The History of Rowing

Rowing originally was simply a form of transport, and historically records go back as far as the 25th century BC. By the 16th Century AD, wagering by passengers in different boats led to races, originally impromptu, and then later on organised.  

By the early 18th century in England there were known to be about 40000 liveried rowers. Doggett’s Coat and Badge, an organized watermen’s race, has been held annually since 1715.  Both the watermen and the regattas, (programs of racing), held throughout the 18th century were professional. A similarform of racing by ferrymen in the United States began early in the 19th century. 

Rowing in six and eight-oar boats began as a club and school activity for amateurs about this time in England and somewhat later in the United States. Organized racing began at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the 1820s, culminating in 1839 in the Henley Regatta (from 1851 the Henley Royal Regatta), which has continued to the present. Rowing as sport developed from the 1830s to the ’60s in Australia during the same period became popular throughout Canada, Europe and in the United States. (Harvard and Yale universities first raced in 1851; the first open regatta for amateurs was held in 1872.) Throughout the century professional sculling was a popular sport.

Local and national organizations, amateur and professional, were formed in this period, and in 1892 the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Aviron (FISA; the International Rowing Federation) was founded. Events in rowing (for crews of eight, four, and two) and in sculling were established. In races for eights and for some fours and pairs, there is also a coxswain, who sits at the stern, steers, calls the stroke, and generally directs the strategy of the race.

Rowing events in the Olympic Games have been held for men since 1900 and for women since 1976.

The Sport

There are two distinct types of flat water rowing.  In sweep rowing, each rower holds one oar, like they’re sweeping the water aside. In sculling, on the other hand, each rower handles two oars, skillfully maneuvering both through the water.

There are singles, doubles, quadruples and eights.  In quads and eights, there is also the position of coxswain or cox, who steers the boat and coordinates the power and rhythm of the rowers.

    1. Single Sculls: The ultimate test of individual skill, the single sculls boat allows the rower to control their own destiny. They can adjust their pace and strategy as they see fit. On the downside, it’s a lonely endeavor. Without teammates to rely on, the single sculler must possess exceptional endurance and mental fortitude to maintain performance throughout the race.
    2. Double Sculls: Two rowers mean double the power and the ability to share the physical load. It also opens up strategic possibilities, as rowers can adapt their rhythm based on their partner’s strengths and weaknesses. But like the coxless pair, synchronization is crucial here. Any lack of harmony between the rowers can disrupt the boat’s movement and speed.
    3. Coxed Quadruple Sculls: As the largest sculling boat, the quadruple sculls bring a significant advantage in power. However, synchronizing four rowers can be a challenging task. Misalignment in strokes can lead to instability and reduced speed.
    4. Coxed Eight Sweep: Here’s where things get really interesting. This is the largest boat in rowing, packed with power thanks to the eight rowers. Plus, they have a coxswain to steer and coordinate, allowing the rowers to focus solely on their strokes. But, the downside? More rowers mean more potential for discord. Even slight variations in timing or technique can ripple through the boat, reducing efficiency and speed.

Rowing is an incredible sport for your health.  It develops multiple areas including strength, stamina and flexibility. It develops your arms, legs, shoulders, core, back and glut muscles. Almost every teenager in Australia suffers from underdeveloped core muscles. It also develops your lung capacity.

It is performed in the most pristinlely beautiful locations, an offers both fresh air and sunlight - vitamin D essential for bone health, immunity and mood regulation.  Your endorphins will be pumping after an early morning row.  It is a low impact sport and is very easy on the joints.  You are also very unlikely to incur injuries from rowing.  

Rowing is a great social sport and really encourages true team development without the "ball hog" player involved.  Everyone has to work together, or everyone ends up in the drink, which is highly undesirable on those cool winter mornings.

Being an early morning sport for the most part, aside from being an awesome way to begin your day, it leaves the rest of your day free for other activities.


The Terminology

Boat Types

1x | Single Scull – 1 sculler

2x | Double Scull – 2 scullers

4x | Quadruple “Quad” Scull – 4  scullers

4x+ | Coxed Quadruple “Quad” Scull scullers plus cox

2- | Pair (without a cox) 2 rowers

4- | Coxless Four (without a cox) 4 rowers

4+ | Coxed Four (with a cox) 4 rowers

8+ | Coxed Eight (with a cox) 8 rowers

General Terms

Back it | To row in reverse to manoeuvre the boat to a desired position

Backsplash | Water splashed back towards the bow by the blade as it enters the water.

Blade/Spoon | The part at the end of the oar which goes into the water.

Bow | The front end of the boat

Bow Ball | A 5cm rubber ball fitted to the bow of the boat as a safety device.  A compulsory fitting.

Bow Number | A alpha-numeric number that each racing crew has attached to their bow to identify their race (the alpha) and their lane number (the numeric).

Bow seat | The rower closest to the front or bow of a crew boat when looking towards the bow.

Bowside | The right or starboard side of the boat when looking towards the bow.

Catch | The catch is the front end of the stroke where the oar is placed into the water

Catching a crab | A “crab” is when the oar get stuck in the water and impedes the progress of the boat.

Check it | Is when the crew, or some members of the crew put their oar into the water and hold it still to stop the boat from moving

Collar / Button | A wide plastic ring placed around the sleeve of an oar. The button stops the oar from slipping through the oarlock.

Cox box | A brand name, but also a common term used for a speaker system that the coxswain uses to be heard throughout the boat.  it can also show stroke rate, boat speed and time etc to the coxswain.

Coxswain or Cox | The person who is responsible for steering a coxed boat and making race calls around strategy.  Not all boats have a cox.  The cox may either sit in the stern of the boat or lie down in the bow of the boat.  The cox faces the direction the boat is going.

Distance | All races except Sprint events are over the Olympic distance of 2,000 metres. Sprint events are 1,000 metres or 1,500 metres.

Drive | The part of the stroke where the oar is in the water

Easy or Easy Oar | To stop rowing

Ergometer, Ergo or Erg | An indoor rowing machine

Events/Races | Each event will be conducted over a number of elimination rounds, e.g, heat, repechage, semi-final, finals,

Feather | When the oars are turned so the blade is parallel with the water

Finish | The end of the drive where the oars are released from the water.

Foot Stretcher | Apparatus for holding the feet firmly in the boat.

Lightweight | Lightweight rowers need to meet certain weight requirements to race.

Rating | The number of strokes taken per minute

Recovery | The part of the stroke where the oar is out of the water when the rower is moving forward to the catch. (the beginning of the stroke)

Repechâge | A second race was given to crews that do not progress in the draw past the heat, a second chance to progress.

Rigger | An attachment to the side of the boat which holds the oar.

Sculler | A rower who rows with two oars, one in each hand.

Seat number | A rower’s position in the boat counting up from the bow. In an eight, the person closest to the bow is “bow,” the next is 2, followed by 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and finally “stroke.”

Slide | Runners that guide the rower’s seat during the stroke.

Splits or Split time | The time it has taken a crew to row a specified distance usually 500metres

Square | When the blade is at right angles to the water

Stern | The rear end/ back of the boat

Stroke | | The entire movement of the oar going through the water, finish and recovery and going back in again

Stroke (Seat) | The rower closest to the stern of the boat.

Strokeside|  The left or port side of the boat when looking to the bow.

Sweep | Rowers who row with one oar / boats where each rower has one oar

Wash | The wake from another boat

Washing out | Where the blade comes out of the water during the drive




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