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Saturday, September 30, 2023
rowing sport

Rowing Sport – there are tough people behind the beautiful rhythm


Rowing is a sport that involves propelling a boat on water using oars. In this sport, a single player or a group of players participate, which depends on the format of the sport.

In this sport rowers race against each other. People play it as a recreational sport in traditional settings in some regions of the world and also as a competitive sport.

The sport requires very intense training and physical power and to become a successful rower, the athletes need a very strong body and a tough mind.

History of rowing sport

image shows historical representation of rowing sport
Image Source: https://www.featurepics.com/

Available historical evidence proves the presence of rowing from a very early period. A funerary inscription from Egypt which belonged to 1430 BC praised a warrior named Amenhotep for his oarsmanship.

In the famous Latin epic poem Aeneid, the poet Virgil mentions rowing that is a part of the funeral games. The Aeneas arranged the games in honor of his father. In the 13th century, rowing took place as a part of the Venetian festivals called ‘regata.’

The professional watermen who provided ferry and taxi service on the River Thames in London were instrumental for the beginning of modern rowing races.

Merchant guilds, companies, and rich individuals patronized the races and offered prizes. Doggett’s Coat and Badge, which survives today, was first conducted in the year 1715. The organizers conduct the race annually from London Bridge to Chelsea.

During the 19th century, the races became popular and started to attract large crowds. The professionals started to play in other rivers also and they played rowing throughout Great Britain.

Towards the end of the 18th century, amateur competition in England began, and evidence is available for the existence of Monarch Boat Club of Eton College and a club in Westminster School, both during the 1790s.

Before the year 1800, the Star Club and Arrow Club in London for amateurs existed. Brasenose College and Jesus College boat clubs participated in the first annual race at the University of Oxford in 1815. The two clubs are the oldest boat clubs in the world.

In the year 1829, a boat race between Oxford University and Cambridge University took place for the first time. Subsequently, the town of Henley-on-Thames began to host an annual event from the year 1839.

Leander Club is the oldest public rowing club and it was founded in the year 1818. The second oldest club, the Der Hamburger und Germania Ruder Club in Germany came into place in the year 1836.

During the 19th century, wager matches became popular in North America. Narragansett Boat Club was founded in the year 1838. In the year 1839, Detroit Boat Club was founded and is a regularly operated oldest club in the U.S.

The first American college rowing club was formed at Yale University in 1843. And the oldest event at the college level in the U.S. is the Harvard – yale regatta.

The Schuylkill Navy is an association of amateur rowing clubs. It was founded in the year 1858, and it was the oldest amateur athletic governing body in Philadelphia in the United States.

All the member clubs are on the banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. The beginning of some other organizations and the success of the Schuylkill Navy led the rowing to get its current status as an amateur sport.

Rowing is one of the oldest Olympic sports. It was on the list of games and the event didn’t take place due to bad weather in the year 1896. From the year 1900, male rowers started to compete in the rowing sport.

Women rowers began to participate in the year 1976. Now, there are 14 boat classes in the rowing sport that take place at the Olympics.

Equipment in rowing sport

Other than the boat and oars, the rowers need some other accessories to participate in the rowing sport. The accessories include clothing, gloves, hat, shoes, machines for practicing, sunglasses, etc.

Racing Boats

a boat used in rowing sport
Image Source: http://www.merrywherry.com/

In rowing sport, you can see long and narrowboats the rowers use. The length of the boat varies with the number of participants. And the boats have semi-circular cross-section to minimize the drag.

Similarly, the design of the hull aims to get optimum speed and stability. The boats usually have a fin at the rear side which prevents rolling of the boat and helps in the increased effectiveness of the rudder.

Initially, manufacturers used only wood for making the boats. Now a combination of materials like plastic with carbon fibers and cushioning material in between the double skin plastic structure is mostly in use.

The design and weight of the boats should conform to the prescribed standards so that no individual or a crew should have the advantage of expensive materials or technology.

The boats used in the rowing sport are classified in accordance with the number of rowers or the position of the coxswain. In a rowing boat, there can be 1,2,4 or 8 rowers. Sometimes boats have no coxswain on them.

Further, the boats are classified into sculling and sweep oars type. In the sculling type, the riggers allow the rowers to apply force symmetrically on either side of the boat. Whereas in the case of sweep type, the design allows the riggers to be applied alternatively.

Double scull, quadruple scull, coxless pair, and coxless fours are the types under scull and sweep type boats.

Queep, trop, and coxed trop are some other variants of the boats. Queep boats are in use in the UK and Canada and trop boats are in use in Central Canada.


oars in rowing sport

The rowers need oars to propel the boat in the water. The oar is a long pole having a flat surface at one end. In rowing sports, the flat surface measures 50×25 cm in dimension and it helps in propelling the boat.

The prescribed length of the oars varies with the type of boats. The length of the oar is between 250-300 cm for sculling type boats, while it varies between 340-360 cm for sweeping type boats. Blade or skull are the other names for the oar.


For steering single and double scull type boats, the scullers pull harder on one side or the other. In other types of boats, there is a rudder controlled by the coxswain for the purpose of steering.

If there is no coxswain, one of the crew members will do it. In this case, the rudder cable is attached to one of his toes, which pivots about the ball of the foot and moves the cable left or right.

The bowman may steer since he has the best vision by looking over his shoulder. Instead, the stroke man may steer, on straighter courses, as he can point the stern of the boat at some landmark at the start of the course.

The landmarks for the steersman, consisting of two aligned poles, may be provided in international races.

Rowing Tank

Image Source: https://www.sykes.com.au/

It’s an artificial set up to give practice for the rowers. The tank resembles the exact tournament set up and the riders do their practice session here.

In the tank, the water is moved in an artificial way so that it gives the actual feeling of rowing on the streamlines.

This tank is useful in giving practice to the beginners. It is more helpful for the riders when bad weather conditions stop the practice in the outside stream. And the rowers do their practice in the tank when the water current is not coherent for rowing.


Ergometer is an indoor rowing instrument and is used to measure the amount of work performed by the rowers. By using this equipment, a rower can estimate the amount of energy he has for the real competition.

The rowers do it as a part of their daily training session. And the practitioners belong to the same team.

Rowers practice their skills and make the necessary improvements. It is helpful to measure the fitness on the ground, where waterborne training is not available.

By using ergometers, any experienced rower can get an effective workout. Slides are used below the ergometers to give real water movement actions. It gives the experience of moving in the real water stream.

Types of rowing sport

In rowing sport, there are different types of racing present in a rowing competition.

Side-by-side race, Head race, Bumps race, and Stake race are the important types of rowing competition.

Side-by-Side Race in rowing sport

In this type of race, all the boats start from the same line and at the same time.

The boat which crosses the touchline first is the winner of the race. The number of boats participating in this race varies from 2 to 8. The other names for the race are regatta or sprint race.

The distance of the race is also not a fixed one and varies from tournament to tournament. A series of races goes on in a single side by side race and the fastest team in each series qualifies for the next level. The losing side also gets the second chance and is known as repechage.

Head Race in rowing sport

In this type of race, all the boats don’t start at the same time and the rolling of boats starts with a regular interval of 10 – 20 seconds. The boats have a fixed destination and the length of the distance of the race varies between 2Km to 12Km.

In general, the time between autumn and the start of the spring is the preferable time for conducting head racing.

It is the oldest and very famous race that takes place in March every year at the banks of the Thames River in London. On the banks of the river Charles, the largest of the head races is conducted every year. And the fastest crew from this race gets the Head of the river title.

Bump Racing in rowing sport

In the rowing sport, this type of race extends up to many days. Moreover, in this race, the participating crew stands at the banks of the river at frequent intervals.

When the race starts, all the boats ride towards a certain destination. During the ride, every boat should try to avoid bumping by another boat.

When a boat makes physical contact with another boat, we call it a bump and so damage to the participating boats is an obvious thing. The riders use the cox of the boat to prevent any physical damage to the boat.

The boat which bumped gets the position and will march ahead of other boats the next day. Similarly, the position on the last day of the match determines the position for the next year’s match.

Stake Race in rowing sport

In this type of race in rowing sport, the race takes around a stake turn. Relay style and head to head types of boats are frequently used in this race. Stake race as played by Americans in early times.

In stake races, after one boat crosses the finishing line, the next boat starts its turn. Here, expertise in the steering is essential as it needs mastery of steering for a 180-degree turn.

In this race, one turn is enough. In some times, there would also be three turns. And also the distance varies from competition to competition and it varies from 500 meters to 2.3 Km.

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How to play rowing sport

Rowing sport needs much muscle power and energy. Many schools and colleges teach it to their students. Read more to know how to play the sport.

Position yourself in the boat

Place the boat parallel to the dock and unattach it from any hinges. Check the oars are in place and they move as far as they can. The oar lock on the rigger should be in a closed position to stop the oar from moving out.

Then move the oars forward and hold them with one hand. Move the sliding seat back and put your one foot in. While you step in, stand only on the parts with tape marks and don’t stand in the bottom or rounded part of the boat.

After setting your foot in, sit down on the sliding chair in the squat position. Then put your foot in the shoe and then put on the other foot. By holding the oars in one hand, push the boat off the dock. Hold your hand on the dock, until you push off the dock.

Move your hands forward

Start to push your hands forward and the oars will move back. The oars should be in a flat position on the water and you should move your hands forward as far as possible.

Start to bend your body and bend it to its full extension. Then, bend your knees and move the seat up until your shins are in a perpendicular position to the water. You should not lunge, when you try to reach more length.

Square the blades

Roll your wrists to shift the oars to a position perpendicular in the water. In sweep rowing, you have to roll the wrist which is in close position to the oar blade.

The oars generally stay in the flat or squared position. So, it requires a little effort. It would unsettle the boat for new rowers but it is a useful technique in larger boats.

Move the oars back

When you sit forward, you would start to push your legs in dynamic motion and slide back the seat. Don’t get any jerk and apply some force. With the improvement in your techniques, you could apply more force. But getting the technique right would be more helpful before you try to go quickly.

Then move back after you are in a position close to the end of the stroke. Finally, move the arms.

Position the oars in a flat position and repeat from step two. Then roll up the oar when the handle passes the knees. Repeat this until you reach the distance you desire and then row back to the position where you started from.

In reality, rowing with proper techniques takes time and practice. But the rowing sport is great fun and exercise together, and you would start to enjoy it after you get it right.

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Rules and regulations in rowing sport

starting position in rowing sport.
Image Source: http://www.worldrowing.com/

The rules are not entirely the same for all the countries and vary slightly from county to country. The governing body of the rowing sport decides the rules and regulations. But, at the international level, Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Aviron (FISA) governs the rules and regulations of the sport.

In the rowing sport, rowers get numbers in a sequence in a boat. Following this rule, the rower nearer to the bow gets the ‘first’ position, and the number increases in sequence as we move towards the person sitting at the stern.

‘Bowman’ is the rower who sits at the first seat while the stroke man is the person who sits close to the stern.

During the race, the pairs at the stern are responsible for maintaining the stroke rate and rhythm of the boat. And the more powerful rowers get the place in the middle of the boat.

In the rowing sport, a different naming system is in use to denote an event and we can infer many facts like age, gender, weight, and size of the boat by just looking at these symbols.

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