Rowing – what a weird and confusing language!


                                               Part One – red and green

So how often do you hear this in sport?

“I was last over the finish line but I still won!”

Well this is exactly what happened to me on Saturday at Warrington Regatta. I was sitting in the stroke seat of a double, a boat with two seats, with my team mate Alistair behind me in the bow seat but he was actually in front of me – I was just sitting with my back to him. I wasn’t being rude or trying to jeopardise our chances – that’s the way we row!!

“Warrington, Trafford, attention…GO!’

To cut a long story short we were brilliant so Alistair was first over the line and I was last, IN OUR BOAT, so we won. (That was just a heat so we went on the the final and again Alistair was first over the line – champions and another medal to add to the collection!)

Clever stuff with words hey? Well read on and you might not feel so clever just overwhelmingly confused!

Always Oarsome Jen and myself, Gill  run the adult Learn To Row courses at Warrington Rowing Club with lots of help from volunteer members. We start from absolute scratch and over the years we have realised that rowing has a language all of its own and most of it is nonsense in the best possible way. What’s worse is that Jen and I often forget that we are speaking a different language when our new recruits arrive and carry on regardless.

Usually until about the third week when a very brave soul will ask us something like

“What exactly do you mean when you say ‘tap down’?”

OK so let’s start with this.

There are two ends to a boat – a bow and a stern. The bow is the front of the boat but most people see it as the back because when you sit in the boat you will have your back to the bow (unless you’re the cox). It is easily identified by the bow ball. This is a small ball fixed to the front of the boat (if it’s not there you will be disqualified in a race situation). It helps prevent too much damage should a collision occur and consequently is often found taped on.

The other end of the boat is known as the stern – the back of the boat, usually thought of as the front of the boat because when you sit in the boat you will be facing it (unless you are the cox!!!).

It is easily identified because it DOESN’T have a bow ball. If there is a bow ball I’m not sure you’d be disqualified in a race but it’s probably wise to check you’re sitting in the seat correctly!!

Let’s talk about a quad boat (four rowers each having two blades/oars)

Each seat and consequently each rower is given a number so we don’t have to remember different names. The person in the bow seat is called Bow and also number one – the first person over the finish line, the front of the boat (often thought of as the back…),nearest to the bow ball.

The next seat is two, then three, then four.

The rower at the stern of the boat (the back but often thought of as the front…), number four is also known as Stroke.

Bow Pair are the two people sitting in the front of the boat, nearest to the bow ball (often thought of as the back…) and Stern Pair are the two people sitting in the back of the boat, furthest from the bow ball (often thought of as the front…).

Stroke side of the boat is the right hand side of the boat, the rowers right hand side, not the onlooker (or the cox). Remember the rower is facing backwards in the boat.

Bow side is the left hand side of the boat, the rowers left hand side. Remember the rower is facing backwards in the boat.

Stroke side blades will often have a red label and bow side a green one. A common command is “firm pressure on red” which ultimately means more pressure with the right side of the body so helping with steering and dodging other boats! (or green depending which way bow needs the boat to go).

Now for the really confusing part – Port and Starboard.

When looking forward, toward the bow of the boat (the front but often thought of as the back!), port refers to the left side and starboard refers to right side. These terms are often used by umpires and I’m pretty sure not many rowers are clear on the meaning.

Actually I am completely confused now which is not surprising as I generally get my right and left mixed up unless I can do a quick Brownie promise hand sign which I know is always done with the right hand!

So port refers to stroke side or the red blade and starboard refers to bow side or the green blade. The main problem here being the rowers are sitting looking at the stern of the boat (the back but often thought of as…) so to the rower port actually refers to the right side of the boat.

So I’m going park these thoughts here and head to a dark corner to contemplate some more weird terms we use in rowing.


 Wham! (‘I’m your man’)

Just watching a bit of TOTP from 1985 – to the youngsters out there that’s Top of the Pops – a British music chart tv programme produced by the BBC and I do believe it was broadcast on a Thursday evening around 7.30pm? It was akin to ’Sounds Like Friday Night’ recently broadcasted on the BBC on a Friday night, surprisingly!

Anyway, I digress!
So Wham suddenly took me back to my college days.




In our first year Wham were playing at Whitley Bay Ice Rink and our ‘team” had tickets – except for Elaine (my roomie) she was ‘into’ Prince – Purple Rain and all that – do you know red and blue bubble bath do not make purple bubble bath? Mmmm that’s a story for another day!

To cut this long story short (thank goodness I hear you all saying) a ticket became available last minute and Elaine joined us on our travels from Scarborough to Whitley Bay, somewhat reluctantly I might add – probably the first case of FOMO ever recorded!

Oh what a night that was – this sort of concert was BIG TIME – I’d previously only seen The JoBoxers at Middlesbrough Town Hall!
One of our male teamies, Russell was convinced he was using the urinal next to the duo in the ice rink – REALLY???? Surely they had their own facilities.

Anyway our lasting memory is Wham played ‘Last Christmas’ ( it was December!) live for the very first time and WE WERE THERE! And I have the programme somewhere to prove it – obvs!

We also nearly lost Pam in Guisborough as she crossed the road behind the coach when we had stopped for a comfort break (it was called a toilet stop back in the day!)

So… Wham … reminded me of my college buddies and the challenge I set just over a month ago.

To recap we have booked our annual get together in Chester and we will be having an Oarsome rowing session at some point over the weekend at Warrington Rowing Club.

We talked about it this year and I’m not convinced the girls believed me when I said I could arrange the rowing bit but I have and they have been notified!

I had lots of comments about the first blog. All appreciating what great friendships we have nurtured over the years and some comments suggesting they might actually take this seriously:-

Suzie:- ‘I cannot wait for the rowing challenge and will be found in the gym or the office chanting A B L L B A over the next 11 months until we meet up again’.

I am proud of Suzies commitment – lets hope Suzie chants this while ON the rowing machine!

Pam:- ‘Looks like we’ve really got to do it now!’ – yes I really meant it Pam!

Paula:- ‘Wow! Sooooo excited! A whole 50 weeks of anticipation! What an ‘oarsome’ challenge to look forward to! Wouldn’t want to share it with anyone else!’ – except my rowing buddies obvs hey Paula?

Caroline:- ‘Wow -how blessed we are to have our so very very special friendship…can’t wait for Chester and the rowing.

And Caroline spent her birthday watching rowers in Stratford so watch out girls I think she will have a head start on you lot!

As all good teachers know we need a plan with some learning objectives and outcomes and strategies for all levels of learners. Mmmm well I’m working on that one but in the meantime I will set you some homework.

Now that you have all committed to this challenge I just know that you have been beetling off down to the gym a couple of times a week and churning out the ‘arms, body, legs,…’ chant as you breathlessly practise the technique on the erg so you’ll have perfect skills by May 2019.

I think you might require some direction for some pieces on the erg.
You will have noticed while erging that the monster ( haha  bloomin’ auto correct I meant moniter!) shows you strokes per minute and you can set it for timed pieces, amongst other things so with this in mind maybe you could try the following piece

3 minutes @ rate 18

2 minutes @ rate 20

1 minute @ rate 22

I know this will all be making perfect sense to you because I know just how committed you are and you wouldn’t want to let me down so after you have done this on a couple of visits maybe you could do the piece twice with a 2 minute break.

Remember to take a photo of the moniter and post it in the comments section of the blog – then we can see how we are all progressing ;))

Also next weekend 21st – 24th June the 2018 World Rowing Cup II takes place in Linz Ottensheim in Austria and will be filmed live on the BBC over and above the Football World Cup.

I’m actually joking but it probably will be streamed live and if you miss that do not worry you can follow this link and find fab videos of this event and many others where you can study the greatest athletes at work and copy their technique.

Watch out for Emily Ford and Jess Leyden they are northern rowers who Beth used to compete with and against!! Cheer them on!!

Keep me posted ladies – I would love to hear about your progress and some photos would be a billy bonus.

Keep that fantastic training up and always be OARSOME!!!!!

Always Oarsome


P.S. Couldn’t find my Wham programme but thought this might do – Nick Heyward – The Apollo, Manchester 1985

Steady. Consistent. Synchronicity. Teamwork.

This weekend at rowing training, we did twice our usual distance on each day, and just rowed, steady state, no fancy bits, no drills.

Just rowed.


Steady. Consistent. Powerful.

No stopping.

Here is a quick video that our coach took of us square blading. (This is a technique which promotes balance and focus. This was about 15km in on day two so we were getting tired!

Oh and our coach isn’t the most technically proficient and so it changes from portrait to landscape half way through! Treat yourself to a lie down if you get that far 😉 )

This steady state, consistent rowing, getting extra miles on the water, helps a crew really get together. To work together to get the synchronicity that ultimately makes the boat go faster. It doesn’t happen straight away.

It takes hard work. It takes commitment. It takes hours and hours rowing together on the water.

Such consistency and steadiness is important in business and teamwork.

It’s important to take time to learn how to work together, get used to each other, understand each other’s styles and needs and get into the ha it if fully supporting each other and working together to achieve the common goal.

Wow we LOVE rowing. And we LOVE teamwork!


When Always Oarsome met Rowing The World!

Last week Gill and I had the absolute pleasure to meet Ruth Marr from Rowing the World. (Check out their website – it’s OARSOME!)

Ruth was visiting the UK to check out some new destinations for her amazing rowing tours.

It’s always fab to meet people who are just as passionate (aka bonkers!) about rowing and as keen as us to introduce as many people as possible to our fabulous sport. And especially when they are as lovely as Ruth.

During her time in the North of England, Ruth visited several rowing clubs (including Windermere, Lakeland and Runcorn), finishing off her tour at Warrington Rowing Club (Always Oarsome rowing HQ).

We were delighted to show her our clubhouse, fleet of boats and most of all, to introduce her to Mrs Mersey.

Due to time restrictions, we were unable to do this in a rowing boat on this occasion, but we took Ruth out on a launch to show her our beautiful stretch of water.

Check out our brief interview with Ruth (this was BEFORE her tour of The Mersey)

We can’t wait to continue to explore collaboration opportunities with Ruth and Rowing the World.

Watch this space folks!