Glossary

Learn more on rowing terminology.

Blade: The flat end of the oar that is in the water during the drive. Also see "hatchet." Crews are identified by the design on their blades.

Bow: The forward section of the boat; the first part to cross the finish line.

Bowman: The person in the seat closest to the bow who crosses the finish line first.

Bow ball: The round tip -- usually rubber and 4cm in diameter -- on the end of the bow. It is required by all boats at Olympic rowing events to minimize damage in the event of a collision.

Button: A wide collar on the oar that keeps it from slipping through the oarlock. The button may be moved to adjust the position of the fulcrum of the oar; coaches often will move the button in headwind or tailwind conditions to change the "load."

Catching a crab: When a rower errors in releasing his blade from the water and the oars get pulled under the water, with the consequent force sometimes hurling the rower from the shell.

Check: The extent to which a shell loses momentum as the crew changes directions just before they begin to pull. Also see "run."

Coxswain: Person who steers the shell and directs the race plan, acting as the eyes of the crew. Often times considered an 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.

Drive: The segment of the rowing stroke during which the blades are in the water.

Ergometer: Known to rowers as an "erg," a rowing machine that closely approximates the actual rowing motion and allows athletes to measure their strokes per minute and distance covered.

Feathering: Holding the blades in a flat position between strokes to reduce wind resistance during recovery; one of the most difficult aspects of rowing for beginners.

FISA: In French, the Federation Internationale des Societes d'Aviron, rowing's international governing body. Established in 1892, it is the oldest international sports federation in the Olympic movement.

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

German or Italian 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- or Italian-rigged boat, two consecutive rowers have oars on the same side. The two pairs are often described as rowing a bucket.

Hatchet: An innovation in the shape of the oar blade that entered the sport in 1991.

Length: May refer to a margin in racing equal to the length of a boat; also can refer to a crew's or individual's rowing style.

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.

Load: Refers to the rigging parameters on the riggers and oars, which can be adjusted to either lighten or increase the load. In a headwind, a coach might lighten the load to help the athletes maintain rhythm and endurance; in a tailwind, a coach might increase the load to give the rowers a better bite.

Oar: Not a paddle. Used to drive the boat forward. The size and shape of oars is unrestricted.  

Paddle: Not an oar. Describes rowing with very little power on the oar.
Port: Left side of the shell facing forward.

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.

Puddles: The water swirls left by oars in stroke.

Rating (or beat): The number of strokes taken in a minute.

Recovery: The phase of the rowing stroke during which the oars are not in the water, and the rowers are returning to the catch for the next drive.

Release: Also "finish." The moment in the stroke when the rowers take their oars out of the water; the end of the drive.

Repechage: The second-chance race (last-chance qualifier) that ensures that each boat has two chances to advance from preliminary races because there is no seeding in the heats.

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

Run: The distance a shell moves during one stroke. Can be measured as the distance between the puddles made by the same oar.

Sculling: One of two disciplines of rowing. Scullers use two oars, or sculls.

Shell: Boat.

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

Starboard: The right side of the shell facing forward.

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

Straight: Refers to a shell without a coxswain.

Stretcher or footstretcher: Where the rowers' 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: Rower who sits closest to the stern. The stroke sets the rhythm for the boat -- others behind him must follow his cadence.

Strokemeter or stroke coach: Small electronic display which rowers attach in the boat to show the important race information like stroke rate and elapsed time.

Stroke rating: Cadence; the number of rowing strokes per minute that a crew is taking. Can vary from the low 30s to the high 40s.

Sweep: One of the two disciplines of rowing in which rowers use only one oar.

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

Washing: A foul charged against a crew that drifts from its lane and washes another boat with churned-up water; a rare occurrence.