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The Sport of Rowing

Updated on January 11, 2012

From earliest times people have traveled across water, using paddles or oars to propel themselves. From the simplest rafts and dugout canoes to the multi-tiered galleys of the Egyptians, rowing provided an adequate method of propulsion although it was not as efficient as sails. The earliest records of large vessels which used manpower in this way date to the fourth millennium BC in Egypt. Subsequently, the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and the Norsemen all built vessels which employed the use of oars. Rowing continued to be in common use until the end of the Middle Ages and there were still some large galleys rowed in the Mediterranean Sea until the eighteenth century.

Rowing as a Sport

Although early rowers raced their galleys, creating one of the earliest forms of competitive sport, modern rowing developed in England as a result of the popular use of the Thames River as a medium for transport.

In 1715 Thomas Doggett, an Irish comedian, sponsored a race from London Bridge to Chelsea, known as 'Doggett's Coat and Badge', which has been a regular event ever since, except during the World Wars. The first English regatta was held on the Thames in 1775, with amateur rowing competitions originating about 1817.

Rowing is described in various terms.

Stroking is the use of one oar, pivoted on the side of the boat, whereas sculling is the use of two oars by the one oarsman. Boats used for competitive racing are called shells and may vary between seven meters in length for a single craft to fifteen meters for a craft carrying a crew of eight. An eight-man crew is able to propel a craft at speeds of up to 20 km per hour.

Rowing was included as an Olympic sport after 1900 and competition involves single and double sculling teams and five different sweep-oared teams. The most famous of all rowing races is the annual Oxford versus Cambridge classic, which originated in 1829, over a course of approximately seven kilometers on the Thames River. There is also an international race held annually at Henley-on-Thames, England between several different classes over a distance of about two kilometers. Other countries conduct their own races, most of which are designed around the competition which originated in England.


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    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 5 years ago from Indonesia

      People, specially students of a university in my city do this sport in the river. It's nice to see them practicing.