Here are all the important terms you may need to look up. All commands are bold and underlined, and all other terms are just bold.
Back-it: Means to have the rowers place their blades at the release position, squared, and push the oar handle toward the stern of the boat. This motion causes the shell to move backwards.
Backstay: The part of a rigger that goes from the top of the oarlock to the gunnel of the shell. Helps brace the rigger and connect it to the hull.
Base Rate: The stroke rating at which your crew will row most of their race. It depends on a number of factors including experience, fitness, and boat size.
Blade: The end of the oar that grips the water. They are also called the spoon. Macon blades are shaped like long champagne glasses. Hatchet blades look like meat cleavers.
Blades-down: This command is used to tell the rowers to place their blades back on the water after performing an easy-all (see below).
Bow: The front of the shell. Also the name for the rower in the seat in the very front of the shell.
Bow Ball: The rubber ball at the tip of the bow that helps prevent damage to people or shells if they hit something.
Bow Loader/Coxed: This refers to a shell that has the coxswain lying in the bow. Usually the shells are pairs (2+) or fours (4+) but there have been eights in the past.
Button: Item that circles the shaft of the blade and rests against the oarlock, also called a collar.
Catch: The point, at the end of the recovery, when the blade is placed into the water for the beginning of the next stroke.
Check: How much the boat is slowed down during the recovery by poor rowing technique.
Check-it-down: Tells the crew to square their blades and drag them across the surface to the water. Used to slow and stop the shell quickly. Similar to hold water.
Collar: see button.
Count-Down: This command tells the crew to call out their seat number, starting at bow, when they are ready to row.
Crab: Action caused by turning of the oar blade so that it is trapped under water and cannot be removed at the release.
Down-on-port or Down-on-Starboard: Means that the boat is leaning to one side. Rowers that the side is down on must raise their hands and the other side must lower their hands.
Downstream: This refers to the direction the water in a river is flowing. The water is flowing toward the end of the river. Items in the water float downstream.
Drive: The part of the stroke when the blade is in the water and the rower is pulling on the handle/pressing with the legs.
Ease-up, Firm-up: These commands tell the rowers to reduce the pressure on the oar, or apply more pressure as needed.
Easy-all: This command tells the rowers that when they finish the stroke, they will stop rowing, sit at the release, extend their arms, and place their oar handles on the gunnel of the boat. The rowers’ blades will be off the water, and they will try to keep the shell balanced until the command blades-down is given.
Even-it-out: This command tells the rowers to pull even pressure on both sides. This is the complement to ease-up or firm-up above.
(#) Fall-out, (#) Fall-in: These commands tell the rower(s) to either stop rowing, or to start rowing with everyone else. (#)= the number of the rower(s) to start or stop. i.e. “Bow pair Fall out, stern pair Fall in, in two. . .”
False Start: When a crew at the starting line of a race moves before the other crews, and is warned by the officials. Two false starts and the crew is disqualified.
Feather: To gradually turn the blade so that it goes from parallel to the water to perpendicular (square) with the water just before the catch. The reverse action happens at the release. The blade comes out square and is made flat again. The feathering hand is the hand closest to the rigger; it turns the oar and is also called the inside hand.
Fin: Thin piece of flat metal or plastic that helps stabilize the shell in the water. Also called the skeg.
Foot-stretchers: What the rowers put their feet in and push against while rowing.
Gunwale: Top part of the hull, where the riggers attach.
Hands-in: Tells the rowers to grab the ribs on the inside of the boat so that the boat can be rolled from heads. Use this command when putting the shell in the water.
Hands-on: Tells the rowers to grab the boat, next to their seats, so that the boat can be moved.
Hands-out: Tells the rowers to grab the dock in preparation for shoving off.
Heads-up: The command, tells everyone within ear shot that a shell is being moved, and to be alert as it passes nearby.
Head Race: A long race in which rowers race a twisting course approximately 3 miles long.
Heads, ready, up: Tells the rowers to press the boat above their heads.
(#) Hit-it: Tells a rower to row until told to stop. e.g., “two, Hit it. . .”
Hold-Water: Tells the rowers to stop rowing and square their blades immediately; dragging them across the surface of the water to slow and stop the boat quickly! Used to avoid collisions. Similar to “check-it-down.”
Hull: The actual body of the shell.
Inboard/inside hand: A rower’s hand closest to the rigger, used to feather.
Jumping the Start: When a crew tries to beat the other crews off the starting line by anticipating the referee’s starting command; going before the others are ready.
Keel: To have keel is to have a balanced, level boat. This also is the term for the center line of the shell (lengthwise).
Knee: Brace that runs vertically from the keel to the gunwale.
Lay-back: What a rower has when they sit with their legs flat, and they lean toward the bow of the boat with their bodies.
Let-it-run: This tells the rowers to stop rowing.
Mistake: Something you learn from.
Oar lock: Piece of hardware on the end of the rigger that the oar goes into. Kind of “u” shaped with a locking bar to keep the oar from coming out.
Outboard/outside hand: A rower’s hand that rests on the end of the oar handle. Used to control the oar and pull.
Paddle: This tells a crew to row with just enough pressure to move the boat. The paddle command is also used to bring a crew down from full pressure at the end of a workout piece or race.
Piece: Any individual part of a workout called by a coach.
Port: From the coxswain’s point of view, the left side of the boat. The even numbered rowers have their oars on this side. Also the cap found in the deck of shells for draining water or airing the interior of the hull.
Rack: Support used on which to store a shell on.
Ratio: This is the relationship between how fast the rowers pull the oars through the water (the drive) versus how fast they move on their slides between the release and the catch (the recovery). The average ration is 3:1 (Three times slower on the recovery than on the drive). The ration will vary with stroke rating and speed. At a 36 or higher the ratio is close to even.
Recovery: The time between the release and the catch, when the oar is not in the water.
Release: The point at the beginning of a stroke when the blade comes out of the water.
Rigger: Metal supports that are on the side of a shell. They hold the oar.
Roll-it: Tells the crew to flip the boat over, together, from heads.
Rolled-up: Having the blade square with the water. See feather.
Rudder: Part of the boat that sticks below the water and is used to steer the shell.
Rudder Lines: Strings the coxswain uses to move the rudder and turn the shell.
Run: This is how far the shell travels between strokes. It is also a feeling the rowers and coxswain get in the shell. The shell feels like it’s gliding along without any effort.
Rushing: Occurs when a rower moves on their seat too quickly along the tracks into the catch position. The boat will lose the feeling that it is gliding, or “running out.” Rushing is sometimes called “negative ratio.”
Sculling: This what you call rowing when you use two oars either in a single (1x), double (2x), quad (4x), or octuple (8x).
Set-it-up: Reminds the rowers to keep the boat on keel.
Set-ready: Commands the crew to move to the catch, blades buried, and be ready to start the race.
Settle: A command and a part of the race. This tells the rowers that the crew is going to bring the stroke rate down for the body of the race, but still maintain the same pressure. This is usually the middle of the race.
Shaft: The main body of an oar. Also called the loom.
Shell: Name given to boats powered by rowers. It is what you pilot. Singles (1x) are often called “sculls” since the rowing motion is called sculling.
Shoulders, ready, up: Tells the crew to lift the boat from any position below their shoulders to shoulder height. Can be reversed to lower the boat from heads to shoulders. i.e. “Shoulders, ready, down!” This is the best position for carrying a shell.
Sit-in: Tells the crew to get into the boat.
Skying: When the blade moves away from the water at the catch instead of dropping toward the water.
Slide: Assembly that the rowers move back and forth on. Consists of the seat, and tracks.
Slings: These are what you put a boat in to work on it when it is not on the rack. Never leave a shell sitting on slings without anyone watching it when it is windy!
Sprint: The section near the end of a race, where boats make a final push in power and stroke rate to cross the finish line. Usually done in the last 250-500 meters.
Start: The beginning of the race. Also the term for the first four strokes, and subsequent tens’ taken at the start of a race.
Starboard: From the coxswain’s point of view, the right side of the shell. The odd numbered seats have their oars on this side of the boat.
Stern: The very end of the boat.
Stroke: The rower farthest to the stern of the boat, who sets the pace for the rest of the crew. Also, the sum total of the motion of the oar, from the catch to the release.
Stroke rate: The number of strokes a crew takes in one minute. Noted in this form: #spm. Range from 0spm (sitting still) to 44spm+ (go Speed Racer, go!) You can calculate the spm by counting the number of strokes taken in 15 seconds, and multiply that number by 4. Most amplifier systems have a meter to tell you what your stroke rate is.
Sweep: The type of rowing using only one oar. Done in a pair with or without coxswain (2+), a four with or without coxswain (4+), and a eight (8+).
Swing: A feeling in the boat, when the rowers are driving and finishing their strokes strongly, while getting good layback. The boat feels like it is accelerating and flowing well on the recovery.
Upstream: This refers to the direction the water in a river is flowing. This is where the water if flowing from. Toward the beginning of the river.
Wake or Wash: Turbulence from a motorboat or ship that can swamp or capsize a shell.
Walking: When a crew is consistently moving past another crew, seat by seat, during a practice piece or race.
Wash box: V-shaped lip that is formed by the end of the gunnels in the bow of a shell; just in front of the bow seat. Keeps water from washing into the shell over the bow.
Way-enough: Tells the rowers to stop rowing. The synonym is “let it run.”
Waist, ready, up: Tells the crew to lift the shell to their waists.
You did what to the boat?: Phrase you should never be asked.