxswaining in college, Buell will continue to head out to the water every day and foster his passion.