What's the Difference Between Rowing and Crew?

Lessons one learns as an adult: you may have grown up in New England (πŸ™‹), attended an Ivy League school (πŸ™‹), and even gone through a short-lived adolescent phase in which you regularly wore rugby shirts and cable-knit sweaters (πŸ™‹), and you still may not know the different between crew and rowing. This is okay; What’s the Difference is here for you. 

Rowing, or β€œsweep rowing,” is a sport in which the participants row across a body of water with one oar per person. When the participants row with two oars per person, it is called β€œsculling”—and the oars are referred to as β€œsculls.” In rowing, there are 2, 4, or 8 rowers to a boat; in sculling, there are singles (1x) , pairs (2x), and quads (4x). These boats may or may not include a coxswain, who sits or lies down in the front or back of the boat and calls out directions to the rowers/scullers. 

β€œRowing” and β€œcrew” are in fact the same sport; the word β€œcrew” is used by American schools and colleges to refer to the sport of rowing. The term comes from the nautical term for people who operate a boatβ€”the term β€œcrew team” is therefore redundant. Outside of the academic sphere, the sport is simply known as rowing.

Some more fun facts:

  • Rowing was the first intercollegiate sport in the United States; the first race was between Harvard and Yale in 1852.

  • Coxswains are typically very light, as not to add extra weight to the boat. Most leagues have a minimum weight for the coxswain; if the coxswain is below that weight, then they have to carry a bag of sand on board to compensate for the difference. 

  • Physiologists claim that rowing a 2,000-meter race (1.25 miles) is equal to playing two back-to-back basketball games.

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