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Glossary...What does it all mean?

At first listening to a seasoned rower or coach talk about their sport can be a bit confusing. This glossary of terms will assist your understanding and allow you to bluff your way at the bar.

‘Back Down ’ - Reverse rowing used to move the boat backwards, or turn.

‘Backstay’ - The back brace of a rigger, closest to the bows.

'Backstops’ - When the rower sits with their legs straight and the blade handle in at their chest.

‘Blade’ - Also called an oar. Used to propel the boat.

‘Bow’ - Front of the boat or the rower who sits in the seat nearest the front of the boat.

‘Bow Ball’ - Ball-shaped cap that sits over the bow end of the boat. It’s there for safety.

‘Bow Loader’ - A boat in which the cox sits at the front (bow).

‘Bowside’ - See Starboard side.

‘Burst’ - A small number of strokes taken at full pressure.

'Canvas' - The covered deck section of the bow and stern of the boat.

'Catch' - The moment at which the blade drops into the water and foot pressure is applied.

'Cleaver' - Type of blade that has the spoon in the shape of a meat cleaver or chopper.

‘Collar’ - The plastic circular section of the blade, is pressed against the swivel when rowing. It can be moved along the sleeve to adjust the blade gearing

'Cox (Coxswain)' - Person who steers the boat, using a steering mechanism. Can sit either in the stern or the bows. Some boat types do not have coxswains.

'Coxless' - A boat type without a cox.

'Crab' - When the blade becomes caught in the water at the moment of extraction. Can cause the rower to let go of the handle and slows the boat. When this happens the rower is said to ‘catch a crab’

'Drive' - The part of the stroke between the catch and extraction, when the blade is in the water and propels the boat. Also called the Power Phase.

'Erg/Ergo' - Indoor rowing machine.

'Extraction' - The removal of the blade from the water by applying downward pressure to the handle. Also called the Finish.

'Feather' - Blade spoon is parallel to the water. This is the position of the blade spoon for the recovery section of the stroke. Rowers must extract the blade from the water before feathering.

'Fin' - A metal or plastic plate attached to the underside of the boat towards the stern. It helps to keep the boat on course and prevents it from moving sideways.

'Finish' - See Extraction.

'Firm' - Term used to suggest that the rower applies full pressure to the drive phase of their rowing stroke.

'FISA' - The international rowing federation. Responsible for international racing and rules. FISA promotes the sport of rowing world-wide. Active in providing international competitions for all age groups: Olympic Regatta, Paralympic Regatta, World Championships, World Cup series, World Under 23 Championships, Junior World Championships, World Masters and Continental Qualifiers.

'Fixed Seat' - A boat type without a sliding seat mechanism OR a rower rowing arms or arms and body only and not moving their seat from backstops.

'Front Stay' - The front brace of a rigger, closest to the stern of the boat. Some riggers do not have a front stay.

'Front Stop' - When the rower sits at the front of their slide with their shins vertical.

'Gate' - The metal bar at the top of the swivel. Tightened with a screw to secure the blade

'Gearing' - Determines how much power the rower can apply. In a lightly geared boat the work feels easy but more strokes are needed to move the boat 100m. In a heavily geared boat fewer strokes are needed to move the boat 100m but the strokes are harder to make.

‘Hard’ – The series of wide concrete steps in front of the clubhouse that serves as a boat launch and landing area.

'Heel Restraint' - Attaches the heel of the rowing shoe to the foot plate. Will help the rower release their feet in a capsize.

'Height' - Vertical distance from seat to bottom edge of swivel.

'Inboard' - Length of blade from outside face of collar or button to end of handle.

'Length' - Length of stroke, the arc from catch to extraction.

'Loom' - The part of the blade between handle and spoon.

'Macon' - Type of oar that has a regular shaped spoon.

'Mainstay' - Centre brace of a rigger.

'Oar' - See Blade.

'Outboard' - The length of the blade from outside face of collar or button to tip of blade.

'Overlap' - The amount that the scull handles overlap when a rower holds them horizontally at right angles to the boat.

'Piece' - A segment of a specific planned body of exercise on the erg or on the water. 

'Pin' - The spindle on which the swivel rotates.

'Pitch' - The angle of the spoon in the water during the Drive.

'Port' - Left in the direction of travel.

'Portside' - Left hand side of the boat, or the right hand side of the rower. Often marked by a red stripe on the blade. Sometimes called Strokeside.


'Posture' - Position of the back and hips during the stroke.

'Power Phase' - See Drive.

'Pressure' - The amount of effort applied by the rower to the drive phase of the stroke (usually light, ½ pressure, ¾ pressure, firm).

'Rate or Rating' - Number of strokes rowed in a minute.

'Ratio' - The ratio of time taken for the drive to the time taken for recovery phase of the stroke. Time for the recovery will be up to twice as long as the drive, 1:2.

'Regatta' - A competition with events for different boat types, usually involving heats, semi-finals and finals for each event. Boats compete side by side from a standing start.

'Rhythm' - Regular and consistent stroke pattern.

'Rigger' - Metal or carbon fibre strutting attached to the side of the boat next to each seat, on which the pin and swivel sit.

'Rigging' - The way in which the riggers, slides, swivel, pins, foot plate, seat and blades can be adjusted to optimise the rowers comfort and efficiency.

'Rudder' - Device under the boat that can be moved to make the boat change direction. Linked to a steering mechanism.

'Running Start' - A racing start undertaken with the boat already moving. Often used in training.

'Saxboard' - The sides of the boat above the waterline and around where the rowers sit.

'Scull' - A smaller version of the blade used in sets of two and held in either hand for sculling.

'Sculling' - Rowing with two blades per rower, one on either side of the boat.

'Sequence' - Methodical movements of the arms, back and legs during the stroke cycle

‘Speed bump’ – a paddle boarder

'Strokeside' - See Portside.

'Stretcher' - A plate to which the boat shoes are attached. Secured with adjustable screws.

'Sweep' - Rowing with one blade each.

'Swivel' - The plastic open square shape mounted on the pin in which the blade sits when rowing. Closed with the gate.

'Tap Down' - To lower the hands at the end of the stroke to remove the spoon from the water.

'Trestle' - Portable stands used to hold a boat for rigging, washing, checking etc.

‘Viking Landing’ – An uncontrolled or poorly executed boat landing resulting in the bow mounting the hard or beach. A sure way of upsetting the captain or boatman.

‘Your round’ – Go to the bar

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