Men’s Rowing Eight and Speed with Caleb Shepherd

What is your role in the men’s eight?
As cox of the New Zealand men’s eight, it’s my job to get the most out of my crew - technically, physically, and sometimes emotionally. And the right word can make all the difference. Sometimes if you nail a certain phrase or choose the right words, it will get to them and the boat will suddenly accelerate. If they’re not quite all on the same page, it can bring their minds together and make the boat faster.
How can you tell if your crew are in sync?
I can intrinsically feel if his crew are in sync, If they’re not, I use “trigger words” to inject power and speed into the crew, and get them back on course. Feeling the boat’s speed has come to me over the last few years, with time in the boat, I feel the boat speed through my seat, my lower back and holding onto the sides of the hull. I can feel the run of the boat, and know whether they are perfectly in sync. And I use that feeling to make a good judgement call. If I can feel something isn’t quite right, I can tell them, and we can hopefully go quicker.
How does speed play a part in Rowing?
Well the eights are the quickest boat on the water, we thrive on speed, energy and excitement. You’ve got six boats competing at a super-high speed and it doesn’t take much to unsettle that. You’re right on the edge of chaos. And being right on the edge is awesome.
You have a young crew, tell us about them?
We just have to use that to our advantage and really attack it, we don’t have any individual superstars, it’s all about teamwork. What we rely on is rowing together really, really well, and being on the same page, so that when the time comes there’s no hesitation, there’s no thought, it just happens.” Being around the same age is a plus. We get in a good mental space really well; we know when to switch off and have fun, and when to switch on and do the business. Our big picture goal is gold. But we’re thinking long-term as well. There’s so much room for development.
How does it feel representing New Zealand?
It’s really awesome to wear the silver fern and be part of something that’s bigger than yourself. I think that’s what it’s all about - fighting for your country and helping the rowers to get the most out of themselves. You don’t think about be an inspiration all the time, but if a kid comes up to you at a regatta and asks for advice, that’s really cool. It’s rewarding to be able to have an impact on other people.
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