Sports & Utility Boats Program (SUB)
The boats (or shells) are basically of two types and reflect the two forms of rowing---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 racing shells are as narrow as possible while recreational ones can be rather wide. Most shells today are made of composite materials such as carbon fiber, fiberglass, or kevlar. A few manufacturers still build wooden boats.
Each rower has his back to the direction the shell is moving and power is generated using a blended sequence of the rower's legs, back and arms. The rower sits on a sliding seat with wheels on a track called the slide.
Each oar is held in a U-shaped swivel (oarlock) mounted on a metal pin at the end of a rigger. The rigger is an assembly of tubes that is tightly bolted to the body of the shell. The exception to this are some European recreational boats called "inriggers" which have the oarlock attach directly on the gunwale. The subtypes of rowing shells are classified according to the number of rowers in the shell.
In the US, the women have an individual max only; no average. In some regattas in the US (usually head races late in the season) these limits are increased by 5 lbs.
A rowing shell is usually built with a particular weight class of rower in mind. Until just recently the Olympics effectively had only HWT classifications.
Starting with the rower at `rest' and legs fully extended with the oar blades immersed in the water perpendicular (well ... almost) to the water's surface.
What are the usual racing distances and divisions?
The races have separate divisions---Men's (M), Women's (W), heavyweight (HWT) or open, lightweight (LWT) etc., then divided up into 8+'s, 4+'s, 1x's, 2x's and so on. So for a typical regatta you might see separate races scheduled for M8+, W8+, M4+, W4+ down (or up---depends on your cup of tea) to W1x and M1x. There may be separate heavyweight and lightweight divisions that would require a weigh-in for the lightweights some time before the start of the regatta. You may also see divisions according to experience (novice, varsity), age (junior and masters) ,and skill level (senior A, B, Elite, etc.)
The standard international racing distance is 2000 meters (preferably straight) and the course usually has six shells racing against each other in their separate designated lanes which may or may not be marked by buoys. These races can take anywhere from 5 1/2 to 8 1/2 minutes depending on boat class, weather conditions, water current and the physical condition and experience of the rowers.
Other racing distances are 1000 meters for the older guys and gals (Masters) and 1500 meters for the Junior age division (high school). A description of the starting procedures is in a separate following section. Also, there is a match style (i.e. races with two boats head to head in a single elimination format for each division) racing at a some regattas. The Henley Royal Regatta in England comes to mind.
From J. Wangermann: The standard regatta format in the UK at club level is two-lane elimination, normally over four rounds. The reason is that all the rivers in the UK are far more narrow and twisty than in the US (e.g. the Cam, Isis, Avon, Thames above London) etc. For similar reasons, the length varies. Many regattas are two day affairs, the first day being a sprint over 500 or 600m, the second day being a long-distance affair of 800-1500 m.
(a brief description from R. Chen)
Crews are expected to be at their starting stations two minutes before the scheduled time of the race. Once the boats are locked on, the judge at start will supervise the alignment process. When all crews are level, the Starter will then poll the crews by calling their name. When all crews have been polled, the Starter raises a red flag, and says; "Attention!". After a clear pause the starter shall give the start by dropping the red flag quickly to one side and simultaneously saying: "GO".
In windy conditions, the Starter may dispense with polling the crews and use a "quick start". Here, the starter says "Attention!" and if no crew responds, immediately raises the red flag and gives the starting commands. In a FISA regatta, once the red flag is raised in a quick start, hands are no longer recognized, but in the US, the Starter will still recognize hands.
In the US, the procedure of last resort is the `countdown start.' The Starter dispenses with further polling, and counts down "5-4-3-2-1 Attention! GO!" Once the countdown starts, hands are not recognized, and the crews should use the five second countdown to point their boats.
Crews can be assessed a warning for a false start, for being late to the start, or for traffic rules violation. A crew that receives two warnings in the same race is excluded from the event.
If a crew breaks equipment in the first 100 meters of the race, it should stop rowing and signal to the umpire, who will then stop the race. Broken equipment under FISA and USRA rules does not include a crab (fausse pelle) or jumped slide.
Once the race has begun, the Umpire (Referee in US or Canada) follows in a launch. He/she will instruct a crew only to avoid a foul or safety hazard. If a crew is about to interfere with another crew, the umpire will raise a white flag, call the crew's name, and drop the flag in the direction where the crew should move. If a crew is about to hit a known obstruction (such as a bridge abutment) the umpire will raise a white flag, call the crew, and yell "Obstacle!" or simply "Stop!" If the umpire needs to stop the entire race, he will ring a bell or sound a horn, wave a red flag, and call out "Stop!" if necessary.
A crew that wishes to protest the race must raise a hand after it crosses the finish line and lodge the protest with the umpire. This must be followed by a written protest accompanied by $25.00 USD (50 Swiss Francs internationally). A jury will decide the protest after a hearing. If the hearing goes in the favor of the protest then the $25.00 is returned.
These races , which are generally held in the fall (US) or early spring (Europe) are about 2.5-3 miles long and the boats are started in their respective divisions separately at 10 second intervals. These things are usually conducted on a river with an assortment of bridges and turns that can make passing quite interesting.
(As someone pointed out, this is the Cambridge version, but it should do just to get an idea of what bumps racing is about.)
The bumps are a way of racing eights. It all basically comes from rowing on a river which in most places is only just wide enough for two boats to pass.
The basic idea is simple: you get a division of 17 (or 18) boats who start in a column with 1.5 lengths of clear water between them, and when the start gun goes the aim is to bump the boat in front by making up enough distance for physical contact between the two boats. The two boats involved in the bump drop out of the race by pulling in to the side of the river and leaving the course clear for anyone behind (if the boat behind a bump catches the boat in front of a bump this is an overbump).
In the next day of racing the two crews swap start positions. There are 4 days of racing in each set of bumps, and positions are held over from year to year. Divisions are raced in reverse order (i.e. worst first) and the crew ending top of a division (because it started there and successfully `rowed over' the whole course, or because it bumped the crew who started head (top) of the division) gets to row as the 17th boat in the next division so if they bump there they move up a division the next day. The aim of the whole thing is to end up top of the 1st division `Head of the River', or to go up four places (i.e. a bump each day).
What do most rowers prefer and what does CRASH-B stand for?
`The ergometer simulates the physical demands of rowing, packaging the pains with none of the amenities that make it worthwhile ...'
- from Kiesling's The Shell Game.
Most rowers use the Concept II rowing ergometer, but several other brands exist. Other brands preferred by rowers are the "Water Rower" which claims to closer simulate the feel of rowing on water and the RowPerfect. Obviously Ergometers don't float, but the Concept II is probably the primary off season training device for rowers. Concept II's latest, and most common model is the Model C, but many of the older models, Model B, still exist.
Going from the `lightest' to the `heaviest' settings:
Large gear wheel/vent completely closed lightest Large gear sheel/vent completely open | Small gear wheel/vent completely closed | Small gear wheel/vent completely open heaviest
The newer Model C settings has just one vent adjustment that ranges from 1 to 10. Setting 4 is equivalent to the lightest setting of the Model B.
Most rowers include weight workouts in their training programs.
We thank the Rice University Crew Website for much of the above information. Visit them on the world wide web at:
- Vessel Examinations
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Pages prepared by: Robert Daraio, DVC-VE 2006
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