Late to the Game: Row, Row, Row Your Boat

 

alphabet_crew

Assistant editor Chris O’Connell isn’t from Texas; he’s from New Jersey. That’s OK though—he’s here now. But without growing up in a place that cherishes college sports the way many parts of the South—and especially Texas—do, Chris has taken it upon himself to learn more about all aspects of college athletics in a series we like to call Late to the Game.

Most weeks when writing this column, I think to myself, “How can we expand our rowing coverage?” Then I imagine you, dear reader, pining for some piping hot rowing news, only to feel the sting of disappointment each week as I churn out another snoozer about football or men’s basketball.

Well, rowing fans, today your ship has come in. Pun very much intended. [Editor’s note: Sorry, Chris. This is not, technically, a pun.]

Here it is … get ready:

The 11th-ranked UT rowing team is headed to its very first NCAA Championships. Now, granted, UT rowing is the same age as your average college sophomore, and individual rowers have been invited to compete in 2003 and 2004, but this is a big deal, I think. A legitimizer even. This is the first season for rowing coach Dave O’Neill, who replaced Carie Graves last May. Graves launched the UT rowing program in 1998, and, prior to O’Neill taking the reins, was the solitary leader throughout the team’s history. Do boats have reins?

Email me the answer.

In the meantime, the Texas first eights will compete directly with Brown, Washington, Harvard, Massachusetts, and Navy …

Wait, Texas has to win a rowing contest against the Navy? Like, on the water? That doesn’t seem quite fair. What’s next, UT has to defend its own territory against a physical onslaught from the Army? Funny you should ask, because that also happened once. It seems the Longhorns and the Black Knights matched up exactly once in football, in 1964. Texas won 17-6, if you were wondering. But I digress.

Texas reached the NCAA Championships, which begin May 29 on Sacramento’s Lake Natoma, with a clean sweep of the Big 12 Championship behind coxswain Kenna Harris.

Coxswain? First eights? This seems like an opportunity to create an exhaustive, mildly helpful glossary of rowing terms.

#’s, etc.: An eight is a boat with eight rowers, a four has four rowers. An M8+ is a men’s eight, a W4- is a coxswain-less women’s four, and so on.

Air stroke: A stroke that doesn’t touch the water. This is not a good stroke, for obvious reasons.

Bow: The rower on the bow side of the boat. The bow is a section of the boat that you should have learned the definition of when you were eight.

Coxswain: The only person in the boat without oars, who generally barks orders at the rowers, and in this writer’s estimation, seems like the 1 percent of the rowing world. Too good to paddle, eh? After a big win, the rest of the team tosses the coxswains back into the water, where they belong.*

Drunken octopus: I have a tattoo of an octopus on my arm, and I may or may not have been drunk when I got it, but this is not that. This is a clever reference to when an Eight isn’t rowing in sync, which is a bad thing, like my tattoo.

Engine Room: The middle of the boat, where the strongest rowers sit. This might be more fun if there were actually an engine on the boat, but alas, that’s probably illegal. Also called the much cooler and more accurate name, the Power House.

Falling in the water: I made this one up, but it probably happens. Sounds cold; should be avoided.

Gunwales: The top of the shell. The shell will be defined later on. S comes after G.

Hammer: A powerful rower who is more brute force than technicality. Essentially the Shawn Bradley of a rowing squad.

“In 2…”: A common command from the very bossy coxswain that indicates something will change in two strokes. Not the first half of a Prince song title.

Jumping out of the boat: Another one I made up—don’t do this.

Keel: The balance of the boat. The coxswain yells out “keep keel!” from time-to-time. Thanks, coxswain.

Launch: The motorized boat coaches use. Must be nice.

Missing water: Like the desert misses the rain, the rower sometimes starts a drive early. It’s a technical fault.

“No, don’t throw your oar in the water and jump in after it!”: This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Over reach: A type of fault. Also could describe this column.

Puddles: Disturbances in the water caused by an oar blade. Sounds pretty cute.

Quad: A boat with four rowers. Usually coxless. Poor thing.

Ribs: The part of the boat where the skin attaches to the hull. Mmm … ribs.

Shell: The boat. I told you I’d get to it.

Tulip: A u-shaped oar blade. A dainty sounding u-shaped oar blade.

Underwater: Where you end up if you fall out of the boat.

Victory: What we all hope Texas finds at the end of this month in Sacramento. My first completely serious entry in this glossary. Don’t get used to it.

Walking: The coxswain calls out the name of each seat position as it passes a boat. Here’s what I think of this job.

Xeroxing the dog: Sounds real, right? It ain’t.

“Yo, I fell in!”: Let’s hope this doesn’t happen for our ladies in burnt orange in Sacramento.

Zipper: Something on the boat or in the boathouse—maybe some type of protective canvas covering—has to have a zipper on it. Right?

I hope this glossary has been helpful as you gear up to cheer on the Longhorns at the end of this month. After winning the Big 12 Championship, coxswain Kenna Harris had this to say about the upcoming tournament: “It’s time to go make a statement. Just come out as an underdog, dial in, and do our thing. Here comes Texas!”

Here they come indeed. Good luck, ladies.

*I love coxswains, the job they do, and word “coxswain.”

Illustration by Melissa Reese

 

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