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2012 London Summer Olympics Rowing: 10 Terms to Know

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London, England, has a long history concerning competitive rowing. The first "Boat Race" (a four-mile race on the River Thames) between Oxford and Cambridge Universities took place in 1829, and since 1856 has been held annually (except during war). Olympic rowing also has a long history, dating to the 1900 Paris games, while women's events were added in 1976 for the Montreal Olympics.

The Games of the XXX Olympiad will take place this summer in London from July 27-Aug. 12. Rowing will be contested at Eton Dorney Rowing Centre at Dorney Lake starting July 28 and concluding Aug. 4, with Aug. 5 held as reserve day. There will be a total of 14 events (eight men's and six women's), ranging from single sculls to eight-member crews plus a coxswain.

If you are a nautical novice, these 10 terms will help you understand rowing a little better during this year's Olympic Games:

1. Shell - Another name for the boat that is used in rowing. The shell varies in size, from a single rower to a craft with eight rowers and a coxswain (see below).

2. Sweep - One of the two ways of propelling the boat through the water; means that the rower is using only one oar on one side of the boat.

3. Scull - The other form of rowing; the rower uses two oars, one on either side of the shell.

4. Coxswain - A member of the crew that is not responsible for rowing. The coxswain steers the shell via rudder, gives verbal instructions and encouragement to the rowers in the boat, and keeps tabs on his and the other crews' positions. This person is only used in some rowing events (events in which a coxswain is not used are said to be "coxless"). Races that include a coxswain will have one more person in the shell than listed. For example, men's eight with a cox means that there will actually be nine people in the boat: eight rowers and the non-rowing coxswain.

5. Repechage - Signifies an extra race(s) in each event designed to give the boats that failed to advance in the early heats another chance to reach the semifinals or final. Every event at the Olympics will include its own repechage.

6. Heat - Type of race used to determine that boats advance to later races; the fastest crews advance, other boats are sent to the repechage race.

7. Port/Starboard - Facing forward (opposite of how rowers sit), the left side of the boat is the port side; the right is the starboard side.

8. Stretcher - This is the place where a rower puts their feet. The rower's shoes are bolted into the two footrests on the stretcher, which sit at an angle. The seats use slides (tracks) to move as the crew member rows.

9. Run - Represents the distance that a shell travels as the result of a single stroke of the oars. To measure visually, watch the consecutive ripples generated by an individual oar.

10. Lightweight - Refers to the weight of the rower or rowers in certain events only; for women the maximum weight for a single rower is 59kg (130lbs), with a maximum average weight per crew member of 57kg (126lbs). For men, the limit for an individual is 72.5kg (160lbs), with a maximum of 70kg's (154lbs) for the crew member average. (pounds are rounded)

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The author has enjoyed the Olympics since he was a child watching the star-studded games in Los Angeles in 1984. He has been involved with various sports as a player, parent, coach and volunteer administrator for most of his life.

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