Freshman 8 rowing.jpeg


Crew boats are technically called shells, and motor boats for coaches are called launches.

  • Rowers use oars to propel the boat. You can interchange the words 'boat' and 'shell' but you'd never call an oar a paddle (paddles are in kayaking).

  • Regatta entries can be either sweep (each rower has 1 long oar, ~12 feet long) or scull (each rower has 2 slightly shorter oars, ~9 feet long).

  • For sweep entries, rowers are in a pair, a four, or an eight.

  • Scull entries end in -le, such as a single, a double, or a quadruple (called a quad).

  • Two rowers with 1 long oar each row in a Pair, while 2 rowers with 2 oars each (4 oars total) row in a Double.

  • Four rowers with 1 long oar each row in a Four, while 4 rowers with 2 oars each (8 oars total) row in a Quad.

  • FUN FACT: There is one octuple on the Occoquan (8 rowers, 16 total oars) but it is usually only brought out during fall Learn-to-Row and it looks like a huge caterpillar - see one in action HERE.

  • Entries are in Lightweight or Open categories, Women (W) and Men (M). There are no mixed categories (4 women, 4 men) for VASRA regattas.

Rowers always face the stern, coxswains always face the bow.

Regatta Boat Designations on VASRA Heat Sheets:
(These can differ across platforms - Stotesbury uses slightly different designations)

  • x = sculling entry
    Example: 4x means a Quad (4 rowers, 8 oars)
    No 'x' means a coxed Four or a straight Four
    (4 rowers, 4 oars)
    Memory hint: think of 'x' as 'times 2' or crossed oars

  • + = coxed entry (the '+' is not always included on sheets, especially for 8s since they all have a coxswain)

  • All 8's are sweep and have a coxswain in stern

  • JR- = no seniors on the boat, even at coxswain

  • LT- = Lightweight entry

  • FR- = all high school freshmen on the boat

  • N- = Novice - all first-year rowers on the boat (may have an experienced coxswain but all rowers are in their first year with VASRA)

  • No team can row a second or third boat in a category without a first boat in that same category — for example, a team cannot enter a Women's 2-8 without a 1-8 entry as well, or row a 2nd 4 without a 1-4 entry at the top of the lineups.
    **The exception to this is new teams in their first year or two may row 8s in a lower category until the team builds experience.


  • High school regattas are 1,500 meters (or .93 mile)

  • Olympic & collegiate regattas are 2,000m

  • Head races (or 'chases') are 5,000m (3.1 miles); local fall rowing programs compete in chases.


GLOSSARY of terms:

2K – 2,000 meters, usually denoting an erg test; 2K times are one factor a coach can consider when making boat decisions.  As an athlete improves, the 2K time decreases, leading to a 'PR' (personal record).

Blade – The flat part of an oar which glides through the water, usually painted with team colors for identification.  For a great overview of high school team blades, check OarSpotter.com.  

Bow (pronounced bau– The front section of a boat, which crosses the finish line first; the rower in the seat closest to the front (Seat 1) is called the bow, and seats 1 & 2 are called the bow pair.  The name of the boat is generally found on the bow.

Bow ball: – A small rubber ball attached to the front of a shell; intended for safety, but also can determine which boat crosses the finish line first in a photo-finish (photo below).

Catch – The start of a rowing stroke, when the blade of the oar 'catches' in the water to begin the drive forward.

Coxswain (pronounced coxin, or cox) – The cox commands and motivates rowers and calls the stroke rate while steering the boat, sitting in the stern or the bow depending on the style of shell.  Although coxswains are typically the smallest person in a boat, a great cox is as competitive and driven as any rower in the Engine Room. The cox dictates race strategy on the water and can be instrumental to pulling out a win in a tough race.

Cox Box – An electronic voice amplification system to help coxswains reach all rowers on a boat.

Crab – A rower 'catches a crab' when the oar blade enters the water at the wrong angle, burying the oar deep into the water instead of completing a smooth stroke.  Because the boat continues to move forward, the stuck oar twists in its rigging and can strike the rower — if it strikes with enough force and at an angle, the trajectory can flip the rower out of the boat (thus becoming an ejector crab).  Crabs can happen to even the best rowers, so don't feel too bad if you get tossed socks-over-head into the Occoquan (photo below).

Deck – top flat portion of the shell at the bow and stern.

Drive – Portion of a stroke when a rower is pulling the oar through the water; drives start with the legs, then progress through the back and down to arms, which is why rowing is a full-body workout.  Coach Katia once said that finesse on a drive is like petting a kitten underwater with the blade of an ax (i.e. it's a lot harder than it looks to do this well).

Ergometer (ERG) – A rowing machine that simulates rowing, used to build a rower's endurance, and at times the bane of your very existence.

Feathering – When a rower twists the oar blade parallel to the surface of the water after release, to aid in aerodynamics as the blade and rower recover back to the catch point.  Compare to box strokes, which are used when learning to row for the first time.



Finish – The end of a drive; power for the finish draws mainly from back and arms, while the beginning of a stroke is mostly in the legs.

Foot Stretcher – An adjustable footplate bolted to the boat, to which shoes are attached; allows a rower to adjust position relative to the slide and the oarlock.

Gunwale – The top outer edge of a boat, also where rowers lift and carry the shell.  

Hull – The body of the boat itself; because of the fragility of a boat hull, you should never step over a boat resting in a low sling, but walk around the end.

Keel – The backbone of a shell, running down the center to provide structural support. 

Lightweight – Entry category referring to the body weight of a rower.  For high school racing, lightweight class limits are 150 pounds for men and 130 pounds for women.  

Nationals – Usually referring to the Scholastic Rowing Association of America National Championships (also called SRAAs).  Held in late May at rotating locations along the East Coast.  See our List of Regattas page.

Novice (N) – ANY rower who is rowing for the first year in a VASRA-sponsored event — even a high school senior can be considered a novice.  Compare to Freshmen (FR) designations, which can only be high school freshmen.

Oarlock – U-shaped frame attached to the boat's rigger, which holds the oar in place with a gate across the top.

OLOC – The Occoquan Local Operations Committee (see our VASRA Service page).

Port – The left side of the boat when facing toward the bow; to the coxswain's left and the rowers' right.  Memory hint: 'port' & 'left' both have four letters.

Power 10 (or 12 or 15 or ...) – A set of strokes called by a cox to move the boat faster, typically at strategic points in a race to gain ground or distance from the competition.  

Puddle – The indent in the water left after a blade releases (photo below).

Release – The point where the blade pulls cleanly out of the water at the end of a stroke; beginning of the recovery.

Recovery – The stretch between the oar release and the next catch, when a rower folds forward and feathers the oar back to the catch point for the next drive. 'Slow recovery' means take it easy in between drives.

Repechage  A second-chance heat for boats that don't automatically advance to finals in the preliminary heats, ensuring top boats have two chances to advance to finals from non-seeded prelims.  Oakton Crew only sees this at SRAA Nationals.

Rigger (also outrigger) – Metal apparatus on the side of a boat, connecting oarlocks to the body of the shell. 'Rigging' means attaching the metal riggers to the gunwales before a race.

The Rocks – On the Occoquan race course, local crew teams sometimes tag sections of rock with school colors – however, IT IS ILLEGAL TO TRESPASS AND PAINT THE ROCKS, and homeowners in the area now have cameras rigged to photograph trespassers.  Oakton teammates are not allowed to paint the rocks. 

Rudder – Small steering device under the stern, connected to cables which can be used by a cox to steer the shell.

Rushing the Slide (or Rush) – When a rower 'rushes' he or she slides too quickly between the finish of a drive and the next catch, causing a rush down the slide during recovery and throwing the boat out of alignment.  

Seat – Counting from the bow ball (front of the boat), seats are numbered starting at 1.  In an Eight, the 8-seat is directly facing the cox (this is also the stroke seat).

Shell – A racing boat made of strong, lightweight carbon fiber.  An 'Eight' is approximately 60' long, 2' wide in the center, and weighs 200-250 pounds.  By comparison, a single scull is usually between 27'-30' long, 1' wide, and weighs 30 pounds.

Skeg – Thin slat of metal or plastic attached to the bottom of a hull, helping stabilize the shell in water.

Sleeve & Collar (or button) – The wide plastic covering & metal ring on an oar, slipped into the oarlock which keeps the oar in place.  Sleeves are sometimes bright pink or neon green.

Slide – Metal track running down the middle of a boat; rowers' seats are attached to the slide, and allow the rower to move and extend.  You'll often see rowers cleaning the slides before a race as part of prep.

Sling – Metal & fabric folding apparatus that holds a boat on land pre-race for rigging or repairs.

Splash – Rowers seek a nice, clean entry of the oar blade into the water (a clean catch); if there is visible splash, the blades aren’t entering the water correctly, but this can also be seen with very choppy water.

SRAA – The Scholastic Rowing Association of America.

Starboard – The right side of the boat when facing the bow.

States – Short for the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Championships (VSRC); States are the final VASRA regattas on the Occoquan in May, and are the qualifiers for SRAA Nationals.  Held over two weekends, the lower boats race on Day 1 and most varsity boats race on Day 2.  See our List of Regattas page.

Stern – The rear of boat; also commonly referring to seats 7 & 8 (stern pair).

Stotes – Short for the Stotesbury Cup Regatta, held at Philadelphia's legendary Boathouse Row every May.  Stotes is the largest high school rowing competition in the world, with 5,000+ participants from the US & Canada.  See our List of Regattas page.

Stroke – The rower furthest from the bow ball, either the 4-seat or the 8-seat depending on the boat; the stroke follows the coxswain's directions and sets the pace for the rest of the boat.  The stroke is usually a strong rower with excellent technique, and on regatta heat sheets, the boat is designated by the stroke seat's last name.

Stroke Rate – Notes how many strokes per minute (SPM) the rowers are finishing, called by the coxswain.  Boats may start a race at 40+ SPM, then settle into a race-pace in the 30s, picking it back up for Power 10s or more during a sprint to the finish. Mid-20s is sometimes called steady state.

VASRA – The Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association (see our VASRA page).

VHSL – The Virginia High School League (VHSL)(noted on sports physicals). 

Wake or Wash – Waves caused by a passing boat.

Common terms & SLANG:

'Ergs don't float':  sometimes the fastest erg times don't translate into speed on the water or making a boat move more efficiently — that's why a 2K time is only one factor in a coach's boat decisions. 

Way enough (sounds like 'Wayne Off'): Means stop rowing on water, or stop moving forward when porting on land.

Boneyard:  Where shells are housed outside of a boathouse in between use; at Sandy Run, the boneyards are between the HQ Shed and the coaches' parking lot, and on the spit of land next to the grandstands.

Engine Room or Power House: the middle seats of an 8, usually seats 3-6, which traditionally house the strongest rowers on a boat.

Bi-sweptual: a rower who can use a sweep oar on port or starboard; Most rowers prefer one side to the other. 

Fat Ergos: Very fast erg times, as opposed to skinny ergos which should be avoided at all costs.

PBL: During a regatta heat, if you are 'passed by launch' that means a ref launch has sped past your boat to follow the three leaders.  Similar to DFL, which we can't define on a family website.

Our Wake, Your Funeral.




Bow, Bow Number, & Bow Ball (cool pic, Sydney C.)

Bow, Bow Number, & Bow Ball (cool pic, Sydney C.)

Cheering for our returning competitors @ 'THE DWAYNE'

Cheering for our returning competitors @ 'THE DWAYNE'

Winning coxswains get tossed in the river  (Unfortunately this is not allowed at the Occoquan)

Winning coxswains get tossed in the river
(Unfortunately this is not allowed at the Occoquan)