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Eighth with helmsman
A French galley and a Dutch galleon in front of a harbor, painting by Abraham Willaerts from the 17th century

The term rowing generally refers to the movement of a watercraft by human power using straps or sculls . When sculling, a rower holds an oar in each hand, the so-called scull. In oar rowing, on the other hand, the rower holds an oar, the oar, with both hands.

Rowing is now a strength endurance - sport in which boats sail on the water, where - depending on the boat type - a different number of people sitting: These products range in the Olympic boat classes from A (also Skiff called) to the roller .


Wooden model of a rowboat from ancient Egypt, 21st or 20th century BC Chr.
“Rowing regatta near Grünau”, painting by Ernst Oppler around 1910

Rowing has been known since ancient times. Before the invention of steam and diesel propulsion engines , it was a great way to move forward on open water regardless of the wind. Galleys were equipped with up to three rows of oars one above the other.

Rowing was also practiced as a sport back then. In history, rowing is sometimes used to describe all movements on water. In the 18th century, the English refined the sport. In 1715 the Irishman Thomas Doggett announced the first rowing competition of modern times in London; the so-called "Doggett's Coat and Badge Race" on the Thames . The best-known regatta on the Thames is the competition of the eight oars of the universities of Cambridge and Oxford , the so-called Boat Race , which took place for the first time in 1829. The Hamburger Ruder-Club was founded in 1836 , and the first German rowing regatta took place in Hamburg in 1844 . Rowing became Olympic in 1896. Due to bad weather, however, the discipline was canceled and was held for the first time in 1900.

Rowing techniques

Basically between sculling (English. Sculling ) and belt rowing (engl. Rowing ) can be distinguished. When sculling, a rower holds a scull in each hand. In oar rowing, on the other hand, the rower holds a oar with both hands, which dips either port or starboard into the water.

The acquisition and improvement of a rowing technique should make it possible to maximize the boat speed from a biomechanical point of view and at the same time to minimize the physical strain. In the course of time, the following model has emerged in Germany for the best possible achievement of these goals.


Example of sculling: One

In the display , also called the template, i.e. at the beginning of the move, the lower legs are almost perpendicular to the surface of the water by rolling forward with the rolling seat and tilting the upper body slightly forward. If possible, the upper body should not rest on the thighs; the arms are stretched forwards and outwards as far as possible in order to achieve the greatest possible throwing distance, the leaves are twisted orthogonally to the water surface, the lower edge of the leaves is not more than 5 cm above the water surface. At the end of the rolling movement, the rudder blades are immersed (set) in the water.

Then the pull-through begins immediately : the legs step against the stretcher (care should be taken not to step too hard, but rather increase the perceived force applied towards the final pull), the arms remain naturally stretched, the upper body is carried along and walks in the vertical, this remains in line with the hip.

The sculls have to be guided one behind the other by the rower so that the inner levers (the part of the scull that reaches from the oarlock of the boom to the center of the boat) do not hit one another. In Germany the port cowl is brought closer to the body and slightly below the starboard cowl. In the GDR, the starboard sull was brought closer to the body and a little below the port sull, but this was abandoned after the fall of the Wall in 1990 in favor of a uniform technology. Both variants are equally effective. The outriggers or oarlocks are therefore sometimes riggered 0.5–1.5 cm differently, i.e. usually about 1 cm lower on the port side than the starboard, in order to avoid the boat tilting. However, this is not necessary if the hands are properly guided one behind the other and almost at the same height. However, there is also the option of placing the hands completely on top of each other (American method). To do this, however, the boom's outriggers have to be attached at significantly different heights.

The arm flexion begins just before the hands pass the knees. The leg extension is only completed after the oarlock.

Women's Single Sculls Final - 28th Summer Universiade 2015 Gwangju

Once the leg shock is over, the body leaning into the reserve (also supine ), or about 30 ° (from the vertical of) backwards. The arms accelerate the pull, which ends when the hands touch the body. The inner lever speed in the end pull must correspond to the stroke frequency and boat speed. Then the leaves are lifted vertically out of the water by pressing down the hands and twisted. As soon as the leaves are free of the water, the “hand path” begins. The upper body immediately follows the rearward movement of the inner lever so that the hands do not go too far away from the body. The flowing demonstration of the inner lever while simultaneously taking the upper body along takes place at the same speed as the approach of the inner lever in the end pull. Then the rower pulls himself forward on the stretcher with the tips of his toes. When the inside lever is presented, the leaves begin to turn open at the height of the stretcher board so that they are again vertical in the display. Towards the display, the oar handles are moved upwards and forwards - so the oar blades approach the water and are fully immersed in it towards the maximum display (also called setting or watering).

When designing the entire sequence of movements, it is particularly important that the sequence of movements flow smoothly and harmoniously. Every jerky movement of the body and extremities negatively affects the propulsion and movement of the boat.

Oar oars

Example of oar rowing: two men without a helmsman

Each rower has only one oar instead of two sculls. He operates it with both hands. In contrast to sculling, the rower turns his upper body when rolling into the display in the direction of the boom, while his shoulder axis is parallel to the belt. In contrast to sculling, most rowers' arms and bent legs get in each other's way in the display, so it is common to stretch the outer leg (the leg opposite the boom) a little away. Straps (approx. 378 cm, inner lever between 112 cm and 120 cm) are longer than skulls and have a larger blade.

Row boats

Racing boat: double scull (interior view)

The sports rowing boats , a distinction between gigs , mainly engaged in recreational sports are used and rowing racing boats in competitive sports area are used. The differences lie in the shape of the boat, the materials used to build it and the resulting weight. Gigs are divided into A, B, C, D and E according to width and construction (clinker construction or shell construction). Furthermore, a distinction is made between scull boats and belt boats . Another special feature of the rowing family is the cutter pulling , mainly found in the navy, and the Finnish church boat rowing , which, like a barque, knows two rowers sitting side by side. In addition, rowing catamarans exist in some clubs. These are mostly in-house constructions, in which two belt rowing boats are connected to one another via bridges. These boats offer increased stability and are mostly used for hiking trips.

In ordinary rowing boats, the oarlocks are firmly connected to the hull, while the rower can move in the longitudinal direction of the boat with a rolling seat and thus use his leg strength to propel the boat. Another variant are roller boom boats, in which the rudder seat is rigidly connected to the boat, but the boom with the oarlocks can be moved in the longitudinal direction of the boat via a rail system. This variant has the advantage that the center of gravity of the boat does not change so much during the rowing movement. However, after initial success in the 1970s, roller outrigger boats are no longer permitted to participate in official competitions.

Boat classes

The most common boat classes are:

There are also special classes, examples of which are:

  • Wedding His - This is an ordinary gig one with a steering seat.
  • Double figure eight (8x) - This is a figure eight that uses sculls instead of straps. Competitions in this boat class are very rare.
  • Double triple - A rowing boat built in the same way as the Gigvier, but with only three rowing places and a helmsman.
  • Barke - A rowing boat for eight rowers who sit in two rows of four next to each other. In the stern there is space for up to three people, including a helmsman. Boats are mainly used for touring rowing .
  • "Double twenty-four" - Not a real boat class, but there is a show boat from a Swiss rowing boat yard. The “double twenty-four” is an ordinary eight that can be divided in the middle and that has been expanded to include four segments of four.

The team

In all boats, all seats in the boat are numbered consecutively from bow to stern, that is, the bowman always sits in first place , the batsman in the seat with the highest number. Until the mid-1960s, however, the counting method was exactly the opposite (from stern to bow ) and was then adapted in almost all countries. In some parts of the world (including France), however, the new counting method was not accepted for various reasons, which is why the batsman is still in "number one" and the bowman is in the place with the highest number. The rejection of the new counting system is related, among other things, to the appreciation of the batsman (“the number one in the boat”) and the theory “the batsman sits in every boat and should always have the same number”.

In addition to these seats, certain crew members on the boat also have special tasks:


The batsman sits in the stern of the boat, in the first position as seen from the crew. It specifies the stroke frequency, i.e. the times at which the sculls or straps are inserted and lifted out of the water. The other rowers follow his movements so that rowing is as even as possible. He also has the task of keeping the stroke frequency as constant as possible and of setting the start and sprint in the race. For the batsman, a strong sense of rhythm and a sense of the boat movements are essential. In most of the belt racing boats without a helmsman, the batsman can move the helm at the stern of the boat and control it with a foot control, in which a shoe is movably attached to the stretcher and connected with ropes.


The bowman sits in the bow of the boat and his main task is to watch out for other boats in front of his own so that there are no accidents. In boats without a helmsman he has to turn around from time to time to inform the batsman (who in this case is also the helmsman) in which direction the boat must be steered. Smaller corrections to the direction of travel in scull boats can also be corrected by the bowman himself by applying more pressure on a scull; this is of course not possible in belt boats. In some gigboats, the bowman is also the helmsman. He steers the boat with his movable stretcher, which is connected to the rudder at the stern by cables. In large parts of Austria and in the southern federal states of Germany, the bowman is also known as the bowman. This nickname has become common in many clubs over the decades and is intended to indicate the double role of the bowman (rower and supervisor) and the greater workload during the trip.


In racing rowing, some types of boat have a helmsman . These are:

  • Two with helmsman,
  • Foursome with helmsman,
  • Double quad with helmsman,
  • Eighth (always with a helmsman, so the note is omitted here).

The boats without a helmsman, sometimes incorrectly called uncontrolled, are:

  • One (always without a helmsman, so no reference here either),
  • Two without a helmsman
  • Double sculls (always without a helmsman, therefore no indication here either),
  • Foursome without a helmsman,
  • Quadruple sculls (since the helmsman is only used in popular sport and in U17 competitive sport, the addition is not applicable in the racing area).

There are a number of variants for gigboats. Sometimes, on strong flowing rivers, two and four men do without the helmsman in favor of another rower.

The helmsman (star) is the only person in the boat who is not rowing. It lies either in the bow of the boat (usually in two with , double four and four with helmsman, sometimes also in eight ) or it sits upright in the stern (usually in the aft, in former times often in two with, double quad and four with helmsman). Especially for two and four men, the weight of the crew is better distributed thanks to the helmsman lying in the bow. The crew's center of gravity is also lower, which has a positive effect on the balance of the boat. This also improves the helmsman's view. At the aft, the helmsman in front did not prevail. Since the weight distribution advantage does not have a serious effect on the length of the boat, priority is given to better contact with the batsman with the stalk sitting in the back. The option of placing the helmsman in the middle of the boat has also been experimented with. But this could not prevail, mainly because of the technical effort and the poor visibility of the helmsman.

The helmsman steers the boat using a steering line that is guided once around. Each end is attached to one side of the rudder. A short lever is attached to the steering line in the bow. In the stern, on the other hand, the steering line is guided along both sides of the helmsman.

According to the FISA guidelines (French for “Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d'Aviron” = International Rowing Association), the helmsman must weigh at least 55 kilograms before the competition. With this regulation an "arms race of the lightest helmsmen" is avoided. However, this does not result in the exclusion of lighter taxpayers: If their weight is below the required minimum, this weight advantage is compensated for by adding additional weights.

In regattas, helmsmen cheer on their team throughout the race, give them the commands for intermediate sprints and provide information about the race. You can use a cox box (named after the English word for helmsman: coxswain or cox for short), this is connected to one or more loudspeakers and shows the helmsman the number of strokes and the time. Usually the helmsman is also responsible for getting the start number and making sure that the team casts off on time. A whole race can depend on one helmsman. Good helmsmen are therefore in great demand and are awarded a medal when they win. Traditionally, the helmsman of a victorious boat is thrown into the water by the crew at the end of the race.

In belt boats without a helmsman (two without and four without) either the beater or the bowman takes over the steering. For this purpose, there is often a foot control that can be used to steer the boat (for training purposes, the two-man rudder is often also removed in order to encourage the crew to concentrate on keeping the boat in a straight line). In the smaller skull boats (single, double scull) it is assumed that the crew is able to steer the boat without a rudder. Only in the sculling quad is there a steering wheel, but depending on the experience of the team, this may be omitted (see two without). The training waters of a club also decide on the use of the steering wheel - if a team only trains on a straight route, a foot steering wheel is often not used.

Touring rowing

Touring rowing on the Elbe , student rowing club of the Matthias-Claudius-Gymnasium (summer 1959)

In addition to regattas, one of the attractions of rowing is hiking. Touring rowing means driving on distances over 30 km. It usually takes place on longer rivers or canals and mostly in the wider gigboats.

In contrast to a day trip, entire rivers can be mastered on hiking trips in several stages. In this way you can fully explore a river from the first navigable banks to the mouth. The rowers row up to 100 km per day. These large daily kilometers are also created by taking advantage of the flow speed of rivers.

In addition to the sporting aspect, the touring rowers have to deal with shipping. On busy rivers, the boats must also be secured against waves. On rivers with many barrages, locks are part of the stage. The luggage is either stowed in the boat or transported with an escort vehicle.

When rowing touring, you are not tied to a boat position. You can even change boat positions while driving. The nights are spent either outdoors, on campsites, in hotels or hostels, but often in other rowing clubs' boathouses along the way.

Marathon rowing

A new discipline developed in rowing in the 1970s, which should actually be called “super long distance” instead of “marathon” - after all, the distances in the regattas that have been introduced are usually well over 42 km long. Examples are the 160 km regatta around Lake Geneva and the Weser marathon over 135 km. The longest marathon regatta in Germany, on which the greatest possible distance has to be covered within 24 hours, takes place annually in Berlin. The record of 268 km set there is entered in the Guinness Book of Records . In addition, the endurance test initiated by the Eckernförde rowing club has been held every year since 1981 , in which the Schleswig-Eckernförde route on the Schlei and the Baltic Sea (80 km) has to be covered within 12 hours. The difficulty lies not only in the 80 km, but also in the adversity of the open sea. Closed gig boats are recommended to the participants.

Extreme athletes have also been doing ocean rowing since the late 19th century . A transatlantic regatta in a rowboat is the Atlantic Rowing Race, which has been taking place since 1997 and has been called the Atlantic Challenge since 2013 .

Student rowing

The victorious foursome with the helmsman of the Matthias-Claudius-Gymnasium in Hamburg on August 6, 1959 in Neumünster .

School rowing is a form of rowing in which a school organizes rowing in the form of physical education in secondary levels I and II or in working groups. This is usually done under the responsibility of a teacher , who is also called the protector. In cooperation with traditional rowing clubs, the sporting responsibility can also be shared by the club's instructors and coaches.

When rowing students, the students are more involved in the responsibility. They take on the training of beginners, supervise teams during training and competitions. Organizational tasks for the tasks at the boathouse and the boat material are also taken over. This is the goal that is preferred by the student rowing clubs that are affiliated to the Federation of German Student Rowing Associations through their regional student rowing associations.

It's not just about sporting success, but also about the educational tasks in which the students learn to take responsibility for others. The oldest German school rowing club is the Rendsburg Primaner Rowing Club from 1880.

Rowing as a competitive sport

Olympic rowing

Rowing has been an Olympic sport since 1900 (see Summer Olympic Games ). The rowing competitions planned for the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 have been canceled due to the weather. The first single race was over a distance of 1750 meters. The distances were 3219 m in 1904, 2414 m in 1908 and 1883 m in 1948. Today competitions are driven over a distance of 2000 m. There are currently 14 competitions in the Olympic Games and 4 in the Paralympic Games.

Classes of racing rowing boats recognized by the World Rowing Federation (FISA)

  • Alone
    • One (1x): One person is rowing, has a skull both on the left and on the right.
  • For two
    • Two without a helmsman (2-): Two people with one oar each, without a helmsman .
    • Two with a helmsman (2+): Two people with one oar each and a helmsman as the third person. Can lie forward in the bow or sit in the stern. No more Olympic discipline since 1996.
    • Double sculls (2x): Two people with a skull in each hand.
  • to Fourth
    • Four without a helmsman (4-): Four people with one oar each, without a helmsman.
    • Four with a helmsman (4+): Four people with one oar each and a fifth person with a helmsman. Can lie in the bow of the boat or sit in the stern . No more Olympic discipline since 1996.
    • Double fours (4x-): Four people with a pair of skulls each. There is no helmsman here.
  • To eight
    • Eight (8+): Eight people with one oar and one helmsman. Is the fastest boat class

There are other boat classes (even a single with a helmsman ), but they do not play a role in high-performance sport. In popular sport regattas and in the junior area, for example, the double quad with a helmsman is used quite often , and there is also a double eight .

World best times in rowing

Since external influences such as wind, currents and waves have a major influence on the times achieved, there are no world records in rowing. In order to still be able to offer a benchmark, there are officially recognized world records in rowing by the FISA.

World championships

World rowing championships take place in the non-Olympic years as well as in the non-Olympic boat classes also in the Olympic years. The world championships for under 23-year-olds have only been listed as "real" world championships in the FISA rules since 2005. A detailed list of the world championships can be found in the article Rowing World Championships .

European championships

Since 2007, after a break of more than 30 years, European rowing championships have been held again. The first European rowing championships took place in 1893 and have been held annually from then until 1973 with only small interruptions during the world wars.

German championship rowing

The German Rowing Association traditionally describes the competitions to determine the German champions in rowing as German championship rowing. They are held over the international competition distance of 2000 m. The championships in the small boats (single and double without helmsman) are an important qualification criterion for the composition of the national teams. The first German rowing championships in single were held in Frankfurt am Main in 1882 .

Rowing and Health

Rowing can be practiced from the age of about eight years (the most important factor here is body size; competition rowing is possible from the age of ten) until old age.

Rowing is one of the few sports that have a positive effect on all major muscle groups and is also extremely good for the circulation. In sport rowing , the leg muscles (70%) are also used via a rolling seat . Injuries are rare, according to health insurance studies, rowing is one of the healthiest and most harmless sports. The rowing ergometer as a device for fitness and endurance training is also becoming increasingly popular.

For people with arterial hypertension , rowing is classified as "conditionally suitable" as an endurance sport with increased use of force. The suitability depends on the severity of the hypertension, concomitant diseases and previous sporting experience.

In addition, there are known cases of rowers drowning in water after accidents. There is a danger in the cold water season, which lasts around nine months in Central Europe. Rivers with strong currents are dangerous, but also lakes in combination with the weather conditions. Collisions and accidents can occur on waters that are used for shipping.

Incorrect technique such as rowing with strong kyphosis or lordosis in a draft can, however, cause health damage. In addition, when rowing, the shear stress on the skin on the rowing handles leads to increased blistering and callus formation on the rower's hands. This damage is particularly painful at the beginning and after longer breaks in training (for example after winter), but over time a tough corneal layer forms. After that, complaints only occur with unusual loads, for example when the grip size or texture is varied or when the oars and scullers change.

As in all weight-restricted sports, trying to reach the target weight in a convulsive manner can pose health hazards in lightweight rowing. So there are always fatalities due to so-called decoction - physical stress at high temperatures in combination with wearing thick clothing to achieve weight loss through sweating - before the weighing appointment. For child rowers, the weight limit is between 45 kg and 55 kg, depending on age and gender; above this one is normal weight; For the B-Juniors, the limit is 62.5 kg (average team weight to be achieved, maximum weight of a rower 65 kg; for other age-related weight classes, see racing rowing # weight classes ). Also affected by a weight limit are the helmsmen, who must weigh more than 55 kg, but should not exceed this weight in order to represent as little additional weight as possible in the boat. For this purpose, the helmsmen often stay below the minimum weight and drink large amounts of water before the official weighing or use (illegally) items of clothing with sewn-in weights.

See also

Portal: Rowing  - Overview of Wikipedia content on rowing
  • Rowing , rowing on the rowing ergometer
  • Push rowing, a rowing technique that is rarely used today
  • Upright row , a strength exercise from bodybuilding


Reference books

  • Arno Boes: Rowing - Everything you need to know. Meyer & Meyer, 2020, ISBN 978-3-8403-7737-2 .
  • Wolfgang Fritsch: The big book on racing rowing. 2nd Edition. Meyer & Meyer, 2020, ISBN 978-3-89899-864-2 .
  • Frank Baumgart: Learning to row - methodology and methods of rowing. NWRV 2020, without ISBN ( online as PDF , 1.2 MB)
  • Daniel Boyne: Essential Sculling. 2nd Edition. Lyons Press, 2020, ISBN 978-1-4930-4356-9 (English)
  • Andreas König et al .: Safe rowing - Safety manual of the German Rowing Association. 6th edition. DRV, 2019, without ISBN
  • Arno Boes: 111 reasons to love rowing. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, 2018, ISBN 978-3-942665-58-2 .
  • Rüdiger Klostermeyer: Just row - what gets a boat going. Lappe, 2018, ISBN 978-3-9817655-3-3 .
  • Charles Simpson, Jim Flood: Advanced Rowing. Bloomsbury, 2017, ISBN 978-1-4729-1233-6 (English)
  • Sebastian Tondorf: Learning to row with Marcel. DRV 2017, without ISBN ( online as PDF , 0.9 MB)
  • Wolfgang Fritsch, Volker Nolte: Master Rowing. 2nd Edition. Meyer & Meyer, 2016, ISBN 978-3-8403-7544-6 .
  • Valery Kleshnev: The Biomechanis of Rowing. Crowood Press, 2016, ISBN 978-1-78500-133-8 (English)
  • Wolfgang Fritsch: Rowing. 4th edition. Meyer & Meyer, 2014, ISBN 978-3-89899-860-4 .
  • Dieter Altenburg, Klaus Mattes, Jürgen M. Steinacker: Manual rowing training. 2nd Edition. Limpert, 2013, ISBN 978-3-7853-1890-4 .
  • Dirk Andresen, Timo Reinke: Karl Adam - The father of the Germany eight. Audiotex, 2012, ISBN 978-3-0003-8151-5 .
  • Volker Nolte: Rowing Faster. 2nd Edition. Human Kinetics, 2011, ISBN 978-0-7360-9040-7 (English)
  • Wolfgang Fritsch: Tips for rowing. 2nd Edition. Meyer & Meyer, 2004, ISBN 978-3-8989-9037-0 .
  • Volker Grabow, Ute Ronge: Basic rowing course - materials for rowing training. UD 2003, without ISBN ( online as PDF , 1.5 MB)
  • Craig Lambert: Rowing - An Art of Living. Ariston, 1999, ISBN 3-7205-2079-X .
  • Benjamin Ivry: Regatta - A Celebration of Rowing. Stoddart, 1988, ISBN 0-7737-2202-5 (engl.)


Web links

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Individual evidence

  1. ^ Doggett's Coat and Badge Wager., accessed April 30, 2020 .
  2. ^ Walter Schröder: Rowing . Rowohlt Verlag , Hamburg 1978, ISBN 3-499-17010-8 , p. 187 .
  3. Country of School Rowing. In: Rowing Association Schleswig-Holstein, accessed on January 30, 2016 .
  4. ^ A b Hans-Georg Predel: High blood pressure and sport . In: German magazine for sports medicine . Volume 58, No. 9 , p. 331 .
  5. ^ Jan-Eric Lindner: 14 Hamburg rowers rescued from the Kölpinsee. In: Hamburger Abendblatt online. May 10, 2005, accessed January 30, 2016 .