rowing, the art of propelling a boat by means of oars operated by hand. Boats propelled by oars (e.g., the galley) were used in ancient times for both war and commerce. Rowing is now generally used only for propelling small boats or for sport. One of the oldest continuous sporting events in the world is the Doggett's Coat and Badge rowing race, held in London every year since 1716 and named for Thomas Doggett, a popular actor of early 18th cent. England. The most famous of all rowing races are the Thames River competitions between Oxford and Cambridge, first held at Henley in 1829. The first collegiate rowing regatta in the United States took place in 1852 between Harvard and Yale. In modern racing, each member of the rowing team, or crew, uses both hands to pull one oar through the water. The oars, attached to riggings jutting out from the side of the boats to increase leverage, are positioned alternately on opposite sides of the vessel. The boat, or shell, is sometimes steered by a coxswain, who sits at the back of the vessel and manipulates tiller ropes attached to a rudder; the coxswain also directs the speed and rhythm of the crew's strokes. Sculling is a variant of rowing in which the rower controls two oars, one in each hand. Sculling teams consist of one, two, or four members; rowing crews have two, four, or eight members, with or without a coxswain. Rowing and sculling events for men have been included in the Olympic games since 1900; women's races were first run in 1976.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.