Rowing, often referred to as crew in the United States, is a sport whose origins reach back to Ancient Egyptian times. It involves propelling a boat (racing shell) on water using oars. By pushing against the water with an oar, a force is generated to move the boat. The sport can be either recreational for enjoyment or fitness, or competitive, when athletes race against each other in boats. There are a number of different boat classes in which athletes compete, ranging from an individual shell (called a single scull) to an eight-person shell with coxswain (called a coxed eight).
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Originally made from wood, shells are now almost always made from a composite material (usually a double skin of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic with a sandwich of honeycomb material) for strength and weight advantages. FISA rules specify minimum weights for each class of boat so that no individual team will gain a great advantage from the use of expensive materials or technology.
The oldest, and arguably most famous, head race is the Head of the River Race, founded by Steve Fairbairn in 1926 which takes place each March on the river Thames in London, United Kingdom. Head racing was exported to the United States in the 1950s, and the Head of the Charles Regatta held each October on the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts, United States is now the largest rowing event in the world. The Head of the Charles, along with the Head of the Schuylkill in Philadelphia and the Head of the Connecticut, are considered to be the three “fall classics.”
Outside of resistance type, we found the number-one arbiter of ride feel to be cord quality. Water ergometers tend to employ nylon cords, while air ergometers feature metal chains — a durability factor we anticipated would result in our favoring air. But while all three water rowers aced our expectation of smooth, high-tension strokes, perfecting the chain seems to be more difficult: Some tug with just a slight rumble, others feature bouncy, grinding chains that are incredibly loud, something akin to angry snoring. As for nylon, the best wind and unwind like elastic silk — no slack, no sound, no catching, just perfectly even tension throughout the stroke.