Bow Balls

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What the Water Safety Code says

WSC section 1.11.1 - "The bows of racing and training boats shall be properly protected. A solid ball of not less than 4 cm diameter made of rubber or material of similar resilience must be firmly attached to the bows. Where the construction of the boat, or its composition is such that the bow is properly protected, or its shape does not present a hazard in collision, this requirement need not apply."

Guidance Notes section 2.6.1.2 - "Before any outing is undertaken, equipment should be checked to ensure that it is in safe condition and in working order."

... and specifically paragraph c) - "Check that the bow ball is securely fixed and fully covers the bow of the boat in order that adequate protection is given to any person or object struck by the moving boat. This check should also examine any fixing screws or bolts to ensure that they do not represent a further hazard in the event of accident."

Why do we have bow balls?

Two main reasons

Boats, when damaged, are easy to fix. People aren't. So keep your bows well protected for the benefit of everyone else around you, and maybe they'll return the favour.

Not convinced bow balls matter? Read these - Freak Accidents Mark Head of the Charles - Row, Row, Row the Boat - A 55-Year-Old Man Impaled in a Rowing Accident

Remember that collisions can happen on or off the water - people can walk into boats on the rack in the boathouse, and you can collide with people on the towpath while carrying the boat. If there's a risk that someone might walk into the bows of even a "dead" boat, then make sure its bows are adequately protected.

Key features

How to check

Remember that you must check your boat before every outing.

I would suggest that the bow ball check is done by the cox or bow oarsman, and it should only take a few seconds. Remember that the bow ball is there primarily to protect other people, so you have a clear "Duty of Care" to make sure that your bow ball is fit for purpose. Don't skip it.

Repairs

Bow balls don't last forever, especially if they have been in a collision, or used to rest the boat on. Wrapping layers and layers of tape around a defective bow ball is NOT a repair. The only way to repair a defective bow ball is to replace it. A good rule of thumb - if your bow ball appears to be more insulating tape than bow ball, it needs changing!

Make sure that you take off all the original fixings, tape, glue etc., and select a replacement bow ball that fits properly. The best way to fix it on is to use an appropriate adhesive; your boat builder will be able to recommend an appropriate one. For added security, you may wish to screw or bolt it on, but make sure that you don't leave any sharp protrusions. A few turns of tape around the neck of the bow ball can be added as a cosmetic finishing touch.

Get it right

Rogues' Gallery

The purpose of this section is not to "name and shame", but to make you aware of some of the common (and some not co common) faults to look out for. If any of your boats' bow-balls look anything like any of these examples, then get out and fix them NOW!