Rowing is a sport in which athletes race against each other on rivers, on lakes or on the ocean, depending upon the type of race and the discipline. The boats are propelled by the reaction forces on the oar blades as they are pushed against the water. The sport can be both recreational, focusing on learning the techniques required, and competitive where overall fitness plays a large role. It is also one of the oldest Olympic sports. In the United States, high school and collegiate rowing is sometimes referred to as crew.
While rowing, the athlete sits in the boat facing backwards (towards the stern), and uses the oars which are held in place by the oarlocks to propel the boat forward (towards the bow). This may be done on a river, lake, sea, or other large body of water. It is a demanding sport requiring strong core balance as well as physical strength and cardiovascular endurance.
Whilst the action of rowing and equipment used remains fairly consistent throughout the world, there are many different types of competition. These include endurance races, time trials, stake racing,bumps racing, and the side-by-side format used in the Olympic games. The many different formats are a result of the long history of the sport, its development in different regions of the world, and specific local requirements and restrictions
The History off Rowing
Even since the earliest recorded references to rowing, the sporting element has been present. An Egyptian funerary inscription of 1430 BC records that the warrior Amenhotep (Amenophis) II was also renowned for his feats of oarsman-ship. In the Aeneid, Virgil mentions rowing forming part of the funeral games arranged by Aeneas in honour of his father. In the 13th century, Venetian festivals called regatta included boat races among others.
The first known “modern” rowing races began from competition among the professional watermen that provided ferry and taxi service on the River Thames in London. Prizes for wager races were often offered by the London Guilds and Livery Companies or wealthy owners of riverside houses. The oldest surviving such race,Doggett’s Coat and Badge was first contested in 1715 and is still held annually from London Bridge to Chelsea.
During the 19th century these races were to become numerous and popular, attracting large crowds. Prize matches amongst professionals similarly became popular on other rivers throughout Great Britain in the 19th century, notably on the Tyne. In America, the earliest known race dates back to 1756 in New York, when a pettiauger defeated a Cape Cod whaleboat in a race.
Amateur competition in England began towards the end of the 18th century. Documentary evidence from this period is sparse, but it is known that the Monarch Boat Club of Eton College and the Isis Club of Westminster School were both in existence in the 1790s. The Star Club and Arrow Club in London for gentlemen amateurs were also in existence before 1800. At the University of Oxford bumping races were first organised in 1815 when Brasenose College and Jesus College boat clubs had the first annual race.
Brasenose won Oxford University’s first Head of the River and claim to be the oldest established boat club in the world. The Boat Race between Oxford University and Cambridge University first took place in 1829, and was the second intercollegiate sporting event (following the first Varsity Cricket Match by 2 years). The interest in the first Boat Race and subsequent matches led the town of Henley to begin hosting an annual regatta in 1839.
Founded in 1818, Leander Club is the world’s oldest public rowing club. The second oldest club which still exists is the Der Hamburger und Germania Ruder Club which was founded 1836 and marked the beginning of rowing as an organised sport in Germany. During the 19th century, as in England, wager matches in North America between professionals became very popular attracting vast crowds.
The Detroit Boat Club was established as the first rowing exclusive club in 1839 in the US. In 1843, the first American college rowing club was formed at Yale University. The Harvard-Yale Regatta is the oldest intercollegiate sporting event in the United States, having been contested every year since 1852 (except interruptions for wars)
Women in Rowing
For most of its history, rowing has been a male dominated sport. Although rowing’s roots as a sport in the modern Olympics can be traced back to the original 1896 games in Athens, it was not until the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal that women were allowed to participate — well after their fellow athletes in similar sports such as swimming,athletics, cycling, and canoeing.
Despite its male domination, women’s rowing can be traced back to the early 19th century, and an image of a women’s double scull race made the cover of Harper’s Weekly in 1870. Wellesley College (located in the town of Wellesley, Massachusetts) was the first school to organise a competitive rowing team for women in the late 19th century. The 19th Century Cornish rower Ann Glanville achieved national celebrity; her all-women crew often winning against the best male teams.
In 1927, the first rowing event for women between Oxford and Cambridge was held. For the first few years it was an exhibition, and it later became a race. Ernestine Bayer, called the “Mother of Women’s Rowing”, formed the Philadelphia Girls’ Rowing Club in 1938.
In 1954, the first women’s events were added to the European Rowing Championships. In 1988, the first Henley Women’s Regatta was held. Henley Royal Regatta first included a women’s singles event over the full course in 1993, followed in 2000 by eights (now Remenham Challenge Cup) and 2001 by quadruple sculls (now Princess Grace Challenge Cup).
On April 27, 1997, one of the last bastions of rowing was breached when, at an Extraordinary General Meeting, Leander Club voted to admit women as members. This rule met a condition imposed by UK Sport and qualified Leander to receive a £1.5 million grant for refurbishment from the Lottery Sports Fund.
At the international level, women’s rowing traditionally has been dominated by Eastern European countries, such as Romania, Russia, and Bulgaria, although other countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, and New Zealand often field competitive teams. The United States also has had very competitive crews, and in recent years these crews have become even more competitive given the surge in women’s collegiate rowing due to Title IX. Because Title IX mandates equal money spent on men’s and women’s sports, rowing is particularly useful due to the extremely high costs of equipment per athlete. Therefore, many schools open a rowing program only to women to financially counteract the prevalence of men’s sports.
In the United States, it is important to note that Women’s Rowing is an NCAA sport, while Men’s Rowing chooses to remain governed by its own regulatory body, the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA).
The IRA, formed in 1895, preceded the NCAA by at least ten years and provided a guideline for the rules of eligibility and sportsmanship later adopted by the NCAA when it was formed.