History of Rowing

History of Rowing (Page 2 of 4)


Rowing began with the Egyptians and was soon adopted by the Greeks, Romans and the Vikings. Modern day rowing grew from the competitive instincts of the watermen who would ferry pilots to incoming ships, so that they could navigate the ships into harbor. The first pilot to reach the ship would get the job, so speed became an essential component.

As the competitive exploits of these early watermen grew, so did the the sport of professional rowing. The Doggett's Coat and Badge race for competitive watermen has taken place every August 1st since 1716 over four and a half miles of the River Thames in London, England.

In the 1800's it was thought that the oars people who earned their living doing manual work (even if not rowing related) held an unfair advantage over the relatively idle gentry of the upper classes and the organization of the sport broke in two; professional (for manual workers) and amateur. Competitive rowing as we know it today has its roots in amateur rowing and, until only relatively recently, manual workers were excluded from competition.

The quest for speed has seen many developments in the rowing boat, one of the most important being the introduction of the sliding seat in the 1870s. This allowed more force to be applied to the oar through greater use of the legs in co-ordination with the back and arms.


Over the centuries, as rowing has developed, many differing classes of boats have evolved. These classes may be separated into two broad categories: sculling boats, in which the oarsperson uses two oars (one in each hand), and rowing boats (or sweep boats) where each oarsperson uses one oar.

Sculling boats come in one, two and four person configurations (though some juniors do train in eight person Octuples). Rowing boats are available with or without coxswain (the steersperson who steers the boat, directs and motivates the crew). Coxed rowing boats come in two, four and eight person configurations while coxless rowing boats come in two and four person configurations.

Another variant which has recently received Olympic representation is lightweight rowing. This limits the average crew weight and the maximum weight for any individual crew member.

Some may be surprised but, even at international levels, lightweight crews are very competitive against the open weight classes, shattering the myth that you have to be big and burly to be a competitive oarsperson.

Indeed, the beauty of rowing is that anyone can do it, regardless of age, weight, sex and physical condition. It's just that the fitter you are, the faster you'll go.

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