The A-Z of rowing: How to talk like you know your stuff.

Rowing season has started and it’s your first regatta. All around people will be talking in a lingo that is utterly alien to you. Your child will spout off terms that leave you bemused and leave your child looking at you as if you are a complete idiot. I know. I’ve been there.

If you’re going to survive here is brief breakdown of what will soon become your second language. Trust me as daunting as it seems, this isn’t half of it.

The boats

Let’s start with the type of boat you child will be rowing in. As a general rule of thumb, they’ll start off in sculls and only move to row sweep in U16.

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Reading the draft draw

When you’re trying to decipher the draft draws you need to be able to read the event. The draft draws are available on here on ROWSA.

  • 1x = Single (scull)
  • 2x = Double (scull)
  • 4x = Quad (scull)
  • 8x = Oct (scull)
  • 2 = Pair (sweep)
  • 4 = Four (sweep)
  • 8 = Eight (sweep)
  • JM = Junior men
  • JW = Junior women

So, if your daughter is rowing a quad in the under 14 age group , you’ll need to look for: JW14 4x

Regatta Results

You can keep track of the results on your phone through Regatta Results. Sometimes, there is delay in posting the results so don’t panic, this can be for a lot of reasons, mainly confirming the computer’s results with the umpires on the water.

Boat brands

There are many brands all over the world. These are the ones most used in South Africa. Your child will want a Filippi or a Hudson. Of course they will. You’ve been warned. Plan to sell a kidney on the black market.

Filippi _ The Ferrari of boats (Italy)

Hudson_ The Corvette of boats (Canada) <I made an error and originally wrote US. Sorry if I offended any Canadians.>

Empacher_ The Porsche of boats (Germany)

John Waugh_ The boldly South African

Virtual Row_ The newest player in SA

Swift_ The Haval of boats (China)

The Lingo / Glossary

B, C, D, E, F, G, H, P, R, S, T

B

Back down: This is when the crew rows facing forward usually to turn or to come into a jetty.  

Backstops: Most often, this refers to Position 1, when the rower sits with legs straight and the blades held at the chest. It’s also the term for the gizmo that stops the seat from coming off the rails.

Blade. An oar. Like scuba divers calling them fins and not flippers or frog feet. It’s a thing.

Boys on the boat: This is a great book. You will soon own several copies of it. Everyone will now give it your child thinking it’s the perfect gift for a rower. We have 4.

Bow: This can be confusing. It is 1: The forward part of the boat – the nose that crosses the finish. 2: The rower in the 1-seat, closest to the bow. 3: Also Bow Side, which is basically port or the left.

Button/Collar: This is the wide collar on the blade that keeps it from slipping out into the water.

C

Catch: When the blade enters the water and the stroke starts.

Canvas: The covered section of the boat that is from the bow to the rower and from the rower to the stern. Often used to as a description of how much a race was won or lost by.

Cox/Coxswain: The person who steers the boat. They are essential to the crew. If your child is a cox listen to this song _ Hurt Feelings.  

Crab: For about 6 months I thought ‘to catch a crab’ was to catch a literal crab. It’s when the blade catches in the water as the rower tries to take it out. This can make it smash into their jaw, but is more likely to smash their pride.

Crew (rowing): The team of rowers in the boat is called the crew. In America, crew is what they use when they speak about the sport of rowing. It’s the jelly, jello thing.

D

Drive: This starts at the catch as the rower pulls the blades through the water and ends at the release.  

E

Ergo/Erg: AKA The machine of torture. Do not call it an indoor rowing machine. You will most likely end up owning one.

F

Feather: When the rower extracts the blade from the water, they swivel it, so that the spoon skims parallel over the water during the recovery.

Finish: The part of the stroke cycle just before the oar is taken from the water.

Frontstop: The end of the slide nearest the stern. It’s also used interchangeably with 3rd Position which is when the rower sits with their legs at 90-degrees and the blade spoon at the furthest point to the bows.

G

Gate: Gates must always face forwards and keep the blade in place.

Go for home: From the 100m mark on, you’ll hear everyone yelling “Go for home!”. This is the last intense push for the finish.

H

Head race: In a head race the boats are let off in 10 seconds intervals and the fastest time goes through to the next stage. They’re essentially racing against the clock and not against other rowers.

Heads: This an important one to know. If you hear someone shout “HEADS!”, duck. Duck quickly and decisively or get beheaded by a boat.

P

Push for 10: This is an intensive push using everything they’ve got for 10 strokes to get ahead and then maintain their speed.

R

Rate: The number strokes per minute.

Recovery: This is the last past of the stroke. The blade is feathered and out of the water and the rower must go slowly down the slide to recover before the next stroke begins.

Rigger (also Outrigger): This is the triangular metal framework that holds the blades apart.

Rigger jigger: A small spanner used for attaching and adjusting riggers. These are as rare as diamonds. You’ll end up buying many size 10 and 12 spanners. Keep a set in your car for emergencies.

ROWSA: The sport governing body for rowing in South Africa

Rudder: The cox uses the rudder to steer the boat.

S

SASRU: The South African Schools Rowing Union

Scull (discipline): There are two types of rowing: Scull and Sweep. Sculling is when one rower uses two blades. Hence – sculler. It’s also used to describe the type of boat.

Slide: The slide are the runners on which the seat sits. Going up the slide is the term used to describe the recovery section of the stroke. You’ll hear a lot of, “Slower up the slide!” from coaches.

Split: The split time is the amount of force applied to each stroke. You want this to be consistent and not jump up and down.

Spoon: The end of the blade that goes into the water.  

Square or squaring: The rower will swivel the blade from feathered to squared. Squared is at a 90-degree angle to the water and where it should be for the catch.

Stroke: Here’s another of those wonderful terms that mean multiple things. 1. The cycle of the rowing motion – the square, catch, drive, finish, release, feather and recovery. 2. The rower who sits closest to the stern and sets the pace. 3. Another way of saying the rate.

Stroke Coach: This expensive piece of equipment allows a rower or crew to keep the rate and split consistent during practice. Someone should make an app for this.

Stroke side: As a rower this is the right, or starboard of the boat. For a cox it’s the left. It’s also used as a blanket term for all the rowers on the left of a sweep.

Sweep: In a sweep boat, each rower only uses one blade – in pairs, fours and eights.

T

Tie-downs: These are used to tie-down the boats on the trailer. They will go missing with startling regularity. If you have your own boat, buy your own and guard them with your life.

Trestles: These are the portable stands used at regattas to rest the boat on.

Tri-suit: You will buy a lot of these in all sorts of shades and combinations. The most important one will be your school tri-suit. This makes it easy to see what school is in what boat on the water. It becomes confusing when so many are black and white.

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I write because I have to. It is a compulsion. I do it to vent, to laugh and to remember. I blog because it has been so long since I had to write with a pen that my hand would go into cramp if I tried to write a journal.

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