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Rowing is propelling a boat by means of oars. The purpose can be transportation, recreation or sport.

Table of contents
1 Rowing sport
2 History
3 Competition Format
4 One Stroke
5 Rowing Terminology

Rowing sport

Rowing is a speed sport in narrow wooden or composite boats, where the athlete sits on a sliding seat above the water level and faces backwards, using oars operating as levers of the second type to move the boat. This may be done on a river or on the sea. Outriggers are used to increase the leverage of the oars. The outriggers must be fixed to the boat. We distinguish between rowing or sweep rowing (one oar per rower) and sculling (two oars per rower). Rowing boats can be coxed (steered by a coxswain) or coxless.

Rowers may take part in the sport for their leisure or they may competitively row. If they chose to compete they have the option of racing in a regatta or a head. A regatta is a race where the competitors are rowing along side each other. They start at the same time from a stationary position and the winner will cross the finish line first. The winner will then race again in the next round until all competitors have been beaten. This usually takes place in the summer. In a head race there is a rolling start and a crew will row as hard as they can to the finish. Each competitor will be timed and the winner is the fastest crew, this may take place in the winter.

Rowing is unusual in the demands it places on competitors. The standard race distance of 2,000m is long enough to have a large endurance element, but short enough (typically 5.5 to 7.5 minutes) to feel like a sprint. This means that rowers have some of the highest power outputs of athletes in any sport. At the same time the motion involved in the sport compresses the rowers' lungs, limiting the amount of oxygen available to them. This requires rowers to tailor their breathing to the stroke, typically inhaling and exhaling twice per stroke, unlike most other sports such as cycling where competitors can breathe freely.

The relative obscurity of rowing has helped it develop an introspective atmosphere, where long hours, early mornings on the river, and the physical pain of the event are the price of being a part of the rowing community. The intense focus of top rowers on their sport is unusual even by the standard of similarly excellent competitors in other sports.

One piece of equipment commonly used when training for rowing, the 'indoor rower' or 'ergometer', has become popular as a sport in its own right.


Rowing boats (or similar vessels) have been around for centuries, but before the 18th century, there is little mention of boat races. In the 13th century, Venetian festivals called regata included boat races among others. Nowadays, rowing competitions are still called regattas (with a second 't' added).

The first modern rowing races, in the second half of the 18th century, were races between watermen on the River Thames in England. Subsequently, rowing became extremely popular as an amateur sport, often with thousands of spectators for events. From the first University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge on the River Thames (known as the Isis when flowing through Oxford), student rowing has become increasingly popular. In the Anglo-Saxon world, there is also a sizeable school rowing community.

Rowing today is governed by the Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d'Aviron (FISA, International Federation of Rowing Associations), which organises World Championships since 1962. Rowing has also been conducted at the Olympic Games since 1900 (cancelled at the first modern Games in 1896).

Strong rowing nations include the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany, Australia. Well-known rowers of the recent years include Sir Steve Redgrave (UK), who won Olympic golds in five successive Olympics in the coxless pair and the coxless four, Rob Waddell (New Zealand) and Xeno Muller (Switzerland), opponents in the single sculls, Ekaterina Karsten (Belarus) in women's single sculls, Katrin Boron (Germany) in women's double sculls and quadruples.

Competition Format

At World Championship level, sculling races include :

and sweep oar rowing races include:

There are also lightweight men's (<72.5kg) and lightweight women's (<57.5kg) races in the aforementioned classes. All races are held over 2000 metres.

Coxed fours and coxed pairs are to longer Olympic events. It is rumored that this decision was made to make room for the lightweight men's and women's competition at the Olympics. As a result of the cancelation of the coxed fours and coxed pairs at the Olympics, rowers take less interest in rowing those types of boats at World Championships as well.

At national, regional and local levels, Masters rowers (those 27 and up who have not won major competitions in the last year) generally race over a 1000-meter distance.

One Stroke

Rowing Terminology