About Rowing Boat
Rowing is the act of propelling a boat using the motion of oars in the water, displacing water, and propelling the boat forward. The difference between paddling and rowing is that rowing requires oars to have a mechanical connection with the boat, while paddles are hand-held and have no mechanical connection.
This article deals with the more general types of rowing, such as for recreation and transport rather than the sport of competitive rowing which is a specialized case of racing using strictly regulated equipment and a highly refined technique.
Types of rowing systems
In some localities, rear-facing systems prevail. In other localities, forward-facing systems prevail, especially in crowded areas such as in Venice, Italy and in Asian and Indonesian rivers and harbors. This is not strictly an "either-or" because in different situations it's useful to be able to row a boat facing either way. The current emphasis on the health aspects of rowing has resulted in some new mechanical systems being developed, some (such as the Rantilla rowing method) very different from the traditional rowing systems of the past.
Rearward-facing systems: This is probably the oldest system used in Europe and North America. A seated rower pulls on one or two oars, which lever the boat through the water. The pivot point of the oars (attached solidly to the boat) is the fulcrum. The motive force is applied to the rower's feet. In traditional rowing craft, the pivot point of the oars is generally located on the boat's gunwale. The actual fitting that holds the oar may be as simple as one or two pegs (or those pins) or a metal oarlock (also called rowlock - "Rollock"). In performance rowing craft, the row lock is usually extended outboard on a "trigger" to allow the use of a longer or for increased power.
Sculling involves a seated rower who pulls on two oars or sculls, attached to the boat, thereby moving the boat in the direction opposite that which the rower faces. In some multiple-seat boat, seated rowers each pull on a single "sweep" oar, usually with both hands. Boats in which the rowers are coordinated by a coxswain are referred to as a "coxed" pair/four/eight. Sometimes sliding seats are used to enable the rower to use the leg muscles, substantially increasing the power available. An alternative to the sliding seat, called a sliding rigger, uses a stationary seat and the rower moves the oarlocks with his feet. On a craft used in Italy, the catamaran Moscone, the rower stands and takes advantage of his body weight to increase leverage while sculling.
Forward-facing systems: Articulated or bow facing oars have two-piece oars and use a mechanical transmission to reverse the direction of the oar blade, enabling a seated rower to row facing forward with a pulling motion. Push rowing, also called back-watering if used in a boat not designed for forwarding motion, uses regular oars with a pushing motion to achieve forward-facing travel, sometimes seated and sometimes standing. This is a convenient method of maneuvering in a narrow waterway or through a busy harbor. The "Rantilla" system of front-rowing oars uses inboard mounted oarlocks rather than a reversing transmission to achieve forward motion of the boat with a pulling motion on the oars.
Another system (also called sculling) involves using a single oar extending from the stern of the boat which is moved back and forth under water somewhat like a fish tail, such as the Chinese yuloh, by which quite large boats can be moved.
In ancient times, rowing vessels, especially galleys, were extensively used in naval warfare and trade, in particular in the Mediterranean from classical antiquity onwards. Galleys had advantages over sailing ships; they were easier to maneuver, capable of short bursts of speed, and able to move independently of the wind. Galleys continued in use in the Mediterranean until the advent of steam propulsion. Their use in northern Atlantic waters was less successful, finishing with their poor performance with the Spanish Armada.
The Classical trireme used 170 rowers; later galleys included even larger crews. Trireme oarsmen used leather cushions to slide over the seats, which allowed them to use their leg strength as a modern oarsman does with a sliding seat. Galleys usually had masts and sails but would lower them at the approach of combat. Greek fleets would also leave their sails and masts on shore (as being unnecessary weight) if possible.
In Venice, gondolas and other similar flat bottomed boats are popular forms of transport propelled by oars which are held in place by an open wooden fórcola. The Voga alla Veneta technique of rowing is considerably different from the style used in international sports rowing, due to the oarsman facing forward in a standing position. This allows the boat to maneuver very quickly and with agility - useful in the narrow and busy canals of Venice. Competitive regattas are also held using the Venetian rowing technique, using both gondolas and other types of vessels.
There are three different styles of Venetian rowing:
1.Single oarsman with one oar, standing near the stern of the boat (the oar also acts as a rudder)
2.One or two oarsmen each with two crossed oars (known as a la valesàna)
3.Two or more oarsmen, rowing on alternate sides of the boat
The origins of this distinctive and practical craft are unclear. In earlier times, however, builders were often sailors or seafaring men. Successful designs for large and small craft alike evolved slowly and as certain desirable qualities were attained and perfected they rarely changed.
Some hold that the Whitehall rowing boat design was introduced from England. However, the famed nautical historian Howard I. Chapelle cites the opinion of the late W. P. Stephens that in New York City there is a Whitehall Street and this was where the Whitehall was first built. Chapelle, Stephens, and others agree that the design came into existence sometime in the 1820s in New York City, having first been built by navy yard apprentices who had derived their model to some extent from the old naval gig.
In Wooden Boats to Build and Use (1996), John Gardner of Mystic Seaport describes a 25-foot (7.6 m) racing Whitehall, named American Star, which triumphed in an 1824 race in New York Harbor that according to newspapers of the time drew 50,000 spectators, more than any American sporting event ever until then. The following year the boat was gifted to an aging General Lafayette, the hero of the American Revolution, during his tour of the U.S. The American Star returned to Lafayette's estate in France where it was displayed in a specially constructed gazebo. During the mid 20th century the boat was rediscovered in storage there, and its lines have been preserved at Mystic Seaport where an exact replica was built in 1974–75, and still rows at Seaport events.