The boats (or shells) are basically of two types and reflect the two forms of rowing: sweep rowing and sculling. In sweep rowing each rower handles a single oar (about 12.5 ft or 3.9 m long) in sculling a rower uses two oars, or sculls, (each about 9.5 ft or 3 m long).
The word shell is often used in reference to the boats used because the hull is only about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick to make it as light as possible. These shells are also rather long and as narrow as possible.
Each rower has his back to the direction the boat is moving and power is generated using a blended sequence of the rower’s legs, back and arms. The rower sits on a sliding seat with wheels on a track called the slide.
- Boat - the boat itself. Sometimes referred to as the shell.
- Bow Side - the right side of the boat when sitting in the cox’s seat, looking forward; sometimes referred to as starboard. Oars for this side of the boat often have a green marking.
- Stroke Side - the left side of the boat when sitting in the cox’s seat, looking forward; sometimes referred to as port. Oars for this side of the boat often have a red marking.
- Stern - the back end of the shell, where the cox usually sits; also the end of the boat with the rudder and/or fin.
- Bow - the front end of the shell, covered by a bowball. The rowers have their backs to the bow.
- Bowball - small rubber ball that covers the end of the bow; intended to prevent/reduce damage upon collision.
- Skeg – the fin under the stern of the boat which helps to keep the boat on course.
- Rudder - a small, movable part, usually metal, that sits under the stern of the boat; allows the coxswain to steer the boat. In coxless boats, this can be controlled by the stroke seat’s foot.
The boats are steered either by the coxswain, or by the bow seat (in boats without a coxswain called “coxless” boats).
Cox’s use a rudder to steer the boat, which they control using cables that are connected to it. To help keep the boat on course, all boats have a small fin in the stern.
There are two types of boat rowing and sculling. There are also boats which can be used for either rowing or sculling, depending on how they’re rigged (i.e. the boat comes with two sets of riggers see the next section for information about riggers). Rowers (sometimes called sweep) have one oar each, while scullers have two oars each.