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Rowing 101

You may have enjoyed the picturesque view of rowers on a river or even gone to the Head of the Charles, but having a child on the team and seeing the sport from this vantage point can be a whole new experience. For many of us, having a rower on GLR has been our first in-depth and “behind the scenes” exposure to the sport. With that in mind, we’ve included some information about rowing that may be helpful as you learn about the sport and participate in regattas

 Rowing “Lingo”

“Head Races” – During the fall season, races are longer (4000-6000 meters) than races in the spring and are referred to as “head races.” Boats are started at timed intervals and compete “against the clock” to determine the winner. When watching from shore it may be difficult to determine a winner of a particular race because of the intervals at which the boats start.

“Sprints” – In the spring season the races are shorter (1500-2000 meters) and are referred to as “sprints.” Boats are started together in heats. If there is more than one heat per event, then the top 2 or 3 boats from each heat proceeds to semi-finals or finals. When watching from shore, you can generally get a sense of how a boat is doing against its competition.

“Rigger” – Triangular-shaped metal device that is bolted onto the side of the boat and holds the oars. Rowers have to Rig and De-rig the boats every time they travel to a regatta.

“Coxswain” (pronounced cox-n) – the on-board coach who steers the boat and controls the race strategy.

“Cox-box” – Electronic amplifier for the coxswain that plugs into a speaker system built into the boat. Also contains a stroke meter to measure the stroke rate (strokes rowed per minute).

“Power 10” is a call by the coxswain for 10 of the crew’s best, most powerful strokes.

“Ergometer” – Rowing machine that closely approximates the actual rowing motion. Erg tests are used by coaches to ascertain an athlete’s aerobic and endurance capabilities.

“The Stroke” – The rower who sits closest to the stern. The stroke sets the rhythm for the boat; others behind him/her must follow his/her cadence.

“Catching a Crab” – Catching a crab is dreaded by all rowers and can slow down or stop a boat. When an oar blade enters the water at an angle, instead of perpendicularly, it can get caught under the surface. The oar handle drives into the stomach and has the potential to throw a rower out of the boat entirely.

“Set” – The balance and feel of the boat. The most efficient boats are balanced evenly over the center line and remain so throughout the strokes. If rowers aren’t aligned properly, or a rower swings off center, or if rowers on one side of the boat pull with more or less force, the set of the boat can be altered, introducing drag.

“Blade” – The blade is the flat surface of the oar, usually painted with the team’s colors. GLR’s are Blue and White

“Novice” – A rower is considered a novice during their first fall and spring season or one year from the first time they compete.

“Sweep Rowing” – Athletes with only one oar are sweep rowers.

8+ is a 60’ racing shell for 8 rowers and one coxswain (cox)

4+ is a 45’ racing shell for 4 rowers and one coxswain.

4- is a 45′ racing shell for 4 rowers but no coxswain.

When looking at the schedule you will see GV1 8+, BV2 8+, BN1 8+, or GV1 4+ and so on. These stand for the following:

  • GV1 8+ = Girls Varsity 1 (racing an 8+)
  • BV2 8+ = Boys’ Varsity 2 (racing an 8+)
  • BN1 8+ = Boys’ Novice 1 (racing an 8+)
  • GV1 4+ = girl’s Varsity 1 (racing as a 4+)

Often you will see “Jr.” before a race, as in: Jr. GV18+ – the “Jr.” signifies high school age participants.

“Sculling” – Athletes with two oars – one in each hand – are scullers. There are three sculling events: the single – 1x (one person), the double – 2x (two) and the quad – 4x (four).