Your Head-of-the-Charles Primer

The Lingo

Alte Achter: the 1972 U.S. Olympic eight. Made up primarily of Harvard orwers, this boat holds a reunion each year at the Head to relive the experiences the crew shared at the Munich Games.

The Amateurs: David Halberstam's latest book. The Amateurs chronicles the struggle of four rowers to earn the right to be the American single sculler at the 1984 Olympics. Maybe the most important book ever written about the sport.

blade: cool way of saying oar. Also a way to refer to the painted part of the oar.

callouses: only way to identify a real rower. The blades leave raw spots on your hands which turn into brown, scaly callouses.

Cambridge: rowing's Mecca. Home of the powerful Harvard and Radcliffe crews and many of the country's finest individual scullers.


Charles: long, local chemical bath. Used to develop film and home to Boston area crews.

coxswain (cox): the little person in the rear of the shell. He or she steers the shell, keeps the rowers informed of their progress in the race, and controls the pace of the shell by calling for power strokes and the sprint at the end. Coxswains must weigh at least 99 pounds (for women--125 pounds for men), if they are less than that, sand bags are carried to bring the shell's weight up to that standard.

crab: put the blade in the water at aother than a 90 degree angle. This causes the blade to dive into the water, which in turn destroys the rower's rhytym and at worst flips him or her out of the shell.

curvature of the Earth: what the Radcliffe lights win their races by.

double: a shell with two scullers.

eight: the most common shell in intercollegiate rowing. An eight has eight sweep oarsmen and a cox.

Eliot Bridge: bridge just upstream from Harvard that is the site of the most notorious crashes at the Head. The twisting river has little mercy for coxs unfamiliar with its hairpin turns and bridge arches.

engine room: the middle sweeps in an eight. The biggest and strongest rowers sit in the middle of the shell and from that position they give the shell its biggest bursts of power.

ergometer (erg): a machine that simulates rowing. An erg looks somewhat like half a bike glued to a thin rail and a little sliding vinyl seat. Ergs measure a rower's power by counting how many revolutions of the bicycle wheel he or she can generate.

four: a shell with four sweeps and a cox.

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