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A Rowing Glossary

Crew: “Crew” means rowing team, so the phrase “Crew Team” is redundant. The nine people–a crew– when placed in a shell are called a “boat.” One does not refer to an empty shell as a “boat.” An eight is 58 feet long, so it takes a lot of room to maneuver it. If you hear, “Heads up!” someone is trying to move a shell in your vicinity, and you are expected to make way.

Any rowing event involving competition. Any race is a regatta, however, large or small. Races are never called “meets” or “games” and rowers do not “play crew.” A popular crew slogan is “Athletes row. Others play games.”

At a large regatta you may see eight different kinds of boats raced. Rowers in boats in which each rower handles two oars are called scullers. These come in singles, doubles, and quads.

Rowers with only one oar are called sweep rowers. These come as doubles, with and without coxswain, fours, with and without (without coxswains are also called “straight pairs” or “straight fours”), and eights with coxswain.

At the high school level, you will normally only see fours-with and eights. Coxswains normally sit in the stern, where they can see the whole boat and communicate face-to-face with the stroke, but you may also see boats with the coxswain in the bow, lying nearly prone. This inhibits communications somewhat, but reduces wind resistance and improves the weight distribution in the boat. All the boats are called shells, although boats rowed by scullers are also called sculls. A new, varsity eight costs about $32,000 and a novice eight is around $25,000.

There are two types of races: head races and sprints. Head races are usually held in the fall and sprints in the spring.

Head races are usually around 2.5 to 3.5 miles, and are timed events. Boats start off typically at 15 second intervals, and all race the same course, often with many turns, following the course of the river.

Sprints are 1500 meters for high school. In sprints, boats race directly against each other in lanes on a marked straight or nearly straight course. In larger meets, there will usually be qualifying rounds, then petite finals for non-qualifying boats and grand finals for the top finishers in the qualifying rounds. Qualification is by placement and not by time. In other words, a second place boat in one heat will qualify before a fourth place boat in another, even if the fourth place boat had a better time.

Geography of the Shell

The front of the boat. Area usually contains name of shell.

The back of the boat.

: That portion of the bow and stern that are covered with fiberglass cloth or thin plastic.

Oars :
Oars propel the boat through the water. Sweep oars are about 12-13 feet long and made of fiberglass or Carbon Fiber (lighter). They cost about $290 each.

The wide part of the oar that is used to move the boat through the water. The blade is painted with the school’s colors and is a way to distinguish among boats at a distance.

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

A wide collar on the oar that keeps it from slipping through the oarlock.