The Sprint Race

National, collegiate, worlds, and Olympic sprint competitions are 2,000 meters, or approximately 1.25 miles. The race course is divided into 6-8 lanes and each 500-meter section is marked with buoys. Masters races are 1,000 meters. Often, juniors races are 1,500 meters.

The race begins with all boats aligned at the start in the lanes they've been assigned. Individuals in each lane hold the stern of each boat steady, while an official (the aligner) ensures that each boat is even with the others and squarely facing the course.

Each crew is allowed one false start (two means disqualification). If within the first 100 meters, or 20 seconds of the race if the 100 meter zone is not marked, there is legitimate equipment breakage, the race will be stopped and restarted with repaired equipment.

The stroke rate (the number of rowing strokes per minute that a crew is taking) is high at the start -- maybe 45 or even 50 for an eight, 38 to 42 for a single scull. Then, the crew will settle into the body of the race and drop the rating back -- 30 to 35 for an eight, 25 to 30 for a single. The coach and the way the race is going determine when the crew will sprint, but finishing stroke rates of 46+ in the last 200 meters are not uncommon. However, higher stroke rates are not always indicative of speed. A strong, technically-talented crew may be able to cover more water faster than a less-capable crew rowing at a high stroke rate.

Unlike canoe/kayak competitions, rowers are allowed to leave their lanes without penalty as long as they do not interfere with anyone else's opportunity to win. An official follows the crews to ensure safety and fairness.

Despite the exhaustion of the race, the crew will row for 5 to 10 minutes afterwards in order to cool down. In rowing, the medal ceremonies of larger regattas include the shells. The three medal winning crews row to the awards dock, climb out of their shells, and receive their medals before rowing away.

The Head Race

Head races, which are generally held in the fall, about 2.5-3 miles long and the boats are started in their respective divisions separately at 10 second intervals. They are usually conducted on a river with an assortment of bridges and turns that can make passing quite interesting. The winner is the crew that had the shortest elapsed time between the start and finish lines, with any additional time included for penalties.

Sculling and Sweep Rowing
The Equipment
The Stroke
The Race
Rowing Terms
Rowing Lingo
Race Watching Tips
Top 10 List