Rowing

 

World Rowing Cup, 2016
Pictures on this page were taken at the World Rowing Cup II regatta in Lucerne, Switzerland, on 27 May 2016. This was the second of the three World Cup regattas held each year, with the winners being decided after the third event. The first seven boats in each event score points, which are carried forward to the third and last regatta.
The first World Cup event of 2016 took place at Lake Varese in Italy; the second was on the Rotsee in Switzerland; and the third regatta of 2016 was held at Lake Malta in Poland in June. Being an Olympic year, 51 nations entered teams and the event was dominated by rivals for gold in Rio 2016. The medal table in the second World Cup was: 1st New Zealand, 2nd Great Britain, 3rd Australia; the United States were 4th and Croatia 5th. In the final placings after the third regatta, the rank order was: 1st New Zealand, 2nd Great Britain, 3rd Germany, 4th Australia and 5th France. New Zealand were the defending champions from the World Rowing Cup 2015.

Rowing as a sport
Rowing, in the UK at least, has always been associated with the upper classes and, since the 18th century, competitive rowing by amateurs has been the preserve of private, fee paying schools and universities. The most famous race in England is the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, held annually on the River Thames and watched by thousands of Londoners, very few of whom have ever had the opportunity to try this sport themselves.

Rowing grew in popularity in the US in the 19th century. The sport’s governing body, FISA, organized the first European Rowing Championships in 1893; Rowing entered the Olympics in 1900, but it took until 1962 for an annual World Rowing Championships to be introduced. (The World Cup in the pictures is held at the beginning of the European summer, whereas the World Rowing Championships are held at the end.)

How much can top rowers earn?
This varies greatly from country to country. The USA Olympic Committee ‘pays’ grants to its top female rowers at its Princeton training centre of around $800 US per month; bonuses for good performance can take the actual sum earned to $9,600 (data from 2014) – a figure less than the federal government’s official poverty line. Some rowers can increase their earnings by sponsorship, but Rowing is not one of the top value sports like athletics or ski slalom, and sponsors are not exactly queuing up. So if you are American and willing to be treated like a full-time athlete, regarding your training as your job, be prepared to live like a pauper or use up all your savings just to survive. For the World Champions, things are a little better. New Zealand pays its top rowers a basic salary of $20,000 a year, tax free, and with performance-related bonuses they can earn up to $80,000. Australian rowers are paid $5,000 during competitions, with travel and accommodation thrown in, and of course free access to excellent training facilities. But when you consider that some Australian rowers have given up jobs worth between $50,000 and $100,000 a year, the sacrifice made for their sport is evident.

Possibly one thing holding Rowing back from becoming a highly paid sport like tennis, snooker or basketball is the difficulty of watching it live: spectators can only see the start or finish in a race over distance, not both, unless they are watching on television. So the vast majority of rowers remain amateurs. On the other hand golf and cycle races like the Tour de France with similar disadvantages manage to attract huge crowds and large TV audiences, so it is possible for Rowing to do the same.

What are the various classes called?
Find a comfortable seat – this is complicated.
Rowing is divided into genders and weights. Lightweight has a maximum average crew weight of 70kg (154 lb) per male rower, and a maximum average weight of 57 kg (125lb) for a female. Within that boat average, no individual male is allowed to be over 72.5 kg (160lb), and no individual female crew member over 59kg (130lb). Over those weights you are in the heavyweight class, also known as ‘Open’.
The next way that racing is defined is by the number of people in the boat: one person of either gender is called ‘single skulls’; two rowers are in ‘doubles’; then there are ‘fours’ and ‘eights’. Some classes have a man or woman in the stern who does not row but steers, called the ‘cox’. Classes without a cox in which the steering is done by one of the rowers are called ‘coxless’.
So ‘women’s lightweight eights’ consists of nine people each not over 59kg in the boat; ‘women’s heavyweight coxless eights’ is eight people in the boat, all rowing, of any weight they like. Given that the cox is not rowing, it is an advantage for him or her to be as light as possible.

What kind of physique makes a good rower?
After the London Olympics in 2012, British Rowing authorities began to look for talent in the non-rowing population, since they knew that opportunities for trying Rowing were rare and, because of the expensive boats and boathouses required, tended to be open only to the more wealthy section of the population.
The first way they eliminated would-be rowers was by physique: you have to be between 190cm and 206cm if you were a man (6ft 3 inches to 6ft 9 inches), and over 186 cm (6ft 1 inch) if you were a woman. Then you must have broad shoulders, relatively long arms and legs, and ideally only 6%-7% body fat, although this last quality can be improved by careful nutrition and training. Lastly they were looking for excellent cardio-vascular capacity. If you didn’t fit these physical characteristics, you didn’t even make it into the try-out boat.

Who sits where in the boat?
In all classes except Single and Double Sculls, rowers only have one oar on one side of the boat, and row with their back to the direction of travel. Rowers are numbered from the front or ‘bow’ of the boat: 1, 3, 5 and 7 row on the right side of the boat as it moves forward, while 2, 4, 6 and 8 row on the left. The cox, if there is one, sits right in the stern and is the only person in the boat facing forwards; in a ‘coxless’ boat the steering is done by the bow (number 1). The pace is set by the oarsman nearest the stern, called the ‘stroke’. In an eight you place your most skilled rowers at bow, two, and stroke; the four in the centre of the boat at 3, 4, 5 and 6 can be less skilled but need to be strong, as they provide the power.

The Rotsee
The Rotsee, on the northern edge of the city of Lucerne in Switzerland, is a natural lake which happens to be ideal for rowing and swimming. This is because it is 2.4km long and 300m wide, with no current and nearby hills to shelter it from too much wind. Olympic races are mostly over 2,000m, and on the Rotsee there is enough room to race 6 lanes in a row.

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