Flooded Thames in Winter 2014

River Safety and Risk Assessment

The club wide 'Falcon Boat Club Activity and Safety Handbook', stored on this page includes the FBC Risk Assessment (rowing), the Emergency Action Plan and the Safety Poster, which is also posted around the club in suitable places.

The colour of the flag is determined by the Oxford University Rowing Club's (OURCs) and represents how fast (and therefore how dangerous) the stream is on the Isis and consequently shows which OURCs rules are in force. Outside of university term, the club rowing water safety advisor and captain will determine the estimated flag using weather and river status information sources given below. This will be emailed to club members. 

The Rowing section has a set of Guidelines to restrict the rowers that may access the water, using club equipment, under the different (OURC) flag conditions.

For ADULT rowers these are:

Green flag: all rowers and boat classes with suitable permissions and supervision

Blue flag: all experienced rowers and any crews coxed or bow-steered by experienced persons

Amber flag: no coxless boats without prior permission from a suitable risk assessor - i.e. probably limited to experienced crews of a competitive standard (see table below)

Light Red flag: dependent on dynamic risk assessment, no rowing except in circumstances of very high competence / experience for the whole crew and low river traffic and only with prior permission of a suitable risk assessor (see table below)

Dark Red Flag: exceptional permission required from the captain or vice captain for any outing in these conditions due to the high flow rate (>140m3/s), no junior crews will be permitted.

Black flag: No rowing under any circumstances


For Coxes and Bow steers who have been assessed, prior permission is only required for DARK RED FLAG, otherwise the following table applies: 

Guidance from a suitable risk assessor should be sought if crew competency is uncertain. 


Suitable risk assessors : Senior Coaches (John Hill, Jeff Bethray, Nick Kenworthy-Browne) Rowing Captain, Vice Captain.

For JUNIOR rowers, see detailed guidelines on outings and flags - see Rowing Appendix to the Falcon boat club activity and safety handbook. 




There are a number of sources of information about the river conditions.

Environment Agency boards

OURC Flag Status

When the river level is above normal, Anu's Isis Level gives a good picture of what is happening. It also include links to one of the Oxford weather stations and the Osney and Iffley Lock river gauges. Jamesons Lee's website provides a more detailed analysis of River Thames conditions in the Oxford->Wallingford stretch for those that like lots of dots on their charts .....

City of Oxford Rowing Club have an online weather station that gives current temperature and wind speed when it is operational. River temperatures can be see on Findlay's page.


Rowing and kayaking can also be dangerous if it is too windy, too foggy, too dark, too cold (especially if there is ice in the river) or if a storm is due e.g. with lightning.


Weather forecast for Oxford

Met Office

Weather forecast for Oxford. More detailed than the BBC site and includes probability of rain for a given time!

Recent weather map. The rain radar can be very useful to see what has just happened and what is likely to hit us next.

Recent weather table - you can check on the actual wind speed (as measured at Benson)

Thames Water Sewage Leakage Tool - this tool will tell you where and when potential sewage leakage events have happened. 


Carry out the basic checks to ensure that your boat and equipment are fit for purpose. See boat check list at bottom of the page. Damaged equipment should be reported using the google form reached using the QR Code in the Boat Report Doc (posted below and around the rowing bays) or this link

Bow Steering and Coxing Assessment Criteria

To determine if a person is capable as a Bow Steer or a Cox they must be assessed by a qualified club representative. The "Coxing and Bow Steering Competency"guidelines is in the aforementioned "Falcon Boat Club Activity and Safety Handbook" which  gives an indication of the criteria used for this assessment and what is recommended at different levels of competence. The list of known qualified bow steers and coxes is here - if you see missing names or feel you should be on it please contact your squad captain. The form to add a bowsteer/cox to the list can be found here but should only be used by club officials.