Glossary of Terms


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ALIGNER – The person at the starting dock who aligns the boats evenly for a fair start.

BOAT PARTY – Dinners held by the crew of one or more boat the night before a race. Usually held at the home of one of the rowers, these gatherings are intended to build team spirit, give everyone a nutritious meal, and get everyone home early enough to be well-rested for the regatta.

BLADE (HATCHET OR SPOON) – The face of the oar that pushes against the water.

BODY ANGLE – Leaning to the left or to the right in the boat. Ideally, a rower should sit upright for the entire stroke except a slight lean into the rigger at the catch. Improper body angle can result in bad keel.

BOW – End of the boat closest to the direction of travel. See diagram. Also can be used to refer to one-seat, or in conjunction with either four or pair. Bow-four refers to seats four through one. Bow-pair refers to seats two and one.

BUMP – A very crazy race they do only in England. It is what happens when your race course isn’t wide enough for more than one lane.

CATCH – The part of the stroke where the oar enters the water. See How To Take a Stroke.

“CATCH A CRAB” – A serious rowing error, where the oar becomes trapped in the water in such a manner that it is difficult to get it out at the end of the pull-through. It happens when the blade is at the wrong angle and catches the water the wrong way. Usually it slows the boat down only momentarily, but if it is an exceptionally powerful crab, it can even throw the rower out of the shell.

CHECK – Bad technique that slows the boat down. Essentially, the momentum of the rowers sends the boat in the opposite direction.

“CHECK IT DOWN!” – Coxswain call that makes all the rowers drag their oar blades through the water perpendicularly, effectively stopping the boat.

COURSE – A straight race course for rowers that has 4-6 lanes. In high school, the length is 1500 meters, while in college/Olympic events, the length is 2000 meters.

COX-BOX – A small electronic device which aids the coxswain by amplifying his voice, and giving him a readout of various information.


A Cox-Box

COXSWAIN – The crew quarterback. He or she sits in the stern of the shell to steer and give commands to the rowers. The “cox” is in charge from the time the crew picks up the shell in the boathouse until its return to the boat housel

CRAB – Bad technique that has the effect of “checking it down” when the rower doesn’t get his oar out in time.

DRIVE – Part of the stroke where the rower pulls the blade through the water to propel the boat. See How To Take A Stroke.

EIGHTS – Colloquial term used to indicate 8-oared shells, as differentiated from “fours” or “doubles”, etc.

ERG (ERGO/ERGOMETER/ERG MACHINE) – Rowing machine that most closely simulates rowing in a boat.

FEATHERING – Rotating the oar in the oarlock so that the blade is parallel to the surface of the water. See How To Take a Stroke.

FINISH – Part of the stroke after the drive where the blades come out of the water. See How To Take a Stroke.

FOOT STRETCHER – Part of the boat where the shoes are attached and where the rower pushes his legs against on the drive.

GUNWALE (GUNNEL) – The top edge of the sides of the boat.

HEAVYWEIGHT – Heaviest of the three major weight categories in competitive rowing.

“HOLD WATER!” – Coxswain call. Another way of saying “check it down”.

INSIDE HAND – The oarsman’s hand nearest the oarlock. This is the feathering hand.

KEEL – The steadiness of the boat. If the boat alternates leaning from side to side, it is a sign of bad technique.

GATE – The metal rod across the top of the oarlock to keep the oar from coming out of the oarlock.

LAYBACK – Term for how much you lean back at the finish. Too much is bad, too little is, well, bad also.

SLEEVE – A thick piece of leather (or white plastic) around the oar to keep the oarlock from wearing out the wood(fiberglass).

“LET IT RUN!” – Coxswain call for all rowers to stop rowing and to pause at the finish, letting the boat glide through the water and coast to a stop. Used as a drill to build balance.

LEG DRIVE – Term used for driving the legs down on the drive.

LIGHTWEIGHT – Lightest of the three major weight classes in competitive rowing. In high school, the max weight of a rower is 150lbs.

LINES – The ropes held by the coxswain to control the rudder.

LOOM – The part of the oar between the blade and the handle.

MISSING WATER – Bad technique where you aren’t moving the blade through the water as much as you could. Usually caused by not getting the blade in the water soon enough at the catch. Therefore, missed water equals less movement of the boat.

NAPOLEAN COMPLEX – A psychological complex that most coxswains have. Because they are small and in a powerful position, they act like dictators. Sort of the opposite of an inferiority complex.

NOVICE – First time rowers.

OARLOCK – Square latch to hold the oar and provide a fulcrum for the stroke against the rigger.

OARSMAN or OARSWOMAN – Another term for a rower.

OFFICIAL – An official regatta race administrator that follows behind the current race in a motorboat. The official makes sure all boats stay in their designated lanes.

OVER-REACH – A fault committed by an oarsman when he comes to his full reach forward and then attempts to obtain even greater length by releasing his grasp on the handle with his outside hand or by bringing his outside shoulder further forward.

PAIR – A shell rowed by two athletes, each using a single sweep oar.

PORT – Side of the boat to the coxswain’s left and to the rowers’ right. See diagram.

POWER 10 (or 20 or 30 etc.)” – Coxswain call to take a certain number of power strokes. A power stroke is a stroke that musters all the strength you can give.

PUDDLES – A measure of your power (and of run). If your blade leaves behind little dinky ripples, then you’re not pulling hard enough. If you leave tidal waves after you pull your blade out of the water, then you’re pulling just right.

RACE PACE, RATE, or RATING – A stroke rating that you can hold for the entire middle portion of the race.

RECOVERY – Part of the stroke where the rower comes back up the slide slowly towards the catch. See How To Take a Stroke.

REGATTA – An organized crew race.

RELEASE – Another term for finish, the point in the stroke cycle where the blade leaves the water.

REPECHAGE – A race after the heats for those who didn’t qualify. Basically, a second chance to make it to finals. Not normally used at the high school level.

RIGGER – An apparatus on the side of the boat to provide a fulcrum for the lever (oar).

RIGGING – The settings for the riggers to create the perfect stroke. (i.e. pitch, inboard, outboard)

ROLLER – The wheels upon which the seat slide travels along its track.

RUDDER – A little fin on the bottom of the boat that the coxswain can control to steer the boat.

RUN – The distance the boat moves after a stroke. Long run is very good. Run can be visually measured by the distance between the last puddle made by two-seat and where eight-seat’s blade enters the water.

RUSHING THE SLIDE – Bad technique that causes check. Comes from coming towards the catch from the recovery too fast.

SCULLING – Sculling is when each row uses two oars (an oar on each side of the boat).

SCULLER – A rower who sculls.

SHELL – Another term for a boat. Specifically, a boat used in racing.

SKYING – Bad technique where the blade is too high off of the surface of the water at the catch.

SLIDE – The tracks in which the rolling seat rolls .

SPLIT TIME – Projected amount of time it would take to row 500 meters at this specific power at this specific pace. Calculated by erg monitors and cox boxes.

SPRINT – The last part of the race. This is the point where everyone is exhausted, and whoever has the guts to go even faster wins.

STARBOARD – Side of the boat to the coxswain’s right and to the rowers’ left. See diagram.

START (and STARTING CALL ) – When all the boats are aligned, the starter says “We have alignment.” then “Are you ready? Row!” Sometimes there are subtle variations on that.

START SEQUENCE – A sequence of very quick (sometimes short) strokes at the very beginning of the race to shoot out into the lead. For example, starting with five short strokes, then a power 20, and then a 10 to settle down to race pace.

STERN -End of the boat farthest from the direction of travel. See diagram. Also can be used in conjunction with either four or pair. Stern-four refers to seats eight through five. Stern-pair refers to seats eight and seven.

STROKE – One full motion to move a boat. Consists of the catch, drive, finish, and recovery. See How To Take a Stroke. Can also be used to refer to eight-seat.

STROKE RATE – How fast a stroke is being taken. In terms of strokes per minute.

SWEEP – Opposite of scull. Rowing with one oar on one side of the boat.

WAKE – Waves that motorboats leave behind. “Getting waked” in a race means you’re behind a boat, either another shell or an official. Getting waked by an official is very bad. It means you’ve either got a bad official or you’re really far behind in a race.

WALKING – When passing a boat, the cox announces each seat as it is passed.

WASHING OUT – Similar to missing water except it means taking the blade out of the water too soon at the finish.

“WEIGH-ENOUGH!” – Coxswain call to have all rowers stop rowing. Call actually sounds like “way-nuff”.