25th November 2019

Glossary of Rowing Terms

Back down. Term used to describe using a reverse rowing action to manoeuvre the 

boat backwards or for turning. 

Backstay. The back brace of a rigger that locks the pin in position to maintain pitch

 (not found on wing rigger boats.) 

Backstops. The end of the slide nearest the bow. Prevents the seat from running off 

the slide. Also used to describe the position at which the rower sits with their legs 

straight and blade handles to the body. 

Blade. An oar.

Button. The plastic circular section of the oar that’s pressed against the swivel when rowing. 

Bow. End of the boat that travels through the water first and is sharpest. This is also the name given to the rower who sits in the seat position nearest this end of the boat and normally steers.

Bow ball. Ball shaped safety cap that sits over the bow end of the boat. Compulsory on all rowing boats for safety of other water users. 

Bow loader. A boat where the cox sits at the front (bow) of the boat. 

Bow side. The left hand side of the boat (starboard) from the point of view of the rower.  Often marked by a green strip on the blade  

Burst. A small number of strokes (usually lasting less than a minute) taken at full pressure & full effort in training. 

Canvas. The covered section of the boat from the bow to the open area (where the rower sits) and from the open area to the stern. Often used as a description of how much a race was won or lost by. 

Catch. The moment at which the spoon of the blade is immersed in the water and propulsive force or foot pressure is applied. Immersion and force application should be indistinguishable actions. The Catch is also called the beginning. 

Cleaver. Type of blade that has a spoon in the shape of a meat cleaver. 

Collar. Plastic sleeve fixed to the oar that the button circles. Button can be moved along the collar to adjust blade gearing. 

Come forward. Verbal instruction used by the cox or rower to bring the crew to frontstops

position ready to row. 

Connection. Used to describe the link between the power of a rower’s legs to the force applied to the spoon of the blade Should be made as soon as the catch is taken and held through the trunk muscles for the length of the work section of the stroke. 

Cox. Person who steers the boat by means of strings or wires attached to the rudder. The cox can be positioned either in the stern or the bow of the boat. 

Coxless. Boat without a cox.

Crab. When the oar becomes caught in the water at the moment of extraction and the blade handle strikes the rower. Often causes unintentional release of the blade and significant slowing of boat speed. 

Double. Boat for two scullers.

Drive. This is the power phase of the stroke, the part of the stroke between the catch and the extraction, when the blade is in the water and propelling the boat. The drive refers the pressure applied by the feet to the stretcher plate as the legs straighten and the seat slides back towards the backstops.

Easy oar/off. Verbal instruction given by cox or rower for crew to stop rowing. 

Eight. Boat for eight sweep rowers. Will always have a cox.

Ergo. Indoor rowing machine used for training. 

Extraction. The removal of the blade from the water by application of downward pressure to the blade handle. In sweep, this is done with the outside hand on the blade handle. 

Feather. Blade spoon is flat/parallel to the water. This is the position of the blade spoon for 

the recovery section of the stroke. Rower must be careful to fully extract the blade before feathering. 

Fin. A piece of metal or plastic attached to the underside of the boat towards the 

stern. Provides directional stability by preventing sideways slippage. 

Finish. The last part of the stroke where the blade handle is drawn in to the body. 

Following this (assuming clean extraction), the boat will be at its maximum speed. 

Force must be applied to the spoon right to the finish so that water does not catch up 

with the spoon. 

Firm. Term used to suggest that the rower is applying full pressure to the power 

phase of their rowing stroke. 

FISA. The Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Aviron is the international rowing federation. The Federation is responsible for all international racing and rules. Organises a series of three world cup regattas, an annual World Championship and the World Coastal Championships.

Fixed seat. Either a description used to differentiate a boat without a sliding seat 

mechanism or the rower rowing arms and/or body only and therefore not moving 

their seat. 

Four. Boat for four sweep rowers. Can be coxed or coxless. 

Frontstop. The end of the slide nearest the stern. Prevents the seat from running off 

the slide. Also used to describe the position at which the rower sits at the front of the slide with their legs at 90˚. 

Gate. The metal bar, tightened by a screw that closes over the swivel to secure oar. 

Gearing. Term used to describe the ratio of inboard to outboard on the blade that determines how much power the rower can apply through the water.

Head race. Race in which crews are timed over a set distance. Usually run as a processional race rather than side by side.

Heel restraints. Attached to the heels of the shoes and to the front plate. Compulsory safety feature that helps the rower to release their feet from the shoe in the event of a capsize.

Height. Measurement of distance from seat to point of work at the centre of the bottom edge of the swivel.

Hold it up. Verbal instruction meaning to bring the boat to a stop quickly. Perform an emergency stop.

Inboard. The length/section of the blade from the end of the handle to the button at the point where it will sit against the swivel.

Length. Length of stroke – the arc through which the blade turns when it is in the water, from catch to finish.

Loom. The shaft of the blade from the spoon to the handle.

Macon. Type of blade that has the traditional shape spoon. Often used by beginners.

Novice. Term used to describe someone who has very little rowing experience. Or someone who has not won in a points race.

Oar. See Blade.

Outboard. The length/section of the blade from the tip of the spoon to the button, at the point where it will sit against the swivel.

Overlap. The amount by which the scull handles overlap when a rower holds them horizontally at right angles to the boat. 

Pair. Boat for two sweep rowers.

Pin. The spindle on which the swivel rotates.

Pitch. Angle of inclination of the spoon to the vertical during the propulsive phase of the stroke. This is dictated by the stern and lateral pitch.

Pressure. The amount of effort applied by the rower to the power phase of the stroke. (usually light, ½, ¾, firm or full). 

Points.  Awarded to athletes for winning races. Number of points determines the status of the rower. See the British Rowing Rules of Racing for more details.

Port. Right hand side of the boat from the point of view of the rower (or left hand side in terms of the direction of travel). Also known as Stroke side.

Posture. Position of back and shoulder muscles during the stroke cycle. 

Power phase. The part of the stroke between the catch and the extraction, when the blade is in the water and propelling the boat.

Quad. Boat for four scullers.

Rate. Or rating. Number of strokes rowed in a minute.

Ratio. The ratio of the time taken for the power phase to that of the recovery phase of the stroke. Ideally time taken for the recovery will be about three times that of the power phase.

Recovery. The part of the stroke phase between the extraction and the catch, when the blade is out of the water.

Regatta. A competition with events for different boat types and status athletes, usually involving heats, semi-finals and finals for each event. Boats compete side by side from a standing start.

Rhythm. (Good) Optimum ratio.

Riggers. Metal outriggers attached to the outer shell of the boat, next to each seat, that support the swivel and the pin. There are currently several different designs of rigger from two or three stay metal or carbon tubing to metal or carbon wings.

Rigging. The way in which the riggers, slides, swivel, pins, foot plate, oars and sculls can be adjusted to optimise rower comfort and efficiency.

Rigger jigger. A small spanner used for attaching and adjusting riggers.

Rudder. The device under the boat which, when moved, causes change of direction. Linked to the steering mechanism – could via be hand wires to the cox or to a rower’s footsteering.

Running start. A racing start undertaken with the boat already moving.

Saxboard. The sides of the boat above the water line, made to strengthen the boat where the riggers attach.

Scull. Smaller version of the oar used for sculling.

Sculling. Rowing with two oars.

Shell. The smooth hull of the boat. Sometimes made from wood but now more commonly made from a synthetic material. 

Single. Boat for one rower.

Slide. Two metal runners on which the seat travels.

Span. The distance between the centres of the bow (starboard) & stroke side (port) swivel on a sculling boat.

Spin turn. Term used to describe turning the boat on its axis.

Spoon. The end of the oar which enters the water. Usually painted in the colours of the club represented by the rower.

Square or squaring. To turn the oar so that the spoon is at 90 degrees to the water. This action should be done early during the recovery to ensure good preparation for the catch.

Stage. Or Landing Stage – this is the area at the water’s edge, made of wooden boards at Trentham, where rowers enter and exit their boats.

Stakeboat. An anchored boat or pontoon from which rowing boats are held prior to a race starting.

Standing start. A racing start done from stationary.

Starboard. Left hand side of the boat from the viewpoint of the rower or right in direction of travel (bowside). Often marked by a green stripe on the blade.

Status. Levels of racing determined by the number of times a rower has won a race. Rowers are awarded points for each race they win. In a crew boat, status is determined by the total number of points the crew has. See the British Rowing Rules of Racing for more details.

Stern. The end of the boat that travels through the water last.

Stern loader. A boat where the cox sits at the back (stern) of the boat.

Sternpitch. Sternwards angle of inclination of the pin to the vertical.

Stroke. One cycle of the oar. Also, the rower who sits closes to the stern of the boat in front of all the others and is responsible for the rating and rhythm of the boat.

Stroke side. The right hand side of the boat from the viewpoint of the rower (port). Often marked by a red stripe on the oar.

Stretcher. A metallic or carbon plate inside the boat to which the shoes are attached. Secured with adjustable screws.

Sweep. Rowing with one oar per person on one side of the boat.

Swivel. The U shaped plastic rotating piece mounted on the pin, in which the oar sits whilst rowing.

Tap down. To lower the hands at the end of the stroke to remove the spoon from the water.

Tap turn. Term used to describe a method of turning the boat where each rower uses a forward or backwards rowing action with their arms only.

Trestles. Portable stands used to support a boat out of the water, for rigging, washing, checking etc.