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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 April 2004, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
Beginner's guide to rowing
The more crew members, the faster the boat

The Olympic regatta consists of 14 races over the course of nine days.

Those events are split eight and six in terms of both men and women and scull, where two oars are used, and sweep, where the oarsman uses only one.

The men's events are single scull, double scull, lightweight double scull, quadruple scull, coxless pair, coxless four, lightweight coxless four and eight.

The women race in the single scull, double scull, lightweight double scull, quadruple scull, coxless pair and eight.

Coxless refers to the fact that the crew row without a cox to guide them, but with the races contested in straight lanes over 2,000m, it is not difficult to stay on course.

In lightweight events the average weights must not exceed 70kg for a male crew and 57kg for a female crew.

The field for the finals in each event are determined by a series of heats and semi-finals and repechages, which gives losing boats a second chance to get to the semi-final.

The first three teams in each semi-final move through to the six-lane final, although this depends upon the number of boats entered into each event.

A stroke consists of four components that have to be completed perfectly to propel the boat forward as fast as possible.

  • Catch: The rower drops the oar into the water coiled forward with their arms at full stretch.

  • Drive: The legs power the seat back as the rower uncoils, drawing the oar against the water as the legs stretch fully out.

  • Finish: The rower lifts the oar out of the water and rolls it to a horizontal position so it slices through the air aerodynamically in the final component of the stroke.

  • Recovery: The rower slides forward back into the coiled position, arms outstretched, ready for the catch once more.

The ability to synchronise these strokes as perfectly as possible is the key in achieving maximum speed.

Dieticians recommend that top rowers should consume around 6,000 calories a day to maintain their strength

If a crew member loses rhythm, even only slightly, it can spell curtains for the whole team and ruin the race. Rowers who are not rowing well will create a lot of splash around the area where the oar hits the water.

In sweep rowing events, the rower nearest the cox - the stroke - is vital as they set the rhythm of the boat.

But if the second rower does not match that pace, the whole of his side - the bow - will be out of sync with the stroke side, a disastrous circumstance for any crew.

The more crew members, the faster the boat. A crew of eight will average around 40 to 44 strokes per minute, while a single will manage 36 to 40 at the start of a race.

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