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Olympic Rowing: Learning Your Way Around the Boat

Yahoo Contributor Network

Rowing brings to mind crews of rowers in long slender boats gliding over the top of the water, propelled by oars effortlessly dropping in and out of the water in a continuous dance across the clear waters of an idyllic lake. However, competitive rowing is a fast paced and energy charged team sport, and nowhere will you find the competition more ferocious than at the Summer Olympics.

For the casual viewer without a history on the water, this entrancingly beautiful sport's basic equipment and lingo can be more than a bit confusing, and getting acquainted with the basics of the boats and crews can be overwhelming. Here is a quick guide to some of the more common boating terminology associated with Olympic rowing.

Crew - The group of athletes that make up an individual team. Comprised of rowers, and in the case of group rowing, a coxswain, much like a coach, is included on the crew.

Coxswain - The coxswain "drives" the boat by calling out the appropriate coaching commands to the crew. This crewmember's orientation is the perspective from which most of the sport of rowing is observed. The coxswain, sometimes shortened to cox, perches at the stern or the boat, facing in the direction of travel while Rowers face backwards pulling their oars through the water.

Stern - The rear end of the boat, where the coxswain sits.

Bow - The front end of the shell. A feature called the bow ball is also located here.

Port -

The left side of the shell from the perspective of the cox, port is the right side from the perspective of the rowers.

Starboard - The right side of the boat, in relation to the coxwain's orientation. Starboard is the left side of the shell to rowers.

Shell - A type of long, thin rowboat. The two common styles of shell are the sweep and the scull.

Hull - The outer portion of the boat which touches the water, the term is often used synonymously in reference to the boat itself. Regulation rowboats are so thin that the hull can be punctured easily. The coxswain ensures that the hull is not run aground or into hazards.

Sweep or Scull - The two regulation styles of boat used by Olympic rowers. The sweep style is synonymous to rowing with one oar, while the scull style refers to a rowboat powered by rowers paddling with two oars.

Deck - There are decks at both the starboard and stern ends of the hull. In event of capsizing, swamping or taking on water, the decks add buoyancy to the shells to prevent rapid sinking.

Oar - The paddle by which the rowers propel the shell forward.

Oarlock - Fashioned in the shape of a "U", the oarlocks are guides for the shaft of the oars to nestle in.

Sleeve and Collar - Plastic fittings on the shaft of the oars working in conjunction with the oarlocks to prevent the oars from slipping while rowing.

Rigger - Arms made of composite or metal which are fixed to the side of the hull, providing support to hold the oars.

Abby grew up on the shores of the Central Florida chain of lakes boating and swimming with family and friends. She fondly remembers enjoying watching the rowing crews from the local high schools, colleges and universities engage in heated battles for supremacy on the waters of Lake Virginia.

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