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Rowing 101
July 01, 2011
Quick Facts
Rowing was the first intercollegiate sport contested in the United States. The first rowing race was between Harvard and Yale in 1852.

The whole body is involved in moving a shell through the water. Although rowing tends to look like an upper body sport, the strength of the rowing stroke comes from the legs.

The stroke is made up of four parts: Catch, Drive, Finish and Recovery. At the catch, the athlete drops the oar blade vertically into the water. At the beginning of the drive, all the work is done by the legs. As the upper body begins to uncoil, the arms begin their work, drawing the oar blades through the water. Continuing the drive, the rowers move their hands quickly into the body. During the finish, the oar handle is moved down, drawing the oar blade out of the water. At the same time, the rower "feathers" the oar - turning the oar handle - so that the oar blade changes from a vertical position to a horizontal one. The oar remains out of the water as the rower begins recovery, moving the hands away from the body and past the knees. The body follows the hands and the sliding seat moves forward, until, knees bent, the rower is ready for the next catch.

Race times can vary considerably depending upon the course and weather conditions. Tailwinds will improve times, while headwinds and crosswinds will hamper them


Bowloaders are the kind of boats that have coxswains which sit in the bow of the boat.

Coxswain (cox)
The person who steers the shell from a seat located in the stern or a lying position in the bow.

Eights (8+) and Fours (4+)
Eights and fours are the most common collegiate competitions and the two events held at the NCAA Championships. The plus indicates a coxswain on board.

Head Race
Head races are the traditional fall regatta, in which boats cross the starting line at full speed at roughly 15 second intervals. The course usually involves navigating three miles of river, around bends and under bridges.

Regatta is the name of rowing events in which several crews compete.

Sculling is the type of rowing where each rower uses two oars.

Shell is the boat used in the rowing races; seats nine people for an Eight and five people for a Four, and ranges in length from 45 feet for a Four to 58 feet for an Eight.

Sweeping is the type of rowing where each rower uses one oar.

Sprint is the type of race that features a course which is 2000 meters long, usually buoyed and from a dead stop and a stake boat. This is the NCAA distance.
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