Glossary of Rowing Terms

Please find below a glossary of terms used in rowing:

The Boats

  • Sweep - in a sweep boat each rower has one oar.
  • Eight (8+) - a shell with 8 rowers and a coxswain.
  • Four (4-) or (4+) - a shell with 4 rowers. Coxless fours (4-) are often referred to as straight fours, and are commonly used by lightweight and elite crews and are raced at the Olympics. In club and school rowing, one more frequently sees a coxed four (4+) which is easier to row, and has a coxswain to steer.
  • Pair (2-) - a shell with 2 rowers. 
  • Sculling - in a sculling boat each rower has two oars or 'sculls', one on each side of the boat.
  • Quad (4x) - a shell having 4 rowers with two oars each. Can be coxed (4x+) but is usually coxless (4x-).
  • Double (2x) - a shell for two scullers.
  • Single (1x) - a shell designed for an individual sculler. 

Equipment & Parts of the Boat

  • Backstay - a brace which is part of the rigger of sweep rowing boats, which extends toward the bow from the top of the pin.
  • Backstop - the stop mechanism on the seat slides which prevents the rower's seat from falling off the sliding tracks at the back end (towards the boat's bow) of the slide tracks. 
  • Blade - the spoon or hatchet shaped end of the oar. Also used to refer to the entire oar.
  • Bowloader - a shell in which the coxswain seat is near the bow of the boat rather than its stern.
  • Bow - the front section of a shell; the first section of the shell to cross the finish line.
  • Bow ball - a small, soft ball securely attached to a boat's bow. 
  • Bow number - a card displaying the lane number assigned to the boat for a race.
  • Collar - a wide plastic ring placed around the sleeve of an oar. The collar stops the oar from slipping through the oarlock.
  • Cox box - a portable voice amplifier; may also optionally incorporate digital readouts displaying stroke rate, boat speed and times.
  • Ergometer/Erg - an indoor rowing machine.
  • Fin - thin piece of flat metal or plastic that helps stabilize the shell in the water.
  • Foot stretcher - an adjustable footplate, to which a pair of shoes is typically attached, which allows the rower to easily adjust his or her physical position relative to the slide and the oarlock. The footplate can be moved (or "stretched") either closer to or farther away from the slide frontstops.
  • Frontstop - the stop mechanism on the seat slides which prevents the rower's seat from falling off the sliding tracks at the front end (towards the boat's stern) of the slide tracks. 
  • Gate - bar across the top of an oarlock, secured with a nut, which prevents the oar from coming out of the oarlock. 
  • Handle - the part of the oar that the rowers hold and pull with during the stroke.
  • Hull - the actual body of the shell.
  • Inboard - the length of the oar shaft measured from the collar to the handle.
  • Oarlock - the rectangular lock at the end of the rigger which physically attaches the oar to the boat. The oarlock also allows the rower to rotate the oar blade between the "square" and "feather" positions. 
  • Outboard - the length of the oar shaft measured from the collar to the tip of the blade.
  • Pin - the vertical metal rod on which the oarlock rotates.
  • Pogies/Poagies - a type of mitten with holes on each end, which allow the rower to grip the oar with bare hands while also warming the hands.
  • Port/Portside - the left side of the boat when facing forward. 
  • Rigger - the projection from the side of a board. The oarlock is attached to the far end of the rigger away from the boat. The rigger allows the racing shell to be narrow thereby decreasing drag, while at the same time placing the oarlock at a point that optimizes leverage of the oar. 
  • Rudder - used by the coxswain (or in some coxless boats, by a rower using a "toe" or foot steering mechanism) to steer the boat.
  • Seat - molded seat mounted on wheels, single action or double action. 
  • Shell - the boat used for rowing.
  • Slides - hollow rails upon which a rower or sculler's sliding seat will roll. 
  • Slings - folding, portable temporary boat holders. Two are required to hold a boat.
  • Speed coach - a device that determines the boat's speed based on the speed of a small propeller and transmits this information to the coxbox.
  • Starboard - the right side of the boat when facing forward.
  • Starting gate - a structure at the starting line of the race. The shell is “backed” into the starting gate. Once in the gates a mechanism, or person lying on the starting gate, holds the stern of the shell.
  • Stern - the rear section of a shell.
  • Top-Nut - the nut which screws onto the top of the pin holding the oarlock in place.