Carly and the Boys 10-26-2012

Row, row, row your boat…

A Primer on Crew from former Coxswain College Prepster

Crew is about hard work. Crew is about going all in. Crew is about competition and respect.

Crew is the gentlemans sport.

Lots of girls would kill to spend time with an athletic, smart, and remarkably tall man– multiply that by eight and you’ve got yourself quite the dream there. As a coxswain, I spent more hours than I can count with my rowers…rowing in boats, of course. It was an interesting blend of a teammate, best friend, little sister, and drill sergeant.

Crew is often seen as the epitome of teamwork. And it’s true: every single person in the boat, from bow seat all the way up to coxswain has each other’s back. We come from different backgrounds, but the minute those blades lock in the water, we’re committed.

Practices, like the strokes, are long and hard. Grueling mornings on the ergometers during the winter are replaced by springtime rows that begin before sunrise and continue until the very last of the morning fog has burned away. Sweat flows as continuously as the rivers we row on. The rowers’ hands bear deep blisters that eventually turn into the ultimate trophies: tough blisters that stand a quarter-inch above the palm.

Races, on the other hand, are but a fleeting moment, a mix between intense pain and an intense high no drug could replicate. A crew is only allotted a few minutes– a mere two thousand meters– to demonstrate and, most importantly, prove that they’ve put in the training time. Defeat and victory are separated by an inch of space between bow balls.

Knowing how you Rogues and Gentlemen enjoy a good list, the following will get you started so you don’t sound like a complete novice. And for the record, I’ve heard every row, row, row your boat joke there is.


The Lingo

Coxswain (pronounced cox-sen)- the small crew member who sits in stern of the boat

Rowers- lightweight or heavyweight men (chaps with the oars)

Sculling- each rower holds an oar in each hand

Sweeping- each rower has one oar which he holds with both hands

Bow- the front of the boat; crosses the finish line first!

Stern- end of the boat; crosses the finish line last

Bow Seat- the first rower in the bow

Stroke- the first rower in the stern, responsible for setting the cadence

Starboard- the right side of the shell when facing the bow

Port- the left side of the shell when facing the bow

Head race- a time trial race of longer distance

Sprint race- all boats go off at one time and race a shorter distance


Bonus: Rowing is a sport with extremely long-withstanding traditions. One of these traditions is the betting shirts. When a crew loses, each rower hands off his shirt (sweat and all) over to the oarsman in the other boat. It’s a really fun tradition as a rower can collect shirts from crews from around the country as they win races!


Extra Credit: “Crew team” is redundant. Even though it’s commonly said (I go in and out of the habit of saying it), it’s technically not correct. You can be on a rowing team, or part of a crew. But “crew” and “team” essentially mean the same thing!


Carly Heitlinger is a blogger and recent Georgetown alumna with an affinity for anything preppy.
Check out her (lovely) site at or follow her on twitter @CollegePrepster.


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