Rowing game rules – learn how to row

By: Dennis B. B. Taylor

Rowing: Power on Water

Rowing is an exciting water sport where athletes compete in boats propelled by oars. Each rowing event is different, with teams ranging from one to eight athletes, who work together to achieve victory!

The history of rowing goes back thousands of years, starting as a simple mode of transportation in ancient Egypt. Over time, rowing proved its worth and became an integral part of naval operations for the Vikings in Denmark and Norway during the medieval era.

In the 1500s, people in England started betting on which ships would reach their destination first. These informal races eventually became organized, and in 1715, “Doggett’s Coat and Badge” became the first professional boat race. This race has taken place every year in Britain for the past 300 years, with local ferrymen still competing today.

The sport of rowing became the first officially governed sport. The governing body, originally known as the National Association for Amateur Oarsmen, was founded in 1872. In 1982, it was renamed the United States Rowing Association, the name it still holds today.

Now, let’s talk about the setup and equipment needed for this sport.

Racing Shells: When it comes to rowing competitions, racing shells are the boats we use. They get their name from being hollow and super thin. These boats are usually made of lightweight materials like composites. There are two main types of racing shells: sculling boats and sweep boats.

Sculling boats have a line of rowers, with each rower using two oars. On the other hand, sweep boats have rowers facing one side, each using a single oar. The size of the shell depends on the number of rowers in the team and the type of event they are competing in. Here are the dimensions for each:

  1. Single: These shells are 27 feet long and weigh 30+ pounds.
  2. Pair: Pair shells are 34 feet long and weigh 60+ pounds.

DID YOU KNOW? Rowing is a sport that has been around for centuries! It involves propelling a boat through water using oars. There are different types of rowing boats, called racing shells, which are used for competitive rowing. These boats can vary in length and weight. Let me tell you more about them!

Racing Shells

These boats come in two main sizes:

  1. Four: These boats are 44 feet long and weigh over 115 lbs.
  2. Eight: These boats are 62 feet long and weigh over 212 lbs.


The oars used in rowing competitions are also important. They are usually made of carbon fiber for strength and lightness. There are two types of oars:

  1. Scull Oars: These oars are about 8 to 10 feet long. A rower uses two of them at once, one in each hand.
  2. Sweep Oars: These oars are the longest, measuring between 11 and 13 feet. They are used in eight-person events, with a rower using only one oar at a time. This technique is called sweep rowing.

Pretty cool, right? Now you know more about rowing boats and the oars used in this thrilling sport. So if you’re interested in rowing, remember to choose the right boat and oars to make the most out of your experience!


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When it comes to rowing, each athlete in the boat is assigned a number based on their position. The person at the front of the boat, the one who crosses the finish line first, is called “number 1.” The rest of the rowers are ranked from 2 to 8, depending on where they sit in relation to the bow.

The rowers in positions 1 and 2 are known as the bow pair, while the rowers in positions 7 and 8 are called the stern pair.

Athlete 8, who sits the farthest from the bow, is known as the “stroke.” This rower is usually the strongest and most skilled, as they set the pace for the entire team to follow.

In some races, there is a coxswain who acts as a mid-race coach and controls the boat’s rudder. However, not all races have a coxswain, and those without one are called “coxless” events.


When it comes to rowing events, the names are based on two factors: the number of athletes in each boat and the type of oars they use.

  • Scull: These events can have teams of one, two, or four rowers. As the name suggests, the rowers hold one oar in each hand.
  • Coxed/Coxless: These events involve teams of two or four rowers using sweep oars. A “coxed” boat has a coxswain to steer and coordinate the rowers, while a “coxless” boat does not have a coxswain.
  • Eights: This is the largest rowing event, consisting of eight rowers using sweep oars and one coxswain. The presence of a coxswain is crucial as the high speeds reached can be dangerous without proper guidance.

    Rowing game rules - learn how to row


    When the race begins, each boat lines up in front of its own tiny pier. As soon as the starting gun goes off, we rowers start paddling down the course. Just like in other races, we’re allowed to have one false start but we get disqualified if we make a second mistake.

    Each boat starts in its own lane, just like in a 100-meter track event. These lanes are perfectly straight, and the main goal is to go as fast as possible. It’s pretty cool that we can cross into other lanes as long as we don’t get in the way of another boat.

    No matter how many people are in my team, we all race on a 6,560-foot still-water course. The team whose bow crosses the finish line first wins the race, and the rest of the teams are ranked based on their finishing order.

    Did you know that there are head races in the fall as well? Unlike sprint races, head races have rowers starting at different time intervals and can vary in length. It adds a whole new level of challenge and excitement!

    Let’s Talk About Rowing Technique

    When it comes to rowing, the technique is everything. It’s all about efficiency. The rowing motion and stroke are carefully designed to make the most of every movement. You might be surprised to learn that rowers actually face away from the direction they’re moving. This might seem counterintuitive, but it allows them to use their back muscles more effectively and generate more power.

    Think of it like the cardio-based seated rowing machine, also known as an ergometer, that you might see at the gym. The seats on a rowing boat slide along a track, just like on the machine. This allows the rowers to combine the strength of their legs with the power of their upper body when pulling the oar blade. It’s a dynamic and efficient technique that propels them forward with every stroke.

    The Reigning World Record Holder

    Did you know that there are no official “world records” in rowing due to the unpredictable nature of water and weather conditions? Instead, we have “world bests” that represent the fastest times achieved. In 2017, a team of eight German rowers set the current world best for the 2000m distance, finishing in an impressive 5 minutes and 18 seconds (05:18:68) at the Rowing World Cup in Poland.

    It’s not surprising that teams with more rowers can achieve faster times, even though their boats are heavier. The additional manpower provides the power needed to move the boat quickly through the water. In addition to the crew size, the temperature of the water and the presence of tailwinds can also affect rowing performance. Warm water and favorable tailwinds create optimal conditions for rowers, allowing them to achieve their best times.

    In the 2005 World Rowing Championships, something extraordinary happened. These rowers achieved incredible times, breaking records left and right. But here’s the twist: these times weren’t officially recognized. Why? Well, it turns out that the water they were rowing on had a strong current due to a recent typhoon. And as you can imagine, that made a big difference. This is just one example of how environmental factors can affect sports records.


    When it comes to rowing races, winning is all about getting your boat across that finish line before anyone else. The team that accomplishes this feat is crowned the victor. It’s as simple as that.

    I’m a writer who’s passionate about games. I love nothing more than inspiring others to have fun and enjoy the thrill of competition. I’ve spent years organizing pub crawls and running drinking games with my guests. And with a family full of game lovers, you could say that gaming runs in my blood.

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