Rowing Terms

The Crew

  • Bow ("Bow seat"): The rower closest to the front/bow of the boat.  
  • Coxswain: The person in the boat responsible for steering, safety, motivating the crew, and race strategy. The coxswain either sits in the stern or lies in the bow of the boat. Pronounced "Cox'n." 
  • Engine room: The middle rowers in the boat. In an 8+ seats 6, 5, 4 and 3. Often the biggest and/or strongest rowers.    
  • Lightweight: A rower whose weight allows them to be eligible to compete in lightweight rowing events. For women, weight is 130, for men weight is between 155 (or less) and 160. 
  • Novices: Rowers who are rowing or racing their first season. Also refers to beginners, in general. 
  • Port: A rower who rows with the oar on port or left side of the sweep boat.  
  • Sculler: A rower who rows with two oars, one in each hand. 
  • Seat number: A rower's position in the boat counting from the bow. In an eight, the person closest to the bow of the boat is "bow," the next is 2, followed by 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and finally 8 or "stroke."  
  • Starboard: A rower with the oar on starboard or right side of the sweep boat.  
  • Stroke ("Stroke Seat"): The rower closest to stern of the boat, responsible for stroke rate, cadence and rhythm. 

The Boats

  • Eight (8+): A shell with eight rowers and a coxswain. The plus sign next to the number refers to the phrase "with" meaning, with a coxswain. This is called a sweep boat.  
  • Four (4-) or (4+): A shell with four rowers. 4+ means a four with coxswain. Coxless fours (4-) are often referred to as straight fours. The minus sign refers to, minus a coxswain. This is a sweep boat.  
  • Pair (2-) or (2+): A shell with two rowers. Coxed pairs (2+) are no longer rowed by most programs.  
  • Octuple (8x): An eight-person boat where each rower has two oars sculling, with a coxswain due to its fast speed. These are rarely seen. 
  • Quad (4x): A four-person boat where each person has two oars (can be with or without a coxswain). This is a sculling boat.  
  • Double (2x): A sculling shell with two rowers, each with two oars.  
  • Single (1x): A shell with one rower.

Parts of the Boat

  • Bow: The front section of the boat. The first part of a boat to cross a finish line.   
  • Bow Coxed Boat: Traditionally, coxswains always sat in the stern (the back) of the boat, but now it's very common for them to lie down in the bow (the front) of the boat.
  • Cox Box: The electronic system for the boat; it functions as a microphone and displays stroke rate and times.  
  • Ergometer (erg): The rowing machine used indoors.
  • Foot Stretcher: A piece of wood that holds a pair of sneakers in the boat. The foot stretchers ar adjustable to fit the rower's height.
  • Oar: Used to drive the boat forward. Rowers do not use paddles.
  • Port or port side: The left side of the boat from the coxswain's point of view.  
  • Rigger: The framework projecting from the side of a racing shell. The oarlock is attached to the end of the rigger.
  • Skeg (or fin): Flat piece of metal or plastic that helps stabilize the shell in the water. Extends down from the keel. 
  • Slings: Folding portable boat holders. Two are needed to hold a boat.  
  • Starboard or starboard side: The right side of the boat from the coxswain's point of view.
  • Stern: The rear of a shell.

Further Terms

  • Catch: The part of the stroke at which the oar blade enters the water and the rower starts to apply power to move the boat. Rowers conceptualize the oar blade as 'catching' or grabbing hold of the water.  
  • "Catching Crabs": This is common for new rowers and something that should be expected from novice athletes at some point in their early days. It is when the oar gets stuck in the water and can disrupt the flow of the boat and/or cause the oar handle to go over the rower's head.
  • Drive: The propulsive portion of the stroke from the time the oar blade enters the water ('catch') until it is removed from the water ('finish').
  • Feather: To turn the oar so that its blade is parallel with the water (opposite of square).  
  • Finish: The very end of the stroke when the rower takes the blade out of the water and starts to move up the recovery to do it all again. 
  • Hot seating: When two crews share the same shell during a regatta, sometimes it is necessary for the crews to switch one or more rowers at the finish line without taking the boat from the water.   
  • Rating (or stroke rate): The number of strokes executed per minute by a crew or sculler. 
  • Recovery: The non-work phase of the stroke where the rower returns the oar from the release to the catch, the part of the stroke where the rower is moving up to the catch and the blade is out of the water. This is the calmest part of the stroke and a time to take a deep breath.
  • Sculling: A boat in which each rower has two oars.  
  • Set: The balance of the boat. Affected by handle heights, rowers leaning, conditions, and timing, all of which affect the boat's balance.  
  • Square: To turn the oar so that its blade is perpendicular to the water (opposite of feather).  
  • Stroke: One complete cycle including the drive and recovery.  
  • Sweep: A boat in which rowers have one oar each.  
  • Swing: A magical feeling in the boat when the rowers are driving and moving the boat as one unit. What all rowers strive for. 
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