Glossary of Rowing Terms
Rowing events use a systematic nomenclature for the naming of events, so that age, gender, ability and size of boat can all be expressed in a few numbers and letters. The first letter to be used is 'L' or 'Lt' for lightweight. If absent then the crew is open weight. This can be followed by either a 'J' or 'B' to signify junior (under 19 years) or under 23 years respectively. If absent the crew is open age (the letter 'O' is sometimes used). Next is either an 'M' or 'W' to signify if the crew are men or women. Then there is a number to show how many athletes are in the boat (1,2,4 or 8). An 'x' following the number indicates a sculling boat. Finally either a + or - is added to indicate whether the boat is coxed or coxswainless.
Some events will use an experience rating to separate races, "Elite", "Veteran" "Senior", "Intermediate 1/2/3" or "Novice", depending on the number of wins the athletes have accumulated. Masters events use age ranges to separate crews of older rowers.
Blades: The wide flat section of the oar at the head of the shaft, also known as the spoon. This term is often used when referring to the entire oar. Hatchets (a.k.a. big blades or choppers or cleavers) A relatively new design of oar blades (although the idea has been around for some time). These were introduced by Concept II (Spring 1992) and are what the names indicate---oar blades that have a bigger surface area than the `standard' (Macon or spoon) blades and have a hatchet or meat cleaver shape. The hatchets are a bit shorter (by about 7 cm) than the standard blades.
Bow: The forward section of the boat. The first part of the boat to cross the finish line. The person in the seat closest to the bow, who crosses the finish line first.
Bow coxed boat: A shell in which the coxswain is near the bow instead of the stern. It's hard to see the coxswain in this type of boat, because only his head is visible. Having the coxswain virtually lying down in the bow reduces wind resistance, and the weight distribution is better.
Button: A wide collar on the oar that keeps it from slipping through the oarlock.
Check: Any abrupt deceleration of the shell caused by some uncontrolled motion within the shell; an interruption in the forward motion of the shell. The coxswain is probably the most acutely aware of this abrupt deceleration and it has been known to cause whiplash in some extreme cases.
Coxswain: The person who steers the shell and urges the rowers on during practices and in a race. A knowledgeable coxswain can also serve as a coach for the rowers and can be the difference between winning and losing a race.
Crab: A situation encountered by a rower when his or her oar gets ‘stuck’ in the water, usually right after the catch or just before the release, and is caused by improper squaring or feathering. The momentum of the shell can overcome the rower's control of the oar. In more extreme cases the rower can actually be ejected from the shell by the oar.
Deck: The part of the shell at the bow and stern that is covered with fiberglass cloth or a thin plastic.
Ergometer: Rowers call it an "erg." It's a rowing machine that closely approximates the actual rowing motion. The most common is the Concept II, which utilizes a flywheel and a digital readout so that the rower can measure his "strokes per minute" and the distance covered. Many new ergs have appeared on the market in recent years using water, magnetic and air resistance and sculling and rowing rigs.
FISA: Short for Federation Internationale des Societes d'Aviron. The international governing body for the sport of rowing in the world, established in 1892.
Foot Stretcher: (or bootstretchers) An adjustable bracket in a shell to which the rower's feet are secured in some sort of shoe or clog.
Gate: The bar across the oarlock that keeps the oar in place.
Gunwale: (or gunnel, saxboard) Top section on the sides of a shell which runs along the sides of the crew section where the rowers are located. The riggers are secured to the gunwale with bolts.
Jumping the Slide: A situation encountered by a rower when the seat becomes derailed from the track during the rowing cycle.
Keel: Technically, the structural member running the length of the boat at the bottom of the hull. Today, some shells are built without this member so the term often refers to the center line of the shell.
Lightweight: Refers to the rowers, not the boats; there is a maximum weight for each rower in a lightweight event as well as a boat average.
Missing water: This occurs when the rower starts the drive before the catch has been completed (or even started in some cases). This is also referred to as rowing into the catch.
Oar: Used to drive the boat forward: rowers do not use paddles.
Oarlock: (or rowlock) A U-shaped swivel which holds the oar in place. It's mounted at the end of the rigger and rotates around a metal pin. A gate closes across the top to keep the oar in.
Pitch: The angle between the blade (on the drive when the blade is 'squared') and a line perpendicular to the water's surface.
Port: Left side of the boat, while facing forward, in the direction of the movement.
Power 10: A call for rowers to do 10 of their best, most powerful strokes. It’s a strategy used to pull ahead of a competitor.
Ratio: The ratio of the recovery time to the drive time. The recovery time should always be longer than the drive time (how much longer I won't say ... as someone wrote, the idea is to `move the boat on the pull through (or drive) and take a ride (i.e. relax) on the recovery without sacrificing the very speed that they have generated').
Rating: The number of strokes per minute. Also known as stroke rating.
Set:(set of a boat) when the boat is set up evenly with respect to the surface of the water so that each side can perform the stroke without blades touching the water. Ideally this refers to 'form or carriage of the body or of its parts', where the 'body' consists of the shell and the rowers. Items that can affect the set of the boat are the rower's posture, hand levels, rigging (the favorite culprit ... especially with the more advanced rowers), timing at the catch and release, and outside conditions such as the wind. It is not unusual for rowers within a shell not to agree on what needs to be done to establish a 'good' set, i.e. a level, stable shell that will provide the basis for that symphony of motion.
Skying the Blade: The fault of carrying the hands too low during the recovery especially when a rower dips his or her hands just prior to the catch (i.e. a sort of winding up). This usually results in the blade being too high off the water's surface.
Repechage: The second-chance race which ensures that everyone has two chances to advance from preliminary races since there is no seeding in the heats.
Rigger: The device that connects the oarlock to the shell and is bolted to the body of the shell. On sweep boats, riggers are typically alternating from side to the other on adjacent seats, but it is not uncommon to see two adjacent riggers on the same side. Metal triangular mounts have been common for years but graphite and carbon fiber are becoming more common as are wing riggers in sculling.
Rigging: The adjustment and alteration of accessories (riggers, foot-stretchers, oar, etc.) in and on the shell. Examples of rigging adjustments that can be made are the height of the rigger, location of the foot-stretchers, location and height of the oarlocks, location of the button (or collar) on the oar and the pitch of the blade of the oar. There are many variations of rigging of sweep boats. The most common style of rigging is Tandem with adjacent riggers being on the same side of the boat, also known as Frig rigging (UK). Bucket rigging is configured with riggers 2 and 3 are on the same side. German rigging of an eight configures riggers 4 and 5 are on the same side while the others alternate.
Italian rigging sets the rigging of an eight so that bow and stroke riggers are on the same side, with the others alternating in pairs.
Rudder: Steering device at the stern. The rudder in turn is connected to some cables (tiller ropes) that the coxswain can use to steer the shell. Older shells have short wooden handles (knockers) on the tiller ropes. These knockers are used by the coxswain not only to steer the shell, but also to rap out the cadence of the stroke rate on the gunwale.
Run: The run is the distance the shell moves during one stroke. You can figure it by looking for the distance between the puddles made by the same oar.
Scull: This term is used interchangeably when referring to one of the oars used in a sculling shell, the shell itself or to the act of rowing a sculling shell, where scullers use two oars or sculls.
Seat: The sliding seat that the rower sits on. The term "seat" also refers to the rowers place in the boat; the convention is to number the seats from bow to stern, i.e. the rower closest to the front of the boat is "1-seat" the next, "2-seat", et c. The 1-seat is also commonly referred to as "bowseat" or just "bow" while the stern most (rear) seat is referred to as "stroke seat" or just "stroke".
Shell: Can be used interchangeably with boat.
Shooting the Tail: A body position where the rower does not maintain the weight of the body over the seat during the drive so that the seat shoots out first thus reducing the effectiveness of the stroke.
Skeg (or Fin): A small fin located along the stern section of the hull. This helps to stabilize the shell in holding a true course when rowing. All racing shells have a skeg. The skeg should not be confused with the rudder.
Slide: (or track) The set of runners for the wheels of each seat in the boat.
Slings: (or boat slings, or trestles) Collapsible/portable frames with straps upon which a shell can be placed temporarily.
Starboard: Right side of the boat, while facing forward, in the direction of movement.
Stern: The rear of the boat; the direction the rowers are facing.
Straight: Refers to a shell without a coxswain i.e. a straight four or straight pair.
Stretcher or Footstretcher: Where the rower's feet go. The stretcher consists of two inclined footrests that hold the rower’s shoes. The rower’s shoes are bolted into the footrests.
Stroke: The rower who sits closest to the stern. The stroke sets the rhythm for the boat; others behind him must follow his cadence. (with the coxswain's gentle advice).
StrokeCoach: A small electronic display that rowers attach in the boat to show the important race information like stroke rate and elapsed time.
Sweep: One of the two disciplines of rowing - the one where rowers use only one oar. Pairs (for two people), fours (for four people) and the eight are sweep boats. Pairs and fours may or may not have a coxswain. Eights always have a coxswain.
Swing: The hard-to-define feeling when near-perfect synchronization of motion occurs in the shell, enhancing the performance and speed.
Washing Out: The fault of rowing the oar out of the water, i.e. the blade comes out of the water before the drive is finished.