Rowing’s long history dates back to its utility in warfare and transportation in ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece. The earliest known regatta was held in September 1274 in Venice, Italy where gondoliers and boatmen challenged each other in a variety of boats. Rowing as we know it today began to develop as a recreational and competitive sport in the 1700s, with amateur clubs flourishing at the collegiate level in England by the end of the 18th century. One of the most famous rowing regattas in the world, the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, was first held in 1829 followed 10 years later by the Henley Royal Regatta.
Rowing in Canada started on the east coast early in the 19th century and spread to the west coast during the next hundred years, with the first race being reported in Halifax Harbour in 1811. Canadian oarsmen from the Maritime Provinces were the first to establish a reputation for excellence. In 1867, a fours crew from Saint John, New Brunswick went to Paris for the International Exposition and won, becoming Canada’s first international sports champions.
Rowing was to be on the program of the first modern Olympic Games at Athens 1896, but poor weather led to the cancellation of events. The sport made its official Olympic debut four years later at Paris 1900 with events for men only. Women’s rowing first appeared on the Olympic program at Montreal 1976. Rowing has been on the Pan American Games program since the inaugural edition in 1951.
The boats, known as shells, were traditionally made of wood but are now mostly manufactured from synthetic materials such as carbon fibre and plastic.
Rowing events are contested by individuals, pairs and crews of four and eight. They are divided into scull events (denoted by an ‘x’) and sweep events (denoted by ‘-‘ for boats without coxswains and ‘+’ for boats with coxswains). In sculling, each rower pulls two oars. In sweeping, each person in the boat pulls one oar.
A lightweight men’s crew will have an average weight of not more than 70kg, with no individual male lightweight rower weighing more than 72.5kg. A lightweight women’s crew will have an average weight of not more than 57kg, with no individual female lightweight rower weighing more than 59kg.
Each race covers a distance of 2000 metres on a six-lane course where each lane is 13.5m wide. Depending on the number of entries, there will be preliminary heats, repechages (the name for a second round of competition which ensures that a boat has two chances to advance from preliminary races to the next round), quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. The “A” final determines the first six places and the “B” final determines seventh through 12th places.