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Basic Rowing Terms

Rat Island Rowing & Sculling Club

1. Blade: The flat end of the oar.

2. Bow: The forward section of the boat.  Also used to refer to the person in the seat closest to the bow.  The bow seat

3. Button or Collar: A wide collar on the oar that keeps it from slipping through the oarlock.

4. Catch: The first part of the stroke when the blade enters the water.

5. Coxswain (Cox’n): The person who steers the shell and gives commands for operating the boat.

6. Crab: When the blade gets trapped under the water and forces the oar handle against the rower, sometimes pushing the rower out of the boat.

7. Drive: The part of the rowing stroke when the rower is pulling on the handle of the oar.

8. Ergometer (Erg): A rowing machine that closely approximates the actual rowing motion, used to improve technique and for body conditioning.

9. Feather: When the blade is parallel to the water to minimize wind resistance and interference with the water.  A position arrived at by slowly turning the oar handle with the inside hand, when sweep rowing, or by each hand when scull rowing.

10. Finish: The part of the stroke at the end of the drive, legs flat and back laid back and hands at your mark, just before releasing the blade from the water to begin the recovery.

11. Footstretcher: Where the rower’s feet go.    The feet are laced in to the footstretcher, but not in a way that could prevent the feet from getting out quickly in case of a capsize.

12. Gate: The bar across the oarlock that keeps the oar in place. It must be kept closed when rowing, and after removing the oar before taking the boat out of the water.

13. Gunwale or Gunnel:Top edge of the boat  where the riggers attach.

14. Hands away:  The part of the stroke when the hands push away from the body, which moves the blade towards the bow of the boat.  This is the first phase of the recovery, and is initiated before the back swings forward (towards the stern) and before the seat starts to slide towards the stern.  The legs are kept flat until the hands pass over the knees.

15. Hull: The boat itself

16. Inside Hand:In sweeping rowing, it is the hand closest to the oarlock.  The inside hand controls rotation of the oar for feathering.

17. Launch: The small motorboat used by the coach or just to accompany boats as a rescue craft.  The launch driver is also authorized to make safety related decisions, and is called the safety officer.

18. Layback: The backward lean of your body from the hips at the finish of the stroke.

19. Oar: Used to drive the boat forward;  rowers do not use “paddles” as in a canoe or kayak.

20. Oarlock/gate:The U-shaped hardware that holds the oar.

21. Outside Hand:In sweep rowing, the hand that is on the end of the oar.  Used to pull only, not to help feather.

22. Port: The left side of the boat, while facing forward.  The universal nautical color code for the Port side is red.

23. Recovery: The phase of the rowing stroke when the oar is not in the water, while you move the blade into position for the next stroke.

24. Release: The phase of the rowing stroke when the oar comes out of the water at the end of the pull.

25. Rigger: The triangular (usually) shaped metal structure that is bolted onto the side of the boat and holds the oar.

26. Riverturn: A method for turning the shell around by having one side pull forward, alternating with the other side pushing backwards.

27. Roll-up: The phase of the rowing stroke when the oar is going from “feathered” to “squared”.  Also called “squaring”.

28. Run: The run is the distance the boat moves during one Stroke, and is an indication of the amount of power being applied to the oars.  It can be seen by the distance between the puddles left by the same oar from one stroke to the next stroke.  We generally want the puddle from the front oar to be past the point where the last oar on that side of the boat enters the water for a new stroke.  With enough power, the puddle from the bow oar will be past the very end of the boat before the next stroke.

29. Seat number:  All seats, or rowing positions, are assigned a number, always counting from the bow seat as number 1.  The odd numbers are starboard oars in a sweep boat, usually, and the even numbers are usually port.  Thus the stroke position, in the stern, is seat #8 in an eight, and #4 in a four or quad.

30. Sculling: One of the two types of rowing.  In sculling each rower has 2 sculling oars or 2 sculls.

31. Set:  The balance of the boat. “To set the boat” means to bring it into balance.  The term “the boat is to Starboard (or Port) means the boat leaning to that side.

32. Shell: The correct term for the boat, to distinguish it from other types of rowing craft.  However, we will frequently use the term “boat” among ourselves.

33. Slide: The track for the wheels of each seat in the boat.

34. Squaring: The phase of the rowing stroke when the oar is going from “feathered” to “squared”.  Also called “roll-up”.

35. Starboard: The right side of the boat while facing forward.  The universal nautical color code for the Starboard side is green.

36. Stern: The rear of the boat, and the direction the rowers are facing.

37. Stretcher or Sling: The support that the shell is placed on to store it.

38. Stroke: The rower who sits closest to the stern.  The stroke sets the rhythm for the boat.  Others must follow exactly the stroke’s cadence.  In an eight person shell, the stroke is seat #8.  Traditionally the stroke rows on the Port side in a sweep boat, but boats can also be rigged for starboard stoking.

39. Stroke Rate: The cadence, always measured as the number of strokes per minute.  A typical training stroke rate is 20 to 22.  A racing stroke rate can go as high as 36, sometimes even higher for shorter distances.

40. Sweep: One of the two types of rowing.  In sweep rowing each rower has a single, large oar.

41. Swing: The hard-to-define feeling when near-perfect synchronization of motion occurs in the shell, enhancing performance, speed, and pleasure with rowing.