Rowing terminology can be very confusing for the newcomer to the sport, especially for parents who are trying to figure out the names of the various boat types and seat positions. Let's begin this explanation process by starting from the beginning!
Sweep Rowing versus Sculling
There are two ways to move a boat across the water. A rower can possess one oar (i.e., SWEEP) to move the boat or the rower can possess two oars (i.e., SCULLING). This is the basic difference between the two types of rowing. The one difference that’s worth noting between the two types of rowing is the coxswain. A coxswain (pronounced “cox-in”) is the person in the sweep boat who never possesses an oar, yet is the pace-setter, race strategist and steers the boat…hopefully straight!. If you have a son or daughter interested in the coxswain position….have no fear as the role of the coxswain is just as important, if not more important than that of the rower.
MHRC offers rowers the opportunity to row in either type of boat (sometimes called a “shell”).
Rowing boats are made of carbon fiber, reinforced plastic in a honeycombed structure and the heaviest boats usually weigh about 200 pounds. All sculls are shells, but not vice versa. The normal configuration of a sweep boat has oars alternating between right and left, or starboard and port sides of the boat. Sweep rowers come in pairs (2) , fours (4), and Eights(8) as displayed in the diagram below. They may have a coxswain, in which case they are called a pair with coxswain (2+), or a four with coxswain (4+). Pairs and fours also come without coxswains (2- and 4-). The Eight always has a coxswain (8+).
The boats (or shells) in the diagram reflect the two forms of rowing which are sweep rowing and sculling. In sweep rowing each rower handles a single oar (about 12.5 ft or 3.9 m long).In sculling a rower uses two oars, or sculls, (each about 9.5 ft or 3 m long). The word "shell" is often used in reference to the boats used because the hull is only about 1/8" to 1/4" thick to make it as light as possible. These shells are also rather long and as narrow as possible, which makes the boats very fast, but also quite hard to balance.