What is Rowing?
Some of the best introductory information about rowing can by found on the USRowing website. USRowing is a nonprofit membership organization recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the national governing body for the sport of rowing in the United States. Click here for Rowing 101 information.
What is rowing?
Rowing is often described as the ultimate team sport; requiring technique, stamina, strength, dedication and most of all teamwork. Rowing is divided into two categories – sculling and sweep rowing. In sculling each rower has two oars, each about 9.5 feet long. Sculls can be singles (one rower), doubles (two rowers) or quads (four rowers). In sweeps each rower has only one 12 foot long oar. Sweeps come in pairs, fours, with or without a coxswain (pronounced cox’n) and eights with a coxswain.
In both kinds of racing shells, rowers sit with their back facing the direction the shell is moving. Rowers are able to take long powerful strokes using a fluid motion of the rower's legs, back and arms. The rower sits on a sliding seat that rolls on a track that is about 2.5 feet long. The rower's feet are secured in a special shoe attached to an adjustable bracket mounted across the body of the shell. Each oar is held in a u-shaped swivel oarlock mounted on a metal pin at the end of a rigger.
Racing shells are light and streamlined made of thin carbon fiber composites less than an eighth of an inch thick. The shells are commonly referred to by the number of rowers, i.e. a four or an eight. A racing eight is nearly 60 feet long, weighs less than 250 pounds and costs over $25,000 for a new shell. Sweep oars cost about $800.00 for a pair.
In general there are two rowing seasons. Head Races are conducted during the fall months. In a headrace, crews race in staggered running starts usually going upriver over a winding course lasting several miles. These races usually take between 15 and 25 minutes. The spring season is sprint season. Crews are held stationary at the start and take off on command of the regatta official. Crews must stay in their lanes and the winning boat is the one whose bow crosses the finish line first. The common racing distance is 2000 meters (about 1.25 miles). Under good conditions a world class eight crew can run this distance in under five minutes at an average speed of just over 13 miles per hour. High school (junior) races are typically 1,500 meters. Winning eights usually finish in around five minutes.
Rowers are classified typically by gender, weight, age and/or experience. Adult "masters" crews vary greatly. Some row for fun, fitness, and/or recreation while others enjoy the thrill of competition. Generally a handicapping system gives older oarsmen an advantage by assigning each crew a score based on the average age of the entire crew with the exception of their cox.
High school rowing
In high school rowing, the classifications are varsity, usually the fastest boat, junior varsity, the second fastest boat, and the third/freshman four or eight. High school and college rowing include a classification for novice rowers. Rowers have one year from their first competition to be classified as a novice rower. A novice rower does NOT have to be a freshman. There will also be events which will have a freshmen category and these rowers do NOT have to be novice rowers. At larger events there may also be a lightweight division which typically limits each male rower to a maximum weight of 160 pounds, and female rowers to a maximum of 135 pounds. Most races are divided into men’s and women’s division, occasionally there will be a mixed division. Women are usually permitted to row in a men’s boat however men are not permitted to row in a women’s event. Coxswains are usually exempt and each regatta has its own specific regulations. In high school rowing events a male coxswain can cox for a male or female crew and a female coxswain may cox for a male or female crew. With multiple divisions and classifications there is clearly some strategy involved in selecting the best events to enter, weighing the strengths of the team and the level of competition.