Monday, 6 June 2011

Rowing - Types of Competition

Rowers may take part in the sport for their leisure or they may row competitively. There are different types of competition in the sport of rowing. Rowing is unusual in the demands it places on competitors. The standard world championship race distance of 2,000 meters is long enough to have a large endurance element, but short enough (typically 5.5 to 7.5 minutes) to feel like a sprint.

Most races that are held in the spring and summer feature side by side racing also called a regatta. The regatta season begins in April and is much more rewarding for spectators. All the boats start at the same time from a stationary position and the winner is the boat that crosses the finish line first. The number of boats in a race typically varies between two (which is sometimes referred to as a dual race) to six, but any number of boats can start together if the course is wide enough. There are often several heats in what can be a long day's racing. A heat might be first thing in the morning and if successful the final may not be until late afternoon. Regattas taking place on rivers will probably only have two or three racing lanes. The river course is unlikely to be straight and there will be other challenges to negotiate such as the bank.

Head races are time trial / processional races that take place from autumn (fall) to early spring (depending on local conditions). Boats begin with a rolling start at intervals of 10 – 20 seconds, and are timed over a set distance. Head courses usually vary in length from 2,000 m to 12,000 m, though there are longer races such as the Boston Rowing Marathon and shorter such as Pairs Head. Competitors will be divided into racing categories which might be determined by age, gender, experience. As a spectator you are unlikely to know who has won until the results are published on the race organiser's website. Heads are raced over a longer course than regattas, with the younger rowers sometimes rowing a 'short course'.

A third type of race is the bumps race, In these races, crews start lined up along the river at set intervals, and all start at the same time. The aim is to catch up with the boat in front, and avoid being caught by the boat behind. If a crew overtakes or makes physical contact with the crew ahead, a bump is awarded. As a result damage to boats and equipment is common during bumps racing. To avoid damage the cox of the crew being bumped may concede the bump before contact is actually made. The next day, the bumping crew will start ahead of any crews that have been bumped. Bumps races take place over several days, and the positions at the end of the last race are used to set the positions on the first day of the races the next year.

The stake format was often used in early American races. Competitors line up at the start, race to a stake, moored boat, or buoy some distance away, and return. The 180° turn requires mastery of steering. These races are popular with spectators because one may watch both the start and finish. Usually only two boats would race at once to avoid collision.

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