Q: What is crew?
A: Crew is the sport of competitive rowing. It has existed for hundreds of years, but changed little during that time. Today crews race in 1, 2, 4, and 8-person shells. The 8s have coxswains. The smaller boats can too, but not always. Rowers face the rear of the shell and use oars to move the boat forward. When sculling, a rower uses two oars. In sweep rowing, a rower puts both hands on one, larger oar. Competitions are held around the world for rowers of all ages. Here in the US, we have masters rowing (for adults), college rowing, high school rowing, and juniors rowing. For additional perspective, check out these overhead shots of crews practicing at the 2011 World Championships.
Q: What do competitions consist of?
A: Granby Crew competes in two types of races: head-races, and sprints. If you’ve watched the summer Olympics, then you probably know what sprint racing is. Several crews (2 to 8) line up on a single starting line, begin the race together, and sprint side-by-side in a straight line to reach the finish. Here’s the 2011 IRA Collegiate ML8+ Grand Final. Granby Crew competes in sprints that are 1500 meters, lasting 4-6 minutes.
Head-races consist of crews rowing down a winding river. They line up single-file, crossing the starting line in order and racing to complete the course in the shortest time. This is a great challenge for coxswains. The Head-of-the-Charles is the world’s largest regatta, held every year in Boston. Here’s the 2014 Head of the Charles Men’s Champ 8s. Our head-races are 5000-6000 meters, and take 17-24 minutes to complete, depending on the category you’re racing in.
There are also indoor competitions. Rowers race on ergs at different distances, with the most popular event being 2000m. Any high school athlete wanting to be noticed for college recruiting should participate in a few. Here’s the 2017 Crash-Bs.
Q: What is it like to row?
A: Rowing is relaxing. Rowing is intense. Rowing is focused. Rowing is fun. Rowing is peaceful. Rowing is painful. Rowing is challenging. Rowing is what you make of it, and great rowing is an amazing thing to be part of. Every trip on the water is different. Sometimes you do focused drills early in the morning to improve technique. The water is flat like a sheet of glass. The boat glides forward with effortless strokes and the only sound is that of the blades in the water. In sharp contrast, there is the finishing sprint of any race. Your entire body burns as every muscle works to go that much faster. Taking over 40 stokes-per-minute, you barely survive as you cross the finish line having truly given everything. Either way, it’s an awesome feeling.
Q: How long does it take to learn good rowing?
A: It takes a lifetime. On every stroke, we aim for perfection. Very few of us get there, but it’s a noble pursuit. At Granby Crew we have a 10-week training program (starting in September) that gets new rowers ready to race. If you work hard, come to practice, and focus on the training, then, we can make you a respectable rower in that time. Stay with the program and by the end of the spring season you’ll be ready to race for Regional and perhaps even State Championships. It takes patience in learning to row. But that patience pays off by the end of the year. If you don’t start in the fall, we can still make you a good rower. But, as with most things, more effort and devotion make for better results.