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Rowing Terms

Air stroke A rower error where the oar's blade is not completely in the water. This results in a complete lack of power and a lot of splashing.
Alignment The process of lining up each shell's bow ball prior to the start of a race so that they are level.
At the catch Command to tell the rowers to put their oars in water in preparation to start rowing.
Backsplash The water thrown back toward the bow by the oar's blade as it enters the water during the catch. A proper catch should throw a small amount of water.
Backstop Refers to the bow ending of the track a rower's seat slides on. The wheels of the seat should almost reach the backstop at the finish of each stroke.
Backwater To propel the shell backwards.
Ambidextrous A sweep rower adept at rowing both the port and starboard sides. Also know as "bisweptual". 
Blade The hatchet or spoon-shaped end of the oar. Usually painted in the colors of the club represented by the athlete. 
Body angle Amount of forward lean of rower’s body from hips at the catch.
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 ball A small rubber ball attached to the bow of each shell. Used as a safety device and for determining which crew crosses the finish line first during a close race.
Bow number A card attached near the bow of each shell that identifies which lane the crew is assigned to.
Bow pair The pair of sweep rowers in the bow of the boat. This would be seats 1 and 2 in an eight or a four. The bow pair has the most effect on the set of the boat.
Bowloader Refers to a type of boat (usually a four) where the coxswain rides lying down beneath the bow decking so only the head is visible. The bow-coxed configuration reduces wind resistance and provides improved weight distribution. Most racing fours are bowloaders.
Bucket rig A way of rigging a shell so that two consecutive rowers row on the same side. Both double and triple buckets are possible. Also known as a "Continental",  "Italian", or "German" rigging.
Buoy Colored flotation devices that mark lanes and other various areas of the race course. Also used for marking hazards.
Bury the blade Submerge the blade totally in the water.
Button A wide collar on the sleeve of the oar that keeps the oar from slipping through the oarlock. Also called a collar.
Cadence The rowing stroke tempo. In a coxed boat, the coxswain often calls the cadence to keep the rowers synchronized.
Catch The moment the blade enters the water and initiates the drive of each stroke. The rower is at full compression up the slide and tries to reach as far as possible to obtain a long stroke. The boat is at its greatest moment of instability during the catch, placing a premium on balance.
Check The reverse momentum resulting from the crew's body weight moving toward the stern during the recovery. Check is unavoidable but can be minimized through proper technique for optimal speed.
Check it down and  hold water A coxswain's call that commands all rowers to drag their blades through the water perpendicularly, braking the boat.
CLAM Short for Clip-on Load Adjusting Mechanism. A CLAM is a device that snaps on and off the sleeve of an oar to quickly adjust the inboard rig. Typically by 1 cm per CLAM.
Collar A wide collar on the sleeve of the oar that keeps the oar from slipping through the oarlock. Also called a button.
Course A straight area of a body of water, typically four to eight lanes wide, marked with buoys for rowing competitions. An Olympic® course is 2,000 meters. High school races are usually 1,500 meters. An exception is the head race, which can be much longer (three miles or more) and follow a winding river course.
Cover The distance between the 2-seat's puddle on one stroke and the stroke seat's puddle on the following stroke. The greater the distance, the more speed the crew has. Also called spacing.
Cox box A battery-operated electronic device that combines a digital stroke rate monitor and elapsed time readout with a voice amplifier; the coxswain uses the cox box to manage the race and to make his or her commands more audible to the crew. The coxswain typically wears a headband-mounted microphone, which is attached by a wire to the cox box.
Coxless A shell designed for rowing without a coxswain. Usually in a pair or a four.
Coxswain, cox Person (usually small) who steers the shell and coaches for the crew on the water.

Crab, or catching a crab

A rowing error where the rower is unable to timely remove or release the oar blade from the water and the oar blade acts as a brake on the boat until it is removed from the water. This results in slowing the boat down. A severe crab can even eject a rower (colloquially an "ejector crab") from the shell or capsize the boat (unlikely except in small boats). Occasionally, in a severe crab, the oar handle will knock the rower flat and end up behind them, in which case it is referred to as an "over-the-head crab".
Crew American term for the sport of competitive rowing. Also used to refer to a particular rowing team. The term crew is used in American schools and colleges to designate the sport of rowing. When outside of the academic sphere, the sport is known as rowing, as in the United States Rowing Association. The British and European universities and schools have rowing clubs and not crew clubs (or varsity crew). When you use the term crew you shouldn't use it along with the term team. Traditionally, crew means a team of rowers. To say crew team is redundant. 
Deck The closed-over portion of the hull at the bow and stern. The deck sheds water and strengthens the hull. 
Digging Rower error when the blade of the oar goes deeper in the water than it should, slowing the boat down. Also called Dig Deep or Knife-in.
Double (2x) A sculling boat for two rowers.
Drive The portion of the stroke that propels the boat through the water. The drive starts at the catch and ends with the release. The main power from the drive is generated by the rower's legs pushing off the foot stretchers.
Eight (8+) A sweep boat for eight rowers and a coxswain.
Engine room The rowers located in the middle of a boat. For an eight, these would be seats 6, 5, 4, and 3. Generally the largest and most powerful rowers of the boat
Ergometer Also called an 'erg'. The indoor rowing machine used for land-based fitness training.
Feather, Feathering The act of rotating the oar at the finish so that the oar's blade is parallel to the water during the recovery. The opposite of the squared position.
Finish The end of the drive when the rower removes the oar from the water and then feathers. Also called the release.
FISA The international governing body for competitive rowing, including Olympic® rowing, founded in 1892. The acronym stands for the official French name: Federation Internationale des Societes d'Aviron. In English: International Federation of Rowing Societies.
Flutter A racing tactic sometimes used during the body of the race, which is essentially a second start sequence to build up the speed of the shell. This is extremely taxing on the crew and is usually only used in desperation.
Foot stretcher The adjustable footplate, typically with attached shoes, that allows the rower to adjust their position in the shell relative to the oarlock.
Four (4+ or 4-) A sweep boat for four rowers. Can come with or without a coxswain.
Frontstop Refers to the stern ending of the track a rower's seat slides on. The wheels of the seat should almost reach the frontstop at the catch of each stroke.
Frontstops The fully compressed position with legs bent at the start of the stroke as the oar enters the water.  The starting position in a standing start race.
Gate The bar across the oarlock that keeps the oar in place.
Grand final Finals at a regatta for places 1 through 6. Also called A Final.
Gunwales The top rails of the shell. Pronounced - 'gunnels'
Handle Part of the oar that rowers hold on to during each stroke.
Hands away At the close of the drive phase, the hands move away from the body
Hanging at the catch The blade is hesitating at the catch point, before entering the water.
Head race Type of race where crews start in a single file line and race for time. Longer than sprint races, head races range from 4k to 10k and are usually run on rivers during the fall season.
Heat A qualifying race within a specific race category (e.g. men's youth 8+)
Hot seating When two crews share the same shell, during a regatta, sometimes it is necessary for the crews to switch at the finish line without taking the boat from the water.  Also used to describe a rower who has very little between race events.
Hull The body of the shell.
Inside hand The rowers' hand nearest the oar lock. This is the feathering hand.
Jumping the slide A problem where the seat becomes derailed from the track while rowing.
Keel The center line of the hull.
Launch A motorboat used by rowing coaches and referees. Also called the coach boat.
Lay-back Term for how much you lean back at the finish. Too much is bad, too little is, well, bad also.
Leg drive Power applied to the stroke, at the catch, by the force of driving the legs down. Something often yelled from the coach boat.
Length It refers to a margin in racing equal to the length of a boat.  It can also refer to a crew's or individual's rowing style.
Let it run Coxswain's call for all rowers to stop rowing, permitting the boat to glide through the water. Used after the boat crosses the finish line, and during drills to improve lateral balance.
Load Refers to the rigging parameters on the riggers and oars, which can be adjusted to either lighten or increase the load. In a headwind, a coach might lighten the load to help the athletes maintain rhythm and endurance; in a tailwind, a coach might increase the load to give the rowers a better bite.
Lunge An abrupt lean of the body just before the catch.  This can throw a rower out of synch with the rest of the crew.
Megaphone Device formally used by coxswains to communicate with the rowers. These were replaced by the invention of the coxbox. Megaphones are also used by coaches to communicate with the crew.
Missing water A rower error where the rower begins the leg drive before the catch has been completed. 
Novice Any rower during their first season of competition.
Oar A device used to drive the boat forward. An oar consists of several parts, in order from rower to water: Handle, shaft, sleeve, collar, shaft, and blade. The oar attaches to the boat at the oarlock.
Oarlock The u-shaped lock at the end of the rigger.  It attaches the oar to the shell. The oarlock allows the rower to rotate the oar between the squared and feathered positions.
Off keel An unbalanced boat. Also known as unset.
Outside hand The hand of a rower that is placed on the end of the oar handle.
Over reach A fault done by a rower when they comes to their full reach forward and then attempt to obtain even greater length by releasing their grasp on the handle with their outside hand or by bringing their outside shoulder further forward.
Pair (2+ or 2-) A sweep boat for two rowers. Can come with or without a coxswain.
Petite final Finals at a regatta for places 7 through 12. Also called B Final.
Piece A practice term that signifies a specific interval during a workout. For example, "The third piece of the 5 by 5 minutes was our best."
Pin The vertical metal rod on which the oarlock rotates.
Pitch The angle between a squared blade and a line perpendicular to the water's surface. The standard pitch is around 4 degrees.
Pogies A type of glove with holes on the ends which allow the rower to row with bare hands on the handle during cold weather.
Port The left side of the boat when facing forward (toward the bow); to the coxswain's left and the rowers' right.
Port rigged A boat rigged so that the stroke seat is a port rower. This is the typical rigging configuration for sweep boats.
Power 10 A call by the coxswain for the crew to row the next 10 strokes at maximal effort in an attempt to increase boat speed and take water on the opponent.
Puddles The water swirls left by oars during the stroke.
Pull through The portion of the stroke from the catch to the finish (when the oar is in the water). This is the propulsive part of the stroke.
Quad (4x) A sculling boat for four rowers.

Race pace

A strokes per minute rating that a rower or boat is capable of sustaining for an entire race.
Rating The number of strokes per minute taken by a crew.  Also called Stroke Rate.
Ratio The relationship between the time taken between the drive and recovery portions of the stroke. A good ratio will have about twice as much time taken during the recovery as the drive.
Recovery The portion of the stroke after the rower releases the oar from the water and returns to the catch position.
Regatta An organized crew competition. 
Release The end of the drive when the rower removes the oar from the water and then feathers. Also called the finish.
Repêchage A race for boats who did not qualify for the final or semi-final outright from their heat but were close enough to merit a second chance, usually with the top two or three boats qualifying.
Rib The u-shaped structures in the boat that the hull and riggers attach to.
Rig The act of assembling a boat or a term used to describe how the boat is set up (port rig vs starboard rig).
Rigger The triangular-shaped metal device that bolts onto the side of the boat and holds the oars. A shortened version of the term outrigger.
Title of the person in charge of rigging and de-rigging shells.
Rolling start A race start in which boats are timed from a starting point at which they are already traveling at full speed.
Rudder Adjacent to the skeg, this is used to steer the boat.  The rudder can be controlled by the coxswain, or by one of the rowers in some boats via cables.
Run The distance the shell moves during one stroke. This can be seen by looking at the distance between the puddles made by the same oar
Rush A rower error where the rower moves toward the stern during the recovery before the rest of the crew. This increases the amount of check during each stroke.
Scull An oar made to be used in a sculling boat where each rower has two oars, one per hand; or a boat (shell) that is propelled using sculling oars.
Sculler A rower who rows with two oars. One in each hand.
Sculling One of the two disciplines of rowing. In sculling each rower uses two oars (one in each hand) to move the boat.
Seat Molded seat mounted on wheels that the rower sits on. The seat rolls on tracks which allow each rower to generate power with their legs.
Seating Seating positions in a racing shell are generally numbered from the bow to the stern in English-speaking countries, unlike many non-English-speaking countries which count from the Stroke forward. Generally, the forwardmost rower is called the "Bow" and the aftmost rower the "Stroke", regardless of the number of rowers in the boat, with all other seats simply being numbered. So, for instance, the crew of an eight would number off from the bow: "Bow", "Two", "Three", "Four", "Five", "Six", "Seven", "Stroke", whereas a four or a quad would number off: "Bow", "Two", "Three", "Stroke".
Seat race A coach's tool for comparing two rowers. Two boats race against each other once. One rower from each boat switches positions and the two boats race again. Relative performance in the two races is used to compare the abilities of the two rowers.
Set The boat's balance. A delicate state influenced by each rower's body lean, timing, and rowing technique, and by the boat's design. An unset boat will lean to either port or starboard.
Settle Refers to a downshift in stroke rate after the start of a sprint race. Crews use the settle to get to their base stroke rating they will row for the body of the race.
Shaft The part of the oar between the sleeve and the blade. Comprises the majority of the length of the oar. Also called the loom.
Shell Another name for the boat
Shooting the slide When a rower's seat moves toward the bow faster than their shoulders.
Single (1x) A sculling boat for one rower.
Skeg A thin piece of flat metal or plastic that helps stabilize the shell and maintain a straight course in the water.  It is often positioned so that it protects the rudder.  Also known as a fin.
Skying A blade that is too high off the surface of the water during the recovery. The rower's hands are too low causing an upset to the balance of the boat (the "set").
Sleeve A thin piece of plastic around the oar that keeps the oarlock from wearing out the shaft of the oar.
Slides Rails that the rower's seat rolls on. Also called tracks.
Slide jump A rower error where a rower leaves their seat and knocks the seat off the tracks.
Sling Portable folding boat holders. Two are required to hold a boat and are seen frequently at regattas.
Spacing The distance between the 2-seat's puddle on one stroke and the stroke seat's puddle on the following stroke. The greater the distance, the more speed the crew has. Also called cover.
Speed coach A GPS-based module that provides information on speed and stroke rate.
Spin turn A term used to describe turning the boat on its axis.
Split The amount of time it would take a rower or crew to complete 500 meters at their current pace. This can be applied to both a crew on the water or a person on an erg.
Sprint The last portion of a race. Usually, the last 250 meters of the race are run at a maximum stroke rate in an attempt to get to the finish line first.
Sprint race Type of race where crews race up to 2000 meters side by side in lanes. In the US, this is the standard race during the spring and summer seasons.
Square, Squaring The act of rotating the oar prior to the catch so that the blade is perpendicular to the water. The opposite of the feathered position.

Standing start

A race start in which boats must start from a stationary position with rowers at front stops.
Stakeboat The small anchored boat used to hold the shells in place at the starting line.
Starboard The right side of the boat when facing forward (toward the bow); to the coxswain's right and the rowers' left.
Starboard rigged A boat rigged so that the stroke seat is a starboard rower.
Start The beginning of the race. Crews will have a specified starting sequence of strokes to get the shell up to speed as quickly as possible. 
Stern The rear of the boat. Also the direction the rowers are facing.
Stern pair The pair of sweep rowers in the stern of the boat. This would be seats 7 and 8 in an eight or seats 3 and 4 in a four. The stern pair is responsible for setting the rating and rhythm for the rest of the crew.
Straight A coxless sweep shell. Only for a pair or a four. Referred to as a 'straight four.'
Stroke One complete cycle of the catch, drive, finish, and recovery.
The stern-most rower in the boat. Responsible for setting the stroke rating and rhythm of the crew.
Stroke rate The number of strokes per minute taken by a crew.  Also called Rating.
Sugaring Rowing which looks good from a distance but in reality the rower is not putting any work down on the oar.
Swamped Swamping occurs when a shell takes on too much water from rough conditions and is no longer rowable.
Sweep One of the two disciplines of rowing. In sweep rowing, each rower uses one oar and is paired with another rower of the opposite side. Sweep boats are called pairs (2 rowers), fours (4 rowers), and eights (8 rowers). All three classes can include a coxswain. Pairs and fours can come without a coxswain.
Swing The feeling in the boat when all rowers are driving and finishing their strokes together.
Tanks An indoor training facility that consists of two rows of rowing seats between two tanks of water. Allows rowers to feel their strokes in the water in a stable and controlled environment. Used heavily when teaching novice rowers.
Tap down To lower the hands at the end of the stroke to remove the blade from the water.
Third final Finals at a regatta for places 13 through 18. Commonly referred to as the "truck" final since your crew would be loading your boat on the truck during the grand finals. Also called C Final.
Toe A steering device for a coxless boat. A rower can steer the rudder by changing the direction their foot points. This is called "toeing a boat" and the mechanism is called a "toe."
Top-Nut The nut which screws onto the top of the pin, holding the oarlock in place.
Tracks Rails that the rowers seat roll on. Also called slides.
Understroke Rowing at a lower and more efficient rating than your opponent.
Unisuit or Uni A body-fitting one-piece garment made from a spandex elastomeric fiber such as DuPont Lycra®. Unisuits are usually worn by rowers only during regattas. (Spandex shorts are often worn during practice since baggy shorts or sweats could become tangled in the sliding-seat wheels.)
Walking When passing a boat, the coxswain announces each seat as it is passed.
Wash Refers to the wake given off of a shell.
Washing out A rower error when an oar comes out of the water during the drive and creates surface wash. This results in a reduction in speed and can disrupt the set of the boat.
Way-enough or way 'nuff When a crew is to stop rowing, the cox'n, coach or someone will call way-enough or way 'nuff. This is a 19th Century American naval term that has carried on through to today. It should not be confused with weigh as in weigh anchor (unless your racing shell has an anchor). Outside of North America, way 'nuff is not used.