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Rowing Terms


Blades
The wide flat section of the oar at the head of the shaft. The two types are hatchet and spoon.

Hatchets
(aka big blades or choppers or cleavers) These oar blades have a bigger surface area than
the "standard" or spoon blades and have a hatchet or meat cleaver shape.

Oar
The piece of equipment which each rower uses to propel the boat. In sweep rowing, each
oar is approximately 12 feet long, lightweight and well designed.

Shell
The racing boat. Shells come in configurations and sizes for single rowers, pairs, fours,
and eights. An eight is approximately 60 feet long, narrow (about two feet wide at its
widest point), and weighs about 380 pounds.

Scull
A shell configured so that each rower, uses two oars. This term is also used
interchangeably when referring to the oars used in a sculling shell, the shell itself or to the
act of rowing in a sculling shell.

Sweep
A shell configured so that each rower has one oar. Oars on a sweep shell are normally
alternated from side to side.

Foot Stretcher
An adjustable bracket in a shell to which the rower's feet are secured in attached
sneakers or similar footwear.

Rigger
The device that connects the oarlock to the shell and is bolted to the body of the shell.

Oarlock
A U-shaped swivel which holds the oar in place. It is mounted at the end of the rigger and
rotates around a metal pin.

Button
A plastic or metal fitting tightened on the oar to keep the oar from slipping through the
oar lock.

Slide
(or track) Two tracks on which the seat moves. The seat moves forward and backwards
on the slide, enabling the rower to "gather up" his or her body at the start of the stroke
and then use the combined power of the legs, back and arms when actually executing
the slide.

Gunwale
(or gunnel) 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.

Rudder
Steering device at the stern. The rudder is connected to cables (tiller ropes) that the coxswain 
uses to steer the shell.

Skeg
(or fin) A small fin located along the sern section of the hull. This helps to stablize the shell in 
holding a true course when rowing. All racing shells have a skeg. The skeg should not be confused 
with the rudder.

Rigging
The adjustment and alteration of accessories (riggers, footstretchers, 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.

Slings
Collapsible/portable frames with straps upon which a shell can be placed termporarily.

Rowing Cycle Terms:

Stroke
One full motion to move a shell. Is also used as a term referring to the stern-most rower who
sits nearest the coxswain.

Catch
The start of the rowing cycle at which the blade enters the water. It is accomplished by an
upward motion of the arms only. The blade of the oar must be full squared at the catch.

Feathering
The act of turning the oar blade from a position perpendicular to the surface of the water to a
position parallel to the water. This is done in conjunction with the release.

Release
A sharp downward (and away) motion of the hand which serves to remove the oar blade from the 
water and start the rowing cycle.

Recovery
Part of the rowing cycle from the release up to and including where the oar blade enters the water.

Squaring
A gradual rolling of the oar blade from a position (almost) perpendicular to the surface of the
water. This is accomplished during the recovery portion of the rowing cycle and is done in
preparation for the catch.

Drive
That part of the rowing cycle when the rower applies power to the oar. This is a more (or less)
blended sequence of applying power primarily with a leg drive, then the back and and finally the arms.

Finish
The last part of the drive before the release where the power is mainly coming from the back and arms.

Rating
The number of strokes per minute. Also known as stroke rating.

Power 10
A set of strokes when the crew makes an extra effort to "get everything on the oar" and make the shell go faster. Can also be power 15 or 20. Used in a race to try and get a tactical advantage on the other crews.

Crab
Not a hard or soft-shelled edible. "Catching a crab" refers to a problem encountered by a rower when his or her oat 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 extreme cases the rower can actually be ejected from the shell by the oar.

Other terms of Interest:


Bow
The forward of end of the shell

Stern
The rear end of the shell

Port
The left side of the boat when facing the bow. In sweep rowing, the designation of a rower who normally rows with an oar on the starboard side.

Starboard
The right side of the shell when facing the bow. In sweep rowing, the designation of a rower who normally rows with an oar on the starboard side.

Coxswain
(pronounced "cox'n") The person who sits at the stern of the shell, steers, gives commands, calls the ratings and urges the rowers on in a race. A knowledgeable coxswain will
generally serve as an "on-site/ in the shell" assistant to the coach. Relatively light in weight, a good coxswain will have as much competitive spirit as the rowers and make a considerable
difference to team performance.

The Stroke
The rower sitting nearest the stern (and the coxswain if there is one). The stroke is responsible for setting the stroke length and cadence for the rest of the crew, following the
commands and encouragement of the coxswain.

Check
Any abrupt deceleration of the shell caused by some uncontrolled motion within the shell; an
interruption in the forward motion of the shell.

Course
A straight race course for rowers that normallys has 4-6 lanes. In high school, the course
length is 1500 meters, while in college and Olympic events, the course length is 2000
meters.

Cox Box
A small electronic device which aids the coxswain by amplifying his or her voice and which
gives a readout of important information such as stroke count.

Ergometer
A rowing machine. An "erg" allows beginning rowers to learn the basics of the stroke before
going on the water, and is used by all rowers to develop their conditioning.

Weigh-Enough
Actually sounds like "way-nuff". This is the coxswain's call to have all rowers stop rowing.

Rowing Boats (Shells)

The boats (or shells) are of two types and reflect the two forms of rowing - sweep rowing
and sculling. In sweep rowing, each rower handles a single oar (about 12.5 ft or 3.9m long).
In sculling, a rower iess two oars, or sculls, (each about 9.5 ft or 3m long). The word shell
is often used in reference to the boats used because the hull is only about 1/8" to 1/4" thick
to make it as light as possible. These shells are also rather long and narrow as possible.

Each rower has his back to the direction the shell is moving and power is generated from the
rower's legs, back and arms. The rower sits on a sliding seat with wheels on a track called the slide.

Each oar is held in a U-shaped swivel (oarlock) mounted on a metal pin at the end of a rigger.
The rigger is an assembly of tubes that is tightly bolted to the body of the shell. The subtypes
of rowing shells are classified according to the number of rowers in a shell.


Sweep Boats (each rower has one oar)
These shells can have a coxswain - a person who steers the shell (using a rudder) and urges
the rowers on. Included in parenthesis is the symbol used for each subtype along with some
dimension and weight.



Coxed Four (4+) - Four sweep rowers with a coxswain.



Straight (or Coxless) Four (4-) - Four sweep rowers without a coxswain. Steering is usually accomplished via a rudder that is attached to a cable that is connected to one of the rower's foot stretcher (there is an adjustable bracket to which the rower's feet are secured). The coxless pair has a similar type of rudder setup.


 

Eight (8+) or (8-) - Eight sweep rowers with a coxswain. Eights are 60+ feet (~18.5 meters) long and weigh about 380 pounds (~173k).