The Potomac below Little Falls is tidal and both the tides and wind can greatly impact the safety of rowing. Winds of speeds at or above 18mph sustained should be considered carefully before launching. Gusts of higher velocity coupled with the sustained winds can have dangerous and damaging effects on shells and launches alike. These winds can kick up chop and white caps that can quickly swamp or flip even an experienced crew. High school programs should take extra heed of conditions. The direction of the wind also influences water conditions and where rowable water may be found. North West or South East winds (blowing straight up or down the river) create the worst conditions with little protection. The circumstance of greatest concern is when the wind and tides are going opposite of each other which creates much larger waves that don’t dissipate (“rollers”) like that those thrown by a launch. These kinds of conditions can easily put crews in danger.
The entire safety picture must be considered before launching in less than ideal conditions- wind, wind speed, current (river flow), tides, and debris all influence the safety of the conditions. In some instance, it might seem relatively safe to get off the dock and row to a navigable area, but returning and landing safely may be compromised. Even if one is able to land the wind and wakes can slam shells and the athletes against the dock damaging or injuring both.
Coaches and program heads are advised to carefully consider whether launching into adverse conditions truly offers the opportunity for a productive and positive experience, versus the risk of health and safety of the athletes in their care.