Marist College Canberra Rowing Club

Coaches Page

Safety First

Like all other aquatic sports, Rowing has some basic necessities in order to prevent loss of life or serious injury. The "Ten Commandments" are :-
1. Rowers should be able to swim at least 100 metres or wear a "Personal Flotation Device" at all times (a type PFD 2 or 3 is recommended).
2. Study, understand and obey the traffic rules, restrictions and hazards of all waterways on which you intend to row, train or race. If in doubt keep to the right side of the waterway when facing in the direction you are travelling in.
3. Never go rowing unaccompanied by a coaching launch on waters where the temperature of the water is below 13 degrees Celsius.
4. Asses the weather conditions before rowing. Do not row if a lightning storm appears imminent or where visibility is poor e.g. fog, heavy rain.
5. All shells navigating between dusk and sunrise must carry a white light clearly visible over 360 degrees. Coxless boat crews should check their course regularly and be wary of craft that might change course without notice. Coaches must hold current Waterways Boat Driver's Licence.
6. Review the weather forecast before rowing in inclement conditions. If in doubt always seek the advice of an experienced coach or rower.
7. Protect yourself from the effects of extreme heat and sun. Avoid training in temperatures in excess of 30 degress Celsius; drink water up to the rate of 250ml per 15 minutes of exercise; wear a hat, long sleeve training top, water resistant sun block & sunglasses (with an Australian Standard AS rating).
8. In cold weather, dress to retain body warmth in order to prevent injuries and/or illness e.g. hat, tights, thermal long sleeve tops.
9. Make sure you have adequately warmed up prior to any strenuous training session or race.
10. Shower after each outing and only wear freshly laundered attire for each training session. Hygiene is of paramount importance.


Boats or shells were traditionally made from wood, but are now mostly fabricated from carbon fibre and plastic (eg. kevlar). They are 597 to 622 mm wide, and from 8.2 metres to 19.9 metres long. A small fin is fitted at the bottom for stability. A rudder is attached to the fin or the stem (except on sculling boats). A white ball is attached to the bow (safety measure, photo-finish). A washboard prevents waves from splashing water aboard. Seats are fitted with wheels which roll on tracks called slides.


There are nine classes of boat, of which five are for sweep-oared rowing in which the rower uses one oar with both hands, and three are for sculling in which two sculls are used, one in each hand.
Some classes carry a coxswain who either sits in the stern or lies in the bow to steer the boat. The boat classes are:
  Approx. Length Minimum Weight
Sculling boats   
1x = Single sculling skiff 8.2 m (27 ft) 14 kg (30.8 lbs)
2x = Double sculling boat 10.4 m (34 ft) 27 kg (59 lbs)
4x = Quadruple sculling boat 13.4 m (44 ft) 52 kg (114 lbs)
4x+ = Coxed Quadruple scull 13.7 m (45 ft) 53 kg (114 lbs)
Sweep oared boats   
2- = Coxless pair oar boat 10.4 m (34 ft) 27 kg (59 lbs)
2+ = Coxed pair oar boat 10.4 m (34 ft) 32 kg (70 lbs)
4- = Coxless four oar boat 13.4 m (44 ft) 50 kg (110 lbs)
4+ = Coxed four oar boat 13.7 m (45 ft) 51 kg (112 lbs)
8+ = Eight oar boat 19.9 m (62 ft) 96 kg (211 lbs)
Eights are constructed in two sections which bolt together (to facilitate transportation). The maximum length of a section of an Eight is 11.9 metres.

Oars are hollow to reduce weight, attached to the boat by adjustable outriggers. The size and shape of oars is unrestricted, the average length of a sweep oar being 3.81 m (12 feet 6 inches) and of a scull being 2.98 m (9 feet 9 inches).


The boats are aligned from the side of the course by the starter who gives instructions over a loud speaker to either touch (take small strokes) the boat forward or to back down. The starter when satisfied that crews are on the line gives the command <<attention>> which is followed by a horn blast which is the starting signal. A false start is indicated by the Umpire waving a red flag and the crews are then recalled to the start.
The jurisdiction of the Umpire (who supervises the race from a speedboat) extends from the time the crews are assembling at the start until the coxswain's weight (if applicable) has been checked at the finish. All directives of the Umpire must be obeyed and failure to do so can lead to disqualification and other disciplinary sanctions being imposed.
At the finish as each crew crosses the line a horn is sounded and the finishing order and margins are recorded by the Judges.
All crews and scullers must carry approved lane numbers fitted to the bows of their boats.
The Referee together with the Jury (all other Boat Race Officials) are responsible for receiving, hearing and adjudicating on any protest, appeal or unforeseen matter in accordance with the Laws of Boat Racing.

Glossary of Rowing Terms (Rowing NSW website)

Blade: flattened or spoon-shaped end of oar or scull; often used as term for oar
Bow: forward end of boat
Bow (man): the rower or sculler in the seat nearest the bow
Bow ball: safety ball fitted to sharp stem of racing boat
Bowside (starboard): all the rowers whose oars are in the water on the right hand side of the boat when viewed from the stern
Button: Leather or plastic sheath on oar or scull to prevent it from slipping through the rowlock; adjustable on modern oars
Cadence: Uniform stroke rate
Canvas: the canvas on fore and aft decks of a boat; in race verdicts, the distance between the bow ball and the sneak.
Catch: the part of the stroke when the blade is put in the water
Cockpit: space for a person in a racing boat
Coxswain (cox): steers the boat from a seat in the stern or a lying position in the bow
Crab: occurs when rower fails to get the oar out of the water at the end of the stroke; can result in the rower being ejected by the oar from boat to water
Crew: rowers who man a boat
Crewing: American college term for rowing
Deck: covered-over areas at bow and stern of boat
Drive: see Pull-through
Feather: to turn the blade parallel with the water surface at the start of the recovery to reduce wind resistance
Fin: small flat plate perpendicular to the bottom of the boat to aid steering a straight course
Finish (release): the part of the stroke just before and as the blade is takenout of the water
FISA: Federation Internationale des Societes d'Aviron; the International Rowing Federation.
Frontloader: a boat in which the coxswain lies in the bows
Gate: bar across a rowlock to retain the oar
German rig: an eight, rigged so that the outriggers or seats # 4 & 5 are on the same side, while the others alternate
Gig: inboard-or outboard-rigged pleasure or racing boat with straight gunwales
Gunwale: horizontal plank at the top of the hull running the length of the boats cockpit
Hands away: the act of dropping the oar handle at the finish of the stoke so that the blade leaves the water and is feathered at the start of the recovery; sometimes referred to as "out of bow"
Inboard: the distance between the far end of the handle of an oar or scull and the face of the button. The remainder is called the outboard
Italian rig: an eight rigged so that the bow seat and stroke seat outriggers are on the same side, with the others alternating from side to side in pairs
Keel: member running along the centre line of a wooden boat to which the ribs and knees are attached
Knee: wooden support connecting keel, gunwale, washboard and outrigger
Layback: the amount of backward lean of the rower's body towards the bow at the finish
Loom: the shaft or part of the oar between the blade and the handle
Length: the length of a boat (i.e. "won by a length")
Oar: a leaver approximately 3800 mm long by which the rower pulls against the rowlock to move the boat through the water; sometimes used as a shortened form of oarsman
Oarlock: see Rowlock
Outrigger (rigger): a metal framework or a carbon-fibre reinforced arm to support the rowlock which is placed approximately 760 mm from the centre of the boat
Port: stroke side, the left-hand side of the boat when facing the bow
Puddles: whirls left in the water caused by the blade as the rower pulls
Pull-through: the part of the stroke between the catch and the finish
Rating (beat): the rate of striking, or the number of strokes per minute that a crew is rowing.
Recovery: the part of the stroke cycle between the finish and the catch in which the oar is feathered and the seat is returned to the aft end of the slide
Regatta: a competitive event raced in boats [regata - Venetian; perhaps from riga (line), aurigare (to compete in a race), ramigium (rowing)]
Release: the finish of the stroke removing the oar from the water.
Repechage: a second heat to afford another chance of qualifying to those running second best in preliminary heats
Rhythm: the proportion of time occupied on the recovery to the time taken on the pull through
Ribs: members between the keel and gunwale for supporting the hull
Rig see German rig, Italian rig, Standard rig
Rigger: see Outrigger; Eaton name for a sculling boat
Rowing (sweep rowing): using one oar or sweep: see also crew
Rowing Ergometer: A rowing machine to measure the metabolism rate or amount of energy expended during work measured in ergs (unit of work).
Rowlock (rollock oarlock): a device which swivels on the end of the outrigger to support the oar
Rudder: steering device attached vertically to the stern or under the huII of a shell
Run: the distance a boat travels in one stroke
Saxboard: the top strake of a boat, usually of heavier planking, which carries the outriggers or rowlocks; see Gunwale
Sculling: using two oars or sculls
Sculls: a short oar used in each hand for single, double, and quad sculling boats
Shell: smooth-bottomed racing boat; ((light shells made of wood)) (Samuel Hearne, 1776); ((light narrow racing boat)) (USA 1873); ((the floating part of a racing boat)) (Oxford English Dictionary, 1895)
Shoulder: reinforcement structure in the cockpit to support the attachment of outriggers
Skiff: racing boat for single sculler (North of England); clinker pleasure boat for several passengers, sculled by one, two or three persons (River Thames)
Slide: parallel rails on which the seat which moves on wheels
Standard rig: uniform alternation of outriggers (and therefore oars and rowers) in the boat; the rower in the seat nearest the stern is usually on stoke side
Starboard: bow side, the right-hand side of the boat when facing the bow
Stateroom: see Cockpit
Stern: the rear or aft of the boat
Stretcher: a frame with straps or shoes to anchor the rower's feet
Stroke: the complete cycle of moving the boat through the water using oars or sculls; the rower seated nearest the stern
Stroke side (port): all the rowers whose oars are in the water on the left hand side of the boat when viewed from the stern
Sweep: long oars with narrow blades: see also Rowing
Swivel: a square or round pivoting rowlock
Varsity: the first crew of an American university
Wale: rounded piece of wood fixed to saxboard: see also, Gunwale
Washboard: a narrow strake placed round a boat to keep water out
Washing: creating difficulties for another boat with waves (wake) from the stern
Washing out: occurs when the blade comes out of the water during the pull-through before the finish
Wherry: Thames River ferry powered by oars


In a race, everything from the equipment used to the rowers' movements in the boat can affect the outcome. A few of the components that have this influence are propulsion, center of mass, resistance, kinetic energy, and speed variation. Maximization of stroke can be brought about through an understanding of each component.
In order to understand the physics behind rowing, it is first important to grasp a few basics about rowing.
A racing boat's hull is approximately 1/8" to 1/4" thick to make it as light as possible. This is why, instead of referring to racing boats' bodies as hulls, people call them shells. These shells are long and narrow, with different boat sizes being made for different rowers' weights. Most shells are made of wood, Kevlar, fiberglass, or carbon fiber.

There are two distinct disciplines in rowing. In sweep rowing each rower concentrates all of their power on one, larger blade, and in sculling each rower divides their strength over two, smaller blades. There are one, two, or four people in a scull, whereas there are two, four, or eight people in a sweep oared shell.

All rowers face the back of the boat, which requires either a coxswain in front to steer the boat or one of the rowers to have a foot controlled steering mechanism. In this instance, that rower must occasionally twist his head to see in what direction the boat needs to be steered. A combination of back, muscles, and legs provides the power necessary to drive the shell. Rowers insert their feet into stationary shoes, and sit on a sliding seat. The oar is held in place by a rigger just outside of the boat.


The stroke is made up of the catch, in which oars are placed in the water; pull through or drive, in which the legs are extended and the body opens up to make maximum use of the slide, levering the boat forwards; the finish, in which oars come out of the water; and recovery, in which the rower's body moves towards the stern in preparation for the next stroke. Oars are rotated onto the feather parallel to the water surface at the finish to minimise air resistance and to the vertical at the catch to maximise water resistance.