Rowers use a lot of specific terminology to describe their sport. Here are some of the most important terms.

Glossary of Terms

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

The person who steers the shell and is the on-the-water coach for the crew. Coxswains are generally light and petite; most typically weighing well under 130lbs (lighter weight means rowers have less to pull through the water as they row)

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 Footstretcher

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/her must follow his/her 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.