Rowing: Additional Information

What is Rowing?

Welcome to the band of parents who frequently find themselves standing by some windy water edge whilst their offspring exhaust themselves hitting the water with a stick while sitting in a floating tub!
More (but not entirely) seriously though, this guide makes an attempt to answer those questions which we, when we first became involved with rowing wanted to ask and couldn't/didn't because we did not know what to ask or of whom to ask it.
Like all specialised activities in which the human race indulges, rowing has developed its own jargon, which is quite impenetrable to those not in the know. This guide hopes to introduce you to the secret language of the rowers and, as a consequence, enable you to understand what your son is trying to tell you and enjoy watching what he is doing.
It also attempts to enhance your ability to find the various venues at which the rowers from the school habitually compete and to understand the codes that appear in the programmes. Most supporters will remember attending their first big event and, having discovered where the programmes were being sold, opened it to be confronted by a load of hieroglyphics which did nothing to assist them in finding out which boat was to contain the object of their attention.
What are they doing? Rowing or Sculling?
The first thing to learn is that these two activities, whilst closely related, are not the same. The distinction between the two is determined by the number of oars (known to the initiated as BLADES) that each crew member sets out with.
If each person in the boat has one oar, then they are Rowing.
If they have two oars, they are Sculling.
It stands to reason that if there is only one person in the boat then they must be sculling and should have two oars. (It will be observed that the loss of one oar by a single sculler invariably results in them getting wet!)
Types of Competition
There are two basic types of competition in which rowers take part. These are: -
Heads Races
At these events the boats go down the course one after the other at 10-15 second intervals. Each boat has a flying start and is timed between the start line and the finish line. When all the boats have finished, the time for each to have completed the course is calculated, and a winner of each class is found.
These involve side-by-side racing and are usually more exciting to watch, apart from it being easier to get an appreciation of who is winning! Most river regatta courses have space only for three (Zwartkops) or, at most, 6 (Buffalo) racing lanes and often have bends and other obstacles that require staggered starts and/or finishes.  These hazards provide ample opportunities for boats to interfere with each other and the Umpire (who chases each race in a launch) to make decisions that are a source of lively controversy for weeks.
Regattas on artificial courses like reservoirs, dams (Roodeplaat) or even purpose built international standard courses, usually have room for 8 lane racing. Regattas involve heats, semi-finals and finals held over the course of a day. Losing crews in the earlier rounds may get another chance to advance to the next round in an extra race known as a "Repecharge".
Boat Classification
This aspect of rowing can cause serious difficulties to new followers of the sport as the categories of boat are denoted by a cryptic code that, though simple and concise when known, is not grasped intuitively at first sight.
In any calendar year a boy may row as a:
U19, if he was under 19 on 1st January preceding that event.
U16 if was under 16 on 1st January preceding that event.
U15 if was under 15 on 1st January preceding that event.
U14 if was under 14 on 1st January preceding that event.
However, because the season  begins  in October and runs until March, Boys move up to the next age group in October .
Boat classifications specify, in a set sequence, the age and/or expertise group of the rowers, the sex, the number of rowers' seats, whether they are rowing or sculling (x) and if they have a cox (+) or not.  (The cox is the one that verbally abuses anyone within earshot). The boats in common usage have 1, 2, 4, or 8 rowing seats. Boats classes are usually broken down by ability as well; ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ or ‘1st’, ‘2nd’, ‘3rd’. If no ability class is specified, then the race is deemed ‘A’ or ‘1st’ class.

What it means
JM15 2-
Junior Men under 15 coxless pairs (A class)
JM16 2x
Junior Men under 16 double sculls (A class)
JM15A 4x+
Junior Men under 15 A class quadruple sculls with cox
JM15B 4x+
Junior Men under 15 B class quadruple sculls with cox
JM19 1st 8+
Junior Men under 19 1st eight with cox
JW16 1x
Junior Women under 16 single sculls
Boat Types

Rowing Boats
VIII / 8+ / Eight (coxed)
4+ / coxed four
2- / coxless pair

  1. Boats
    4x+ / Quad / Quadruple Scull
    2x / Double Scull
    1x / Single Scull


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