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Race types

Head Race (Fall Season) - 5000m race, one boat at a time, against the clock usually around the perimeter of a lake or down a marked river course. Penalties are accessed for straying off course.

Sprint Race (Spring Season) - 1500m or 2000m race, up to 7 boats across in a head-to-head race. This is they type of racing done in the Olympics.

Age/Grade/Experience Classifications

Youth (HS & MS) rowing is separated into distinct categories and boats that come into play fully at the state championship level but are used throughout the competition season. 

Middle School - Any rower in middle school.

Novice - Any rower in their 1st year of high school rowing no matter what grade level. Previous rowing in middle school does not count against this. This classification is not used at the state championships which are categorized strictly by age/grade.

Freshman - Limited to high school freshman.

Junior - Limited to high school juniors. Sophomores and freshman can also "row up" to compete in this classification.

Varsity - Open to all high school rowers but generally consists mostly of seniors as it's the only category that can enter.

Lightweight - Max of 130 lbs for girls and 150 lbs for boys. There are no other weight divisions in rowing.


Sculling: Each rower has two oars.

(1x) - One rower.

(2x) - Two rowers.

(4x) - Four rowers.

Sweep: Each rower has one oar.

(2-) - Two rowers.

(4+) - Four rowers and a coxswain

(8+) - Eight rowers and a coxswain  


Bow: The forward section of the boat. The first part of the boat to cross the finish line. The person in the seat closest to the bow, who crosses the finish line first.

Bow coxed boat: A shell in which the coxswain is near the bow instead of the stern. It’s hard to see the coxswain in this type of boat, because only his head is visible. Having the coxswain virtually lying down in the bow reduces wind resistance, and the weight distribution is better.

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

Coxswain: Person who steers the shell and is the on-the-water coach for the crew.

Deck: The part of the shell at the bow and stern that is covered with fiberglass cloth or a thin plastic.

Ergometer: Rowers call it an “erg.” It’s a rowing machine that closely approximates the actual rowing motion. The rowers’ choice is the Concept II, which utilizes a flywheel and a digital readout so that the rower can measure his “strokes per minute” and the distance covered.

FISA: Short for Federation Internationale des Societes d’Aviron. The international governing body for the sport of rowing in the world, established in 1892.

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

German rigging: A different way of setting up which side of the boat the oars are on in a sweep boat. Instead of alternating from side to side all the way down, in a German rigged boat, two consecutive rowers have oars on the same side.

Lightweight: Refers to the rowers, not the boats; there is a maximum weight for each rower in a lightweight event as well as a boat average.

Oar: Used to drive the boat forward: rowers do not use paddles.

Port: Left side of the boat, while facing forward, in the direction of the movement.

Power 10: A call for rowers to do 10 of their best, most powerful strokes. It’s a strategy used to pull ahead of a competitor.

Repechage: The second-chance race which ensures that everyone has two chances to advance from preliminary races since there is no seeding in the heats.

Rigger: The triangular shaped metal device that is bolted onto the side of the boat and holds the oars.

Run: The run is the distance the shell moves during one stroke. You can figure it by looking for the distance between the puddles made by the same oar.

Sculls: One of the two disciplines of rowing – the one where scullers use two oars or sculls.

Shell: Can be used interchangeably with boat.

Slide: The set of runners for the wheels of each seat in the boat.

Starboard: Right side of the boat, while facing forward, in the direction of movement.

Stern: The rear of the boat; the direction the rowers are facing.

Straight: Refers to a shell without a coxswain i.e. a straight four or straight pair.

Stretcher or Foot-stretcher: Where the rower’s feet go. The stretcher consists of two inclined footrests that hold the rower’s shoes. The rower’s shoes are bolted into the footrests.

Stroke: The rower who sits closest to the stern. The stroke sets the rhythm for the boat; others behind him must follow his cadence.

StrokeCoach: A small electronic display that rowers attach in the boat to show the important race information like stroke rate and elapsed time.

Sweep: One of the two disciplines of rowing – the one where rowers use only one oar. Pairs (for two people), fours (for four people) and the eight are sweep boats. Pairs and fours may or may not have a coxswain. Eights always have a coxswain.

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

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