ROWING (O. Eng. rowan, to row, cf. Lat. remus, Gr. epti>i6s, oar), the act of driving forward or propelling a boat (?..) along the surface of the wafer by means of oars.
History. The earliest historical records describe battles and voyages in which the ships were propelled by oars. There must, of course, have been from time to time friendly trials of speed between these ancient craft, such as that described by Virgil in the fifth book of the Aeneid, but there is no record in classical or even in medieval times of rowing having been indulged in solely as a recreation, or as a means of promoting athletic contest. The absence of any element of competition is sufficient to account for the fact that the boats, the oars, and the method of rowing of the 17th century differed but little from those of the earliest times.
The history of Great Britain abounds in instances of the use of the oar. The ancient Britons propelled themselves in coracles of wickerwork covered with skins, by means of paddles rather than oars, but the Saxons were expert oarsmen, as also were the Danish and Norwegian invaders. It is recorded by William of Malmesbury that Edgar the Peaceable was rowed in state on the river Dee by eight tributary kings, himself acting as coxswain.
During the nth and 12th centuries, when roads were often impassable, considerable use was made of the various rivers of England for the transmission of both passengers and merchandise; and, until the introduction of coaches, the nobility and gentry who had mansions and watergates on the banks of the Thames relied almost entirely upon their boats and elaborately fitted barges as a means of conveyance from place to place.
This use of boats and barges as a means of conveyance for merchandise and passengers provided a means of livelihood for a class of professional oarsmen known as bargemen or watermen. They were professionals, not in the sense of professional athletes, but because they made their living by rowing and navigating passenger and other craft along and across the Thames. Watermen as a class are mentioned in history as early as the 13th century. The distress occasioned to them by the long frosts is referred to in the chronicles of that period. They are mentioned as having been employed to row the barons and their retinues to Runnymede for the signing of the Magna Carta by King John, and about the same time several of the city companies established barges for the purposes of processions and other pageants upon the Thames. It is stated by Fabian that in 1454 " Sir John Norman, then lord mayor of London, built a noble barge at his own expense and was rowed by watermen with silver oars, attended by such of the city companies as possessed barges, in a splendid manner." The lord mayor's procession by water to Westminster was annual until 1856, the state barge of the lord mayor being a magnificent species of shallop rowed by watermen, while those of the city companies were propelled by a double bank of oars in the fore half, the after part consisting of a cabin which somewhat resembled that of a gondola. In 1514 and in 1555 acts of parliament were passed for the regulation of watermen and their boats and fares upon the Thames (7 Henry VIII. cap. vii. and 2 and 3 Ph. & Mar. cap. xvi.), and from the terms of these statutes there can be no doubt that there were in the 15th century a considerable body of men who lived by the " trade of Rowing " as it is there called. During the 16th and 17th centuries there were no doubt competitions from time to time between these watermen, but the first actual mention of boat-racing is the record of the establishment in 1715 of Doggett's Coat and Badge. Mr Thomas Doggett, who may fairly be described as the founder of modern boat-racing, was a celebrated comedian. He established a fund to provide an annual prize of a waterman's coat with a large silver badge on the arm. The race was founded in honour of the house of Hanover and to commemorate the anniversary of " King George I.'s happy accession to the throne of Great Britain." The contest was to take place at the beginning of August and on the Thames between six young watermen who were not to have exceeded the time of their apprenticeship by more than twelve months. Although the first race took place in 1715 the names of the winners have only been preserved since 1791. Doggett's Coat and Badge is still an annual event, the conditions as to boats to be used and other details having been slightly modified. It is entirely controlled and managed by the Fishmongers' Company.
The first English regatta (Ital. regata) an entertainment introduced, as the Annual Register records, from Venice of which we have evidence, took place on the Thames off Ranelagh Gardens in 1775. Great public interest seems to have been taken in the spectacular aspect of this pageant, the barges of the lord mayor and the city companies being present, but there is no record of the competing wager boats or of the names of the watermen who took part in the races. About the years 1800 to 1810 there are instances of matches between watermen for stakes presented by gentlemen who no doubt made wagers upon the result, and from these professional wager matches it was but a short step to sporting matches between the gentlemen themselves. When once the " gentleman amateur," as he was called, appeared, his evolution, from the sportsman who occasionally rowed a match against a friend, or against time, for a wager, to the amateur oarsman of the present day, was not slow. The amateur rowing which began about the year 1800 on the Thames at Westminster has flourished as a branch of athletic sport, and has spread to every quarter of the globe.
Rowing in the United Kingdom. The earliest rowing clubs in England were small groups of oarsmen who combined to purchase a six-oared or eight-oared boat for the purpose of racing. The club was called by the same name as the ship it possessed, and at the commencement of the 19th century the principal clubs in existence upon the Thames were the " Star," the " Arrow," the " Shark " and the " Siren." The two latter have long since disappeared, but the " Star " and the " Arrow " combined about the year 1818 and founded the Leander Club, an institution which after varying fortunes has for many years been recognized as the premier rowing club of the world.
The earliest contemporary record of boat-racing is the Water Ledger of Westminster School, which commences in the year 1813 with a list of the crew of the six-oared boat " Fly." In 1811 Eton had a ten-oared boat and three boats with eight oars, but there is no existing record of a race until 1817. In 1818 Eton challenged Westminster School to row from Westminster to Kew Bridge against the tide; but the race was stopped by the authorities, and it was not until 1829 that the first contest between the two schools took place. Between 1829 and 1847 there were eight matches between Eton and Westminster. The race was revived for a few years in the sixties, and in the year 1868 the state of the lower tideway was such that the Westminster boys moved their boathouse first to Wandsworth and then to Putney. This arrangement was found to be inconvenient, and shortly afterwards Westminster rowing came to an 784.
end. Eton rowing, on the other hand, has continued to prosper, and for many years it has been the greatest " nursery " of firstclass oarsmen. Since 1861 the Eton College Boat Club has never failed to enter a crew at Henley Regatta.
At Oxford the records of periodical races between college boats begin as early as 1815, and those of Cambridge a few years later. The first contest between eight-oared crews representing the two universities took place at Henley- onThames in June 1829. The second contest was not until 1836, and was rowed from Westminster to Putney. In 1837 and 1838 the universities were unable to make a match, and in each of those years a race was rowed between Cambridge and the Leander Club, which had thus early become the premier club of the tideway. It was not always easy in the early days of boat-racing for the university boat clubs to agree as to the conditions and time of the match, but on several] occasions when the universities had been unable to meet on the tideway they fought their battle whilst competing for the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley Regatta. Since 1856 the Oxford and Cambridge boat race has been an annual event. It is rowed about a week or ten days before Easter from Putney to Mortlake over what is known as the championship course, a distance of 4! m. The race is rowed with the flood-tide, and occupies as a rule a time varying between 19 and 22 min. The time occupied by a crew in covering this course depends a great deal more upon the conditions of wind and tide than upon the excellence, or the reverse, of the crew. The crew of each university is selected by a president, usually one of the senior members of the last crew, who is elected at the first meeting in the summer term and holds office for a year. Thus the university race comes at the end of his term of office, and he has every opportunity during the summer and autumn of studying the material which will be at his disposal for the formation of a crew in the ensuing spring. The aquatic arrangements at the two universities are very much alike. The university year begins in October. During the winter term the freshmen are instructed in the elements of rowing, while the senior men are engaged in practising for the University (inter-collegiate) Fours, a race which takes place early in November. During the latter portion of the term the president of the University Boat Club is engaged in selecting and coaching the trial eights, two picked crews comprising the bulk of the material available for the formation of the university crew. The trial eight races are rowed in the beginning of December, that of Cambridge on the Ouse at Ely, and that of Oxford on the Thames at Moulsford, neither the Cam nor the Isis being wide enough for two crews to race abreast. During the whole of the Easter term the university crews are engaged in practice and training for the University Boat Race. The attention of the remainder of the rowing men at the universities is devoted to training for the bumping races known at Oxford and Cambridge respectively as the Torpids and Lent Races. Each college is represented in these races, and no oarsman who has rowed in the first boat of his college during the previous summer is qualified to compete. The boats start at fixed distances apart, and each boat endeavours to bump the boat in front of it, and to avoid being bumped by the boat behind. When a bump is effected, the two boats involved draw to the side, and the next night the successful boat starts in front of its victim. Each spring the boats start in the order in which they finished the previous year. The races last for six nights at Oxford and four at Cambridge. In the summer term the important bumping races between the best crews of each college take place. They are known as " The Eights " at Oxford and " The May Races " at Cambridge. To attain the position of " Head of the River " in these races is the summit of a college boat club's ambition.
The great arena of rowing contests is Henley Royal Regatta. It was founded in 1839 at a public meeting held in the town hall at Henley-on-Thames, at which it was decided to raise a subscription and purchase two challenge cups, the Grand Challenge Cup to be rowed for annually in eight-oared boats open to all amateur crews, and the Town Challenge Cup for four-oared crews residing within 5 m. of Henley. The first regatta was held on the 14th of June 1839, and was a most successful affair, the Grand Challenge Cup being won by the Trinity Boat Club, Cambridge. In 1840 another district race was added, and in 1841 the Stewards Challenge Cup for four oars was added to the programme, open to competition upon the same conditions as the Grand Challenge Cup. There have now for many years been eight events at the regatta, four of which are open to all amateurs, viz. the Grand Challenge Cup for eight oars, the Stewards Challenge Cup for fours, the Silver Goblets for pair oars founded in 1845, and the Diamond Sculls for single scullers founded in 1844. The races for which the entry is restricted are the Ladies Challenge Plate for eight oars (founded 1845) and the Visitors Challenge Cup for four oars (founded 1847), which are open to crews from schools and colleges in the United Kingdom; also the Thames Challenge Cup for eight oars (founded 1868) and Wyfold Challenge Cup for four oars (founded 1855). The rule as to entry for the Thames Cup is that no one who has won the Grand Challenge or Stewards Cup may compete, nor may any one enter for this race and for the Grand or Stewards Cups in the same year. The rule for the Wyfold Cup is the same, except that a competitor may also enter for the Grand Challenge Cup.
The original regatta course was from the upper end of the Temple Island to Henley Bridge, but a change was made in 1886 so as to avoid the corner at the finish. The races now start at the lower end of the island and finish at the upper end of the grounds of Phyllis Court. The course is i m. 550 yds. in length and about no ft. in width. The races are rowed against the stream, and the time usually occupied by the winning crew of the Grand Challenge Cup is within a few seconds of 7 min. In 1843 took place the famous " sevenoar " victory of Oxford. At the eleventh hour one of the Oxford crew was incapacitated by illness. Their opponents, the Cambridge Subscription Rooms Club, refused to allow them to introduce a substitute, and the Oxford men gained undying fame by winning the Grand Challenge Cup with seven oars. Ten years later (1853) there was a magnificent race between Oxford and Cambridge in the Grand Challenge Cup, the former winning by 18 in. only. In 1862 there was a dead heat in the final heat of the Diamond Sculls between Mr E. D. Brickwood and Mr W. B. Woodgate. In 1878 occurred the memorable contest between Mr T. C. Edwards-Moss and Mr G. W. Lee (U.S.A.) in a heat for the Diamond Sculls which was won on the post by the former. In 1891 the Leander Club, after a dead heat with the Thames R.C., began a series of victories in the Grand Challenge Cup, winning the cup on seven occasions in the next ten years. In 1892 the Diamond Sculls left England for the first time, having been won by Mr J. J. K. Ooms of Holland. In 1895 a crew representing Cornell University, U.S.A., entered for the Grand Challenge Cup and were drawn in their heat against the Leander Club. Owing to a misunderstanding between the starter and the Leander crew," the latter failed to start, and the Cornell crew rowed on to the finish without offering to return to the start, a proceeding which caused no little comment at the time. On the following day they were defeated by Trinity Hall, Cambridge, the ultimate winners. In 1897 the Grand Challenge Cup was won by 2 ft. by New College, Oxford, in the record time of 6 min. 51 sees., after a desperate race with Leander. The feature of the next ten years was the persistency with which colonial and foreign crews endeavoured to carry off the principal prizes of the regatta, and the invasion culminated in 1906 by the capture of the Grand Challenge Cup by a crew from the Club Nautique de Gand, Belgium. On this occasion the Leander Club was not represented, but in 1907 the Belgians repeated their victory after defeating a strong Leander crew in one of the heats. In 1903 Mr Herbert Steward, the chairman of the regatta committee, published a detailed record of the regatta from its commencement, which gives a complete history of the meeting and an account of every race.
Henley regatta is rowed " in accordance with " the rules of the Amateur Rowing Association, a body which has control of all other amateur rowing in England. The Henley Stewards and the Amateur Rowing Association (or A.R.A.) are in complete harmony. Their rules are identically the same, but the Stewards being the older body are not subject to the A.R.A. , and in the improbable event of a difference occurring they would be entitled to act independently. The A.R.A. was formed in 1882 for the purpose of drawing up a definition of an " amateur," and for the purpose of having a body who could if necessary select a national representative crew to meet any foreign or colonial invaders. It has long since dropped the latter portion of its original programme, and the A.R.A. as at present constituted is an association to which all the principal amateur boat clubs are affiliated. Its objects are to maintain the standard of amateur oarsmanship and to promote the interests of boat racing. It is governed by a committee which occupies in the British rowing world a position not unlike that of the stewards of the Jockey Club in racing matters. The constitution and objects of the A.R.A. are clearly defined in the rules, and their definition of an amateur is so much stricter than that of some other countries that it is advisable to set it out in extenso. It is as follows:
No person shall be considered an amateur oarsman, sculler or coxswain (1) Who has ever rowed or steered in any race for a stake, money or entrance fee ; (2) Who has ever knowingly rowed or steered with or against a professional for any prize ; (3) Who has ever taught, pursued or assisted in the practice of athletic exercises of any kind for profit ; (4) Who has ever been employed in or about boats or in manual labour for money or wages; (5) Who is or has been by trade or employment for wages a mechanic, artisan or labourer, or engaged in any menial duty ; (6) Who is disqualified as an amateur in any other branch of sport.
The rules of the A.R.A. also comprise the " Laws of Boat Racing," which govern the race from start to finish; and the " Rules for Regattas," which deal with a large number of matters such as the definition of the different classes of oarsmen, seniors, juniors and maidens, the making of entries, the powers of regatta committees, etc.
A large number of regattas are held under these rules in all parts of the country during the summer months. There are also several matches and other competitions rowed under special rules, the most important of these being the Wingfield Sculls (founded 1830), or amateur championship of the Thames, rowed in the month of July over the championship course from Putney to Mortlake (45 m.).
If the number of entries at Henley Regatta, the extension of the Sphere of influence of the A.R.A. and the public interest in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, may be taken as tests, rowing has more than held its own among the various competing forms of recreation in the world of British amateur athletic sport.
Rowing in the United Stales. The earliest record of a boat race in the United States is that of a contest in light barges in the year 1811 between the " Knicker-bocker " of New York and the " Invincible " of Long Island, in which the former was successful. The evolution from racing in heavy pleasure boats to racing in specially constructed craft proceeded with great rapidity, and by the year 1834 a large number of small clubs in New York had combined, under the title of the Castle Garden Boat Club Association. In 1837 the first regatta took place at Poughkeepsie, the race being between " six-oars " for a prize of $200. In those days there was no real distinction in America between amateur and professional, and in spite of rules and definitions the distinction between one who is qualified as an amateur and one who is not has remained in America much less certain and precise than in the United Kingdom.
Yale and Harvard Universities became centres of aquatic energy very early in the history of American rowing. The first racing boat at Yale, a six-oar, was bought in 1844, and in the following spring Harvard purchased an eight, and in 1852 a race was rowed between a Harvard crew and three Yale crews at Lake Winnepesaukee, which resulted in a victory for the former. In 1859 Harvard again defeated Yale in a six-oared race, but on the following day at Worcester City Regatta the same crews entered for a prize and Yale defeated Harvard. In 1864 at a college regatta Yale defeated Harvard, but in 1866 Harvard with a very fine crew showed their superiority over all the other colleges. In 1869 Harvard sent a challenge to Oxford and Cambridge to row a four-oared match on the Thames from Putney to Mortlake. It was accepted by the former and the race was rowed on the 2;th of August. The race aroused great public interest, and the banks of the river were crowded from end to end of the course. The crews were: Oxford, F. Willan (bow), A. C. Yarborough, J. C. Tinne and S. Darbishire (stroke); Harvard, J. S. Fay (bow), E. G. Lyman, W. H. Simmons and A. P. Loring (stroke). Harvard led at first, but Oxford eventually rowed them down and won by three lengths.
The trip of the Harvard four to England aroused the rowing enthusiasm of other American universities such as Princeton, Cornell, Columbia and Pennsylvania, and during the next ten years considerable improvement was shown in American rowing. In 1875 no fewer than thirteen university or college crews competed in a race, in which Cornell finished first, Columbia second and Harvard third, the ships used being six-oars without coxswains. In 1876 the eight-oared match over a four-mile course between Harvard and Yale was instituted, and in 1878 a four from Columbia University went to Henley and won the Visitors Challenge Cup. In 1879 and 1880 there were a very large number of intercollegiate matches and regattas, in several of which Columbia maintained the reputation which they had gained at Henley. In 1881 a Cornell four started at Henley for the Stewards Cup, but were easily beaten. During the next few years there was considerable difference of opinion between universities as to the correct style of stroke, and in 1882 a Yale crew, coached by Mr Davis, did some fine performances, rowing a very fast short stroke in a very long boat. They were, however, eventually beaten by Harvard after an exciting race, in which it is only fair to them to record that the erratic steering of their coxswain contributed in no small degree to their defeat. The next year, 1883, Yale tried an even faster and shorter stroke, but were easily beaten by Harvard, who rowed with great length and steadiness. This year saw the end of the very fast short stroke, and although the " strokes " of the various crews since that day have differed in minor degrees, they settled down to a longer steadier method of rowing which is spoken of in England as the " American style." It differs from that adopted by English oarsmen in that there is an absence of swing and body work, and in that the oarsmen appear to rely almost entirely upon their long slides and hard leg work. In the early " nineties " Cornell was almost always successful at home, and in 1895 they entered for the Grand .Challenge Cup at Henley. Owing to a misunderstanding at the start the Leander crew were left at the post in the first heat, but on the next day Cornell suffered defeat at the hands of Trinity Hall. In 1896 Yale entered at Henley under the tuition of Cook, but were somewhat easily beaten by Leander. The result of these two expeditions to Henley was an attempt to introduce the English style of rowing in America. The experiment was not altogether successful. Mr R. C. Lehmann, who had met with considerable success in England as a coach both at Oxford and Cambridge, went to Harvard for two seasons. The attempt to instruct the American oarsmen in the English methods of swing and body work, instead of the American stroke, resulted in their falling short of perfection in either style, and they were beaten by Yale upon each occasion. Mr Lehmann's visit, if it failed to give pace to the crews he coached, resulted, however, in improving the whole spirit of American college rowing. Mutual confidence and friendly rivalry took the place of the atmosphere of suspicion and almost of enmity which had at times existed between Harvard and Yale. In 1893 an Inter-collegiate Rowing Association was formed by Cornell, Columbia and Pennsylvania to organise contests at Poughkeepsie open to all colleges. In 1899 and 1900 Pennsylvania won, in 1902, 1904 and 1908 Syracuse, and in most other years Cornell. The two annual inter-collegiate regattas are the Harvard- Yale at New London, and that at Poughkeepsie, open to all but not participated in by Harvard and Yale. By way of exception, Harvard rowed at Poughkeepsie in 1896, and in 1897 and 1898 Cornell rowed in two regattas. In 1901 Pennsylvania was just beaten by Leander Club in the race for the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley.
The history of amateur rowing in the United States, other than that of the colleges and universities, is a narrative of continual struggles on the part of the authorities to distinguish between the amateur and the non-amateur. The National Association of Amateur Oarsmen was established in 1872. Many regattas have been held since that date under their rules, but the standard of amateurism which satisfied the N.A.A.O. has never been strict enough to comply with the requirements of the English A.R.A. or the Henley Stewards. In 1883 a Hillsdale four from U.S.A. tendered an entry at Henley, but it was refused by the Stewards, on the ground that the men were not amateurs according to the English definition. In subsequent years several American scullers entered for the Diamond Sculls, and in 1897 they were won by E. H. Ten-Eyck of Wachusett Boat Club, Worcester, U.S.A. In 1898 Ten-Eyck's entry was refused by the Henley Stewards. No little resentment has been caused in America by the reluctance of the English authorities to accept American entries, but their justification lies in the essential difference, not only in letter but in spirit, between the laws and customs of the two countries with regard to the amateur status and amateur sport. In 1904 a crew of the Vesper B.C. of Philadelphia were duly vouched by the N.A.A.O. and their entry accepted by the Henley Stewards. They competed and were beaten, and it afterwards became known that not only had several of the men made money out of the trip, but that two or three of the oarsmen were not qualified to row at Henley. It also appeared that certain members of the N.A.A.O. had, to say the least of it, been extremely careless in giving assurances as to the status of the Vesper crew, and all relations between the N.A.A.O. and the Henley Stewards were abruptly terminated, the Stewards determining that they would not accept foreign entries except from a country where there was a governing body which had control of amateur rowing and which had an agreement with the Stewards by which they definitely pledged themselves not to send competitors to Henley unless they came within the English definition. In 1906 Harvard challenged Cambridge. The race, which attracted an immense concourse of spectators, was rowed from Putney to Mortlake in September. Cambridge led from the start and won by three lengths.
Rowing in other Countries. During the latter years of the 19th century and during the early years of the present century, rowing increased very greatly in popularity as a branch of athletic sport in every quarter of the globe. It would be impossible here to describe the history or organization of boat clubs and regattas in Australia, in Canada, and in the various countries of Europe. Canadian rowing has always been of a high class. In 1904 L. Scholes, a Canadian sculler, won the Diamond Sculls at Henley, and on several occasions Canadian eights and fours have competed for the Grand Challenge and Stewards Challenge Cups at Henley. In Australia they have a regatta which is called the " Australian Henley," and an inter-university contest for a cup presented by Oxford and Cambridge oarsmen. In Europe international championships have been instituted in the hope of bringing together oarsmen and scullers from all countries. The Belgian oarsmen have by their Henley successes achieved the greatest distinction among continental oarsmen. In Holland the principal rowing clubs have their headquarters at Amsterdam, and several Dutch crews have been seen at Henley. In France there are innumerable rowing clubs which are now governed by the Federation francaise, a body which has a strict code of rules, but which has not adopted quite so strict an amateur definition as that of the English A.R.A. In Germany, also, rowing is very extensively practised under the auspices of the Deutsche Ruderverband ; the chief contests between English and German crews of recent years were at the Cork Regatta of 1902 when Leander Club defeated the Berlin Club in the eight-oared race, and at the Henley Regatta of 1907, when a four of the Ludwigshafener Club were defeated in a heat of the Stewards Cup by a Leander crew.
Methods and Style. The English style is the only one in which the oarsman swings his body to the full extent fore and aft, at the same time making use of his sliding seat. Most of the foreign crews who have competed in England have sacrificed a portion of their swing in order to enable them, as they believe, to make better use of their leg work. There can be no doubt that the English style is in a sense more exhausting to the oarsman, that is to say it enables him to bring more muscle into play and to make full use of his weight and strength, but in spite of recent defeats it is still believed by English oarsmen to be the most effective. The crews of 1906 and 1907 which were defeated by the Belgians were the best that England could at the time produce, but they undoubtedly rowed in a style which fell a long way short ot ideal English rowing.
The secret of good rowing is the simultaneous application of leg and body work from end to end of the stroke. The instant the blades are covered the whole weight must be lifted from the stretcher and applied to the oar-handle, and must remain so applied until the hands come in to the chest. In order to ensure that the pressure so applied to the blade shall be as long and as -hard as possible, the body must be swung forward to its full extent, and during the stroke the shoulders must always be swinging back faster than the seat, while at the same time the legs are driving hard at the stretcher. The slide and swing should be finished simultaneously. There are many subsidiary rules of style as to the movements of the hands and arms, but they are all of secondary importance and are devised so as to enable the average man to execute the working portion of the stroke effectively and often, without undue exertion to himself. The movements of a crew must be as nearly as possible simultaneous in every particular. There have been many instances of crews which although inferior in style and strength to their opponents have been victorious owing to being " better together."
See the volumes on Rowing in the Badminton and Isthmian Libraries; W. E. Sherwood, Oxford Rowing; W. B. Woodgate, Oars and Sculls; E. D. Brickwood, Boat Racing; H. T. Steward, Henley Royal Regatta. (C. M. P.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)