Rowing's full of odd vocabulary. Luckily you don't have to memorise all of it. But here's a guide to some terms you might find useful. For more general questions, have a look at our FAQ.
Types of Rowing
There are two main types of rowing that we do in this club.
- Sculling - Each rower has a pair of oars.
- Sweep - Each rower has one oar. Usually boats are set up so that they alternate sides, which helps balance forces.
Parts of a Boat
- Bow - The front of the boat (when it's moving on the water.
- Stern - The back of the boat (when it's moving on the water).
- Strokeside - For Sweep, the side of the boat (usually the left/port side) where the rower in the Stroke seat has their blade.
- Bowside - For Sweep, the side of the boat (usually the right/starboard side) where the rower in the Bow seat has their blade.
- Bow Ball - A rubber ball attached to the bow, which is a safety device in case you bump into anything.
- Rigger - The protruding frame next to each rower which supports their blade.
- Backstay - On some boats, an extra strut to support the rigger.
- Gate - A pivoting arrangement on the end of the rigger which holds the blade in place.
- Pin - Metal bar the gate pivots around.
- Canvas - The top deck of the boat at the bow and stern.
- Saxboard - The sides of the boat to which the riggers are attached.
- Foot Stretcher - A footplate set on a pair of adjustable runners, allowing the footplate to be set at different positions depending on the height of the rower.
- Seat - Seats in a boat sit on a pair of rails which allow them to travel backwards and forwards through the stroke.
- Slide - The rails the seat runs along.
- Front Stops - The position where the seat is rolled to the front end of the slide.
- Back Stops - The position where the seat is at the back of the slides, with the rower's legs straight.
- Rudder - Used by the cox or person steering to direct the boat.
Oars. But we call them blades.
- Handle - the part of the blade that you hold.
- Spoon - the large, flattish part of the blade which goes in the water.
- Loom - the part of the blade between the handle and the spoon.
- Collar - a ring around the loom which fits into the gate to keep the blade in position.
- Squared - when the spoon is at 90 degrees to the water.
- Feathered - when the spoon is parallel to the water, facing upwards
- Inside Hand - for sweep rowers, the hand that is nearest the rigger. This hand is responsible for squaring and feathering the blade.
- Outside Hand - for sweep rowers, the hand nearest the end of the handle. This hand is responsible for pulling the blade, and for controlling the height of the spoon from the water.
- Cox Box - combined amplifier and stroke rate meter. Used by the cox to address the crew. Also shows a readout of the stroke rate, provided by a magnet under the Stroke seat.
- Trestles - Frames to support the boat when on dry land.
- Erg/Ergo - Short for Ergometer, you probably know this as a rowing machine. Used for midweek land training, as well as for testing and comparing athletes' fitness levels. Generally regarded as a torture device...
- Rigger Jigger - a double-headed spanner, usually 10mm/13mm, which is used to assemble and disassemble boats in order to transport them on a trailer.
Types of Boat
Sculling boats and Sweep boats are named differently, which can help identify which type is which. In a coxless boat, steering is handled by one of the rowers, either using a mechanism on their footplate, or by altering the pressure of their stroke.
- 1, 2, 4, 8 = the number of rowers in the boat
- + = Coxed
- - = Coxless
x = Sculling boat
Single (Scull) - Sculling boat for one rower (1x)
- Double - Sculling boat for two rowers (2x)
- Quad - Sculling boat for four rowers (4x-)
- Coxed Quad - Sculling boat for four rowers and a cox (4x+)
- Octuple - Sculling boat for eight rowers and a cox (8x+)
- (Coxless) Pair - Sweep boat for two rowers (2-)
- Four - Sweep boat for four rowers and a cox (4+)
- Eight - Sweep boat for eight rowers and a cox (8+)
People in the boat
Rowers in the boat are numbered from bow to stern.
- Cox - or Coxswain, a crew member who does not row, but steers the boat and is in command of the rowers. Not all boats have a cox.
- Stroke - The rower sitting at the stern of the boat. They are responsible for setting the rate. Other rowers in the boat should follow their movements.
During training or manoeuvering, commands may be directed at specific groups of rowers:
- Stern Pair - The two rowers sat nearest the stern.
- Stern Four - In an Eight, the four rowers nearest the stern.
- Bow Pair - The two rowers sat nearest the bow.
- Bow Four - In an Eight, the four rowers nearest the bow.
This is a somewhat simplified version of the rowing stroke. Strangely enough it's a lot easier to learn this from a coach in an actual boat...
- The Catch - seat is at frontstops, back and arms are straight, leaning slightly forward, heels are off the footplate. The spoon of the blade is then dropped in the water, and the drive begins.
- The Drive - the legs are straightened, with the back straight, driving the blade through the water. When the legs are straight, the hips tilt the body backwards slightly, then finally the arms are brought in to the chest.
- The Finish - by tapping down with the arms, the spoon is removed from the water, then feathered.
- The Recovery - the arms are straightened (arms away), and the hips rock the body forward again, keeping the back straight. The legs are then bent to bring the seat back towards front stops. As the seat approaches frontstops, the blade is squared ready to take the catch.
Other Rowing Terms
- (Stroke) Rate - the number of strokes taken per minute.
- Split - the time taken to travel 500 metres.
- Ratio - the relationship between the amount of time spent during the stroke (catch/drive/finish) vs the recovery phase.
- Air stroke - to take a stroke without having managed to drop the blade into the water.
- Crab - where the blade gets stuck in the water and the rower is unable to extract it in time. This acts as a brake to the boat, slowing it down and disrupting the other rowers. In severe cases it can eject the rower from the boat!
- Pause Rowing - a training exercise where rowers pause at a specified part of the stroke.
- Arms-only Rowing - a training/warmup exercise where rowers keep their body static and row only by bending their arms.
- Legs-only Rowing - a training/warmup exercise where rowers keep their arms straight and body static, and row only by bending their legs.
- Rushing - where the rowers race back to frontstops quickly during the recovery phase.
- Quarter-slide, Half-slide, Three-quarter slide - Shorter strokes taken by not using the full length of the slide. Used mostly for warmups and as part of race starts.
To be safe on the water, coxes and coaches use a specific set of commands to ensure no confusion and easy understanding.
- Hands On - Get ready to lift the boat.
- To Heads - Lift the boat above your head.
- To Shoulders - Lift the boat to rest the boat on your shoulder.
- To Waists - Hang the boat from your arms at waist level.
- Roll it - Flip the boat down onto the water/trestles.
On the water:
- Easy (oars/there) - Stop rowing.
- Take the run off - Slow the boat.
- Hold it up - Stop the boat.
- Hold it up hard - Emergency stop.
- Drop - Let the spoon of your blade(s) drop into the water.
- Tap it on - Take strokes to maneouvre the boat.
- Paddle - Take light strokes to move the boat gently.
- Back it down - Reverse the boat, by flipping the blade upside-down and pushing.
- Set the boat - Balance the boat.
- Head Race - usually held over the winter season, these are longer distance time-trial races. Boats set off at regular intervals to complete a course, usually along a river. Prizes are awarded to the boats in each category who complete the course in the fastest time.
- Regatta - usually held during the summer season, these are shorter distance head to head races. Usually two or more boats will race in any given heat, with the winner progressing.
- Pots - the standard prize for winning - metal tankards.