Rowing Glossary

BACKING - Reversing the boat, by rowing backwards, but the rowers move forward!

BACK SPLASH - Water splashed towards the bow of the boat, created as the oar enters the water while still travelling.

BLADE - The end of the oar that is painted in a club’s or country’s colours.
This part of the oar should be just covered with the water when the rower is pulling the oar through the water. Good crews will keep the blade “buried” in the water from the catch to the finish of the stroke.

BLADE WORK - Action of the blade during the stroke, encompassing such techniques as "catch" and "feathering." Used to describe how the rower handles his or her oar.

BOW - The front of the boat. The first part of the boat to go through the finish line.

BOWBALL - A small white ball at the front of the boat. A safety measure designed to protect a rower if a collision occurs.

BOWMAN - The person seated closest to the bow of the boat. This person crosses the finish line first.

BOW COXED BOAT - A boat in which the coxswain lies down in the front or bow of the shell. The coxswain’s head is just visible.

BREAKAGE - Damage to equipment; breakage during the first 100 meters of the race is grounds for the referee stopping the race and restarting.

BUTTON - A wide plastic ring placed around the collar of an oar. The button stops the oar from slipping through the oarlock.

CATCH - The point in the stroke cycle at which the blade enters the water.

CHECK IT - Instruction to put the blades in the water at an angle causing the boat to decelerate quickly.

COACH - Grumpy old man (or woman) with a dry sense of humour and a tendency to sarcasm. Their bark is worse than their bite.

COLLAR - A small plastic collar around the shaft of the oar to hold it against the gate and keep it from slipping out.

COURSE - A waterway where rowing regattas are held.

COX FOUR - A shell that has four people rowing and a coxswain who steers and calls commands. Each person rowing had one oar. This is a sweep event.

COXBOX - A speaker system that runs through the boat and has a microphone so the coxswain does not have to yell.

COXSWAIN - Member of the crew who sits stationary at the stern of the boat facing forward. The coxswain may lie in the front of the boat. The coxswain’s main job is to steer the shell. He or she also calls the race strategy, helps the coach and motivates the crew.

CRAB - An action that slows the boat down. The oar is turned in the water incorrectly or goes too deep in the water making it difficult or impossible to remove the oar from the water. Some crabs can result in the rower being thrown out of the boat.

DECK - Sections at the bow and stern of the shell covered usually by varnished silk, nylon or as part of the main shell material.

DOUBLE - A sculling event. A shell which has two rowers each using two oars, one in each hand (four oars in total).

DUMPS - Collapsible, portable frames with straps on which the boat rests between races or during maintenance or washing.

EASY - Command used by many international crews to mean stop rowing. If the coxswain wants the crew to row "easy," he or she uses the terms row light or paddle.

EIGHTS - Term used to indicate an eight-oared shell; eight rowers, plus a coxswain.

EMPACHER - A shell manufactured by Empacher, a German boat builder. Usually identifiable by their yellow colour. The Rolls Royce of rowing boats!

ERGOMETER - Rowers call it an "erg." It’s a rowing machine that approximates the actual rowing motion. An ergometer test is usually used as part of selection criteria for national teams. Most tests are either six minutes, 2000 meters or 5000 meters in length.

FEATHERING - Action of turning the blade, once out of the water, so it is parallel to the water. The blade is feathered as the rower comes up the slide to the catch. Used to cut down wind resistance during recovery and to aid in passing over rough water.

FINISH - As part of the stroke cycle, it’s the last part of the drive, usually using the arms to pull the oar to the body and then to take the oar out of the water. As part of the race, it’s the end of the race or final sprint to the finish line.

FISA - Short for Fédération internationale des Sociétés d’aviron. The international governing body for the sport of rowing, established in 1892.

FOOTSTOP - The shoe assembly into which each rower laces his or her feet in a racing shell.

FOUR - A shell with four rowers, each with one oar.

GATE - The bar across the oarlock that keeps the oar in place.

INBOARD - The part of the blade that goes from the button to the handle. The inboard distance on the oar goes from the oarlock to the end of the oar that the rower hangs onto.

INTERNATIONAL DISTANCE - 2,000 meters (approx. 1 1/4 miles).

JUNIOR - A rower who has not yet turned 19 in the calendar year. FISA holds a junior world championships each year.

KERRS - A rowing shell produced by Kiwiskiffs international in Cambridge.

KEEL - Centre line of the rowing shell, running bow to stern along the bottom of the boat.

LAYBACK - Amount of backward lean of a rower’s body at the finish of the drive (when the legs are down).

LEG DRIVE - Power applied to the stroke, at the catch, by the force of driving the legs down. Along with the hips, the legs are the main force behind pushing the oar through the water. The arms finish the stroke with a pull to the body as the legs are finishing.

LENGTH IN THE WATER - Term used to describe the length of arc the oar travels through the water. Taller rowers usually have a longer arc through the water - as speed equals force x distance, they usually can make a boat go faster if of equal ability with a shorter rower; hence most rowers are quite tall.

LET HER RUN - A command used to stop rowing. The boat continues to run as the crew attempts to balance the oars off the water for as long as they can.

LIGHTWEIGHT - A competitive category limiting the rowers by size. Lightweight men must weigh no more than 72.5 kg (159.5 lb) and the crew, if there is more than one rower, must weigh an average of no more than 70 kg per rower. The women must weigh no more than 59 kg (129.8 lb) and the crew must average no more than 57 kg per rower.

OUTBOARD - The part of the oar that extends from the oarlock to the water. A distance from the button of the oar to the blade. The longer the outboard, the harder it is to push the blade through the water due to a longer arc.

PAIR - A shell rowed by two athletes, each using a single sweep oar (two blades total).

POWER "10" or "20" - Maximum effort by a rower for designated number of strokes. Used in racing strategy.

PUDDLES - Whirlpools left in the water by action of oar. Created by pulling the oar through the water.

QUAD - A shell with four rowers (correctly called scullers), each with two oars (eight oars total).

RACING START - First strokes of a race. Usually a series of three to five shorter and quicker strokes than normal to get the shell in motion.

RATE - Number of strokes per minute being rowed by the crew. This usually varies from 42 to 48 on the start, 34 to 40 during the body and 40 to 44 at the finish. Smaller shells (fewer rowers) do not rate as high as the eight and the quad, the two highest rating shells.

RECOVERY - Part of the stroke cycle in which the oar is feathered and returned to position for the catch and the drive. The duration of cycle from release to catch when the rower is moving to the stern of the shell on his or her moving seat (slide).

REPECHAGE - The second chance race given to those crews which fail to qualify for the final from an opening heat. All the heat losers are drawn again and the repechages are raced. "Rep" qualifiers move onto semifinals or finals depending on the number of entries. Used in international racing.

RIGGER - The outrigger that is fixed to the shell. The oarlock is on the rigger and the oar is placed into the oarlock.

RIGGING - Adjusting and altering moving parts of the shell such as riggers, foot stretchers, tracks, sliding seats, etc. Adjusting the rigging can "lighten" or "load up" the rowers making them work harder or not as hard.

RUDDER - Steering device at the stern of the shell or just behind the coxswain.

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. Also, an important part of fitness training!

SCULL - Smaller oars used in sculling events.

SCULLERS - Rowers that row in a single, double, or quad. A sculler uses two oars, one in each hand.

SLIDE - A term used to describe the seat on which rowers sit. The seat has wheels underneath it and the wheels sit in tracks. This way the rowers can “slide” forward to the catch.

SLIDE CONTROL - The rowers command of speed at which he or she moves forward during the stroke slide. Difficult to learn good control!

START - Official start is "Attention - ROW."

STARTER - Official that starts the race by giving the start commands and by using a flag as he or she says the commands.

STARTING GATE/AREA - A structure at the starting line of the race. The shell is "backed" into the starting gate. Once in the gates, the stern of the shell is held by a person who is lying on the starting gate, which ensures an even start. When the crew starts to race, the shell is pulled out of the "boat holders" hands.

STERN - Rear of the shell.

STRETCHER - Cross bracing in the shell to which the shoes are attached; usually called foot stretchers. Also refers to the wood or metal devices used to place the shells on when they are out of the water. These are also called slings.

STROKE - The rower that sits closest to the stern. In the eight he or she sits facing the coxswain. The stroke sets the rhythm for the rest of the crew to follow.

SWEEP - Refers to events in which the rowers use one oar each (pair, four, and eight). A sweep oar is longer than a sculling oar.

WASHING OUT - When the blade of the oar comes out of the water during the drive. The blade should remain covered with water from the catch to the release of the stroke cycle.