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.

#AlwaysOarsome

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