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A Pengwern quadruple scull - or "quad", about to row up to the start of a winter head race. 

A brief glossary


As a parent, you can easily embarrass your child if you can’t tell a bow from a stern or a double from a pair. Here is a quick run down of the important meanings.


Rowing is the general term for the sport. It is made up of two disciplines, sculling and sweep oar rowing.  Sculling refers to rowing with an oar in each hand, while in sweep oar, each person has just one, bigger oar. Juniors are invariably taught to scull initially; it is very easy for a good sculler to switch to sweep oar rowing later on. Boats have 1, 2, 4, or 8 rowers in them, sometimes with an extra person to steer the boat and give commands to the crew, known as the coxswain – or cox for short. Rowers face away from the direction of travel of the boat, while coxes face forward. The cox will usually sit at the back of the boat where she can see the crew and better provide some coaching, however in some racing boats the coxes lie down in the front of the boat with just their heads showing just in front of bow's back.


The front of the boat goes by the nautical name “bow” and may be recognised by the small rubber ball on it (the "bow ball"), designed to protect anyone unlucky enough to be hit in a collision. The back of the boat is the “stern” and has a fin attached to aid stability as well as often a rudder, both of which will be invisible if the boat is in the water. Remember that the rowers face opposite to the direction of travel of the boat, so they sit facing the stern.


Rowers in any boat other than a single are designated by their positions. The person at the front, closest to the bow, is known as "bow" while the person at the back is caled "stroke" (not "stern"). In larger boats, additional rowers are denoted by numbers counting upwards from 2,  who sits just behind bow. So in an eight, the rowers are known as (starting from the front of the boat) bow, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 stroke. This nomenclature saves coxes and coaches having to remember everyone's names.

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