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  • Organized rowing can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks, who used three tiers of oarsmen to make their warships the fastest on the water. Competitive rowing, as we know it today, grew from two events on the river Thames in London.

  • In 1715, the Irish comedian Thomas Doggett started the scullers’ race for watermen that takes place on this day: the Doggett Coat and Badge (the prize is the right to wear embellished scarlet coat, with a large badge).

  • There were rowing competitions at Walton in Surrey in 1768. Walton Regatta began in 1839. Rowing became an Olympic sport in 1900 over a course on river Seine in Paris. Both men and women compete.

  • An annual rowing event is the Oxford v. Cambridge Boat Race, rowed just before Easter on the Thames, and covering the 4.25 miles between Putney and Mortlake.


  • Rowing races can take place wherever there is a stretch of water long enough and wide enough. Most regattas take place on local rivers, with their twists and turns to make things more interesting for the spectator.

  • Rowing races can take place wherever there is a stretch of water long enough and wide enough. Most regattas take place on local rivers, with their twists and turns to make things more interesting for the spectator.


  • There are several categories of boat, starting with the single skull (a very light, long, narrow, single rowing boat) for one person only. There are boats for a coxless pair, a coxed pair, double skulls, coxless four, coxed four, quadruple skulls and a coxed eight. These are all propelled with oars. (A coxwain or cox does not row, but faces the direction of the boat to steer. Although usually at the back of the boat, overlooking it and the oarsmen, a cox may sometimes sit at the front of a boat.)

  • An oarsman or woman requires a good pair of trainers, wellington boots if based on a river, light waterproof clothing for bad weather and a singlet and shorts for better days. When racing, crews must wear matching kit, usually all-in-ones made from Lycra in their club colours. The cox, who is connected to the crew through an electric microphone, will need warmer clothes. In Great Britain life jackets are now required to be worn by all rowers competing in events organized by the Amateur Rowing Association.


  • There are few rules in rowing. The start must not be ‘jumped’. If it is, the offending crew is awarded a false start penalty. If they do it again they are disqualified. A crew must be on the start two minutes before the starting time. A crew can be disqualified during a race for entering the wrong lane on a straight course, and also for not keeping to their ‘station’ on all other courses. The umpire may warn twice before disqualification. All the crew must wear identical club kit.


  • Steve Redgrave, born in 1962 in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, has won a record three Olympic gold Medals: the coxed fours in 1984 and the coxless pairs in 1988 and 1992.


  • In 1971 the Danish double scullers, Niels Secker, a medical student, and Jorgan Engelbrecht, a car mechanic, took part in the final of the European Championships in Copenhagen. As the race progressed, they each grew so angry at the other’s blade work that they pulled up and stopped rowing before the finish. Afterwards they decided to split as a pair, but, having both failed to win places in the Danish Olympic team as single scullers, they agreed to try again and in August 1972 were selected for the Munich Olympics.

  • Jack Kelly, the Irish American builder, father of the actress Grace Kelly, later princess of Monaco, was refused entry to the Diamond sculls rowing competition at Henley Regsatta in 1928 because ‘he worked with his hands’. That he was a property magnet and multi-millionaire didn’t seem to matter! Kelly was get his own back on the Henley authorities – he went on to win three Olympic gold medals for rowing. Princess Grace’s brother John was also no slouch – he too won on Olympic medal for rowing.

  • In the 1956 Olympics at Melbourne, Russian Vyacheslav Ivanov won the single sculls. After being presented with the gold medal he was so delighted he danced up and down, throwing his medal high in the air. Up it went, then down – into the waters of Lake Wendouree. Despite diving in after the medal and searching for it for hours, he could not find it. Professional divers were no more successful. Committee presented Ivanov with a duplicate and he went on to win a ‘third’ gold medal at the Rome Olympics in 1960.

  • One of the most remarkable events took place in 1868 at Henley Regatta, England. F. Weatherly of Oxford University, originally the cox of the Brasenose College boat, competiting against with the full five crew aboard, won by 100 yards. Brasenese was disqualified for ‘cheating’ and the event was the beginning of the coxless waterlilies, but finally made it to land. He went on to became a composer, writing ‘Danny Boy’ which was used as his signature tune by the Irish champion boxer of the 1980s, Barry McGuigan.

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