Rules of Racing

An Overview for Competitors

Maintained by Richard Mortimer / @oldelvet

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  • Preparation
  • Before You Race
  • The Race
  • After Racing
  • Preparation


  • You are representing your club.
  • The entry is in the name of the club.
  • Only authorised club officials are allowed to make entries on behalf of the club.
  • Local Rules, Maps & Instructions

  • Inspect local rules, maps and competitor/safety instructions.
  • Steersmen should familiarise themselves with the course.
  • Consider walking the course on unfamiliar waters.
  • Crew kit.

  • Rule 2-3-5.b
  • Crews representing a single club shall wear a uniform racing strip.
  • This rule shall only apply to the outermost garment worn above the waist;
  • garments worn below the waist, and any secondary garment under the racing strip shall not be subject to this rule unless specifically required by the particular regatta's regulations. ...
  • ... In exceptional circumstances a crew member, or members may be allowed to wear a plain (usually white) colour. This is at the event/umpires discretion.
  • Before You Race


  • Turn up in good time & register your crew.
  • Coxwains & lightweights must weigh-in prior to racing.
  • The competitors instructions will detail the weigh-in regime.
  • Lightweights need to weigh-in between 1 and 2 hours prior to the first race in their event.
  • Keep your weight certificate with you when boating.
  • A coxbox is NOT part of the coxwains weight/dead-weight.
  • Substitutions

  • Prior to official close of entries all members may be substituted.
  • A maximum of half of the originally entered oarspeople plus cox may be substituted after close of entries.
  • Substitutions must be notified to Race Control prior to racing.
  • Substitutes must be members of the originally entered clubs.
  • Substitute coxes may come from other clubs.
  • After a sculler/crew's first race a substitution may only be made on medical grounds and must be pre-approved by the Race Committee.
  • Masters Substitutions

  • As per other crews. Plus...
  • Substitute crew members in a Masters event, may come from other clubs.
  • A substitute shall not be permitted if it would result in the lowering of the age category of the crew.
  • Equipment check

  • Clubs are responsible for ensuring that equipment is safe and complies with Row Safe.
  • Umpires only help to audit compliance.
  • They WILL prevent obviously non-compliant boats from being used.
  • Boating/Marshalling

  • Boat in good time for your race.
  • In general present yourself to the start marshals at least 5 minutes before the race start time.
  • But read local rules for additional regulations that are in force.
  • Timeliness

  • It is the crews responsibility to report to the start on time.
  • You should take circulation patterns/likely traffic into consideration.
  • If your crew has a problem make sure that race control and the starter are aware of any delays (but do not interrupt ongoing start procedures).
  • The umpires may start a race without the delayed crew being present.
  • The Race

    Official Warnings

    • A crew may be awarded official warnings for a number of transgressions.
    • Official warnings will be applied at the start of a crew's next race.
    • Two official warnings will result in a crew being disqualified.

    Sources of warnings include:

    • Being responsible for making a false start.
    • Lateness or delaying of the start.
    • Crew circulation plan transgressions.

    Reporting at the Start

  • Each crew is responsible for being at the Start and ready to race two minutes before the scheduled time of the race.
  • You should have removed outer garments and be prepared to race before you are called to attach to the stakeboats at the start.
  • When calling crews to the start the umpire will announce: the race; competing crews; their stations; and where practicable the time remaining to the start of the race.
  • Start Procedure

  • At 2 minutes or when all crews are attached...
  • The Starter will announce any "Official Warnings" and ask for warned crews to acknowledge.
  • The Starter will re-announce the race number, event and outcome.
  • Crews should now be actively keeping their boat straight and be ready to race.
  • Getting Straight

  • Steersman raises hand to signal that a crew is NOT straight and ready to race.
  • Each crew is responsible for being straight and ready to race at the end of the "Roll Call".
  • The umpire is NOT responsible for ensuring your boat is straight.
  • If you are not actively getting straight or are incapable of getting straight the umpire may start the race or exclude you.
  • The Start.

  • The Starter will carry out the "Roll Call" by naming each crew.
  • After the "Roll Call" the race will be started by "Attention"
  • the red flag will be raised slowly/deliberately
  • followed by a distinct/variable pause
  • and then "Go"/drop red flag.
  • A false start will be signalled by a bell ringing. All crews should stop and return to the start as directed by the Starter.
  • The Race

    Each crew should remain on its proper course throughout the race and it should NOT:

    • encroach on the proper course of other competitors;
    • "interfere" with other crews; or
    • leave the limits of the course.


    The umpire will only warn crews about steering if they are about to

    • interfere with or foul a competing crew;
    • risk disqualification; or
    • collide with a temporary/permanent obstruction.

    Bells & Stopping

  • A ringing bell/waved red flag means that ALL crews in a race should STOP rowing.
  • Individual crews may be stopped if directly instructed by an umpire. No bell will be used in this case.
  • Port/Starboard

  • Umpires use Port and Starboard to give steering instructions.
  • Port (red) - left in the direction of travel. a.k.a. strokeside.
  • Starboard (green) - right in the direction of travel. a.k.a. bowside
  • Foul/Interference

  • A "Foul" is defined as any collision or contact between boats, oars, sculls or persons in the same race.
  • "Interference" is defined as conduct by a crew which impedes the legitimate progress of an opponent who is on his proper course.
  • A "Foul" (without warning) or repeated "Interference" (with warning) could result in disqualification.
  • Outside Assistance/Coaching


  • Assistance from outside the boat using an unaided voice is allowed.
  • Any use of megaphones, radios, telephones etc is NOT allowed.
  • Head Races

  • Have more relaxed rules where steering/coaching advice is allowed by any means.
  • Providing that it does not interfere with the running of the event.
  • Finish

  • The finish judges will declare a result after approval from the Race Umpires.
  • Crossing the finish line first does not mean you have won.
  • Incidents during the race may cause other verdicts to be declared.
  • Protests

  • The steersman should signal any protests to the finish judges by raising a hand immediately after crossing the finish line.
  • An umpires decision is final.
  • An unresolved protest may be escalated to the Race Committee.
  • The Race Committee cannot overturn an umpires decision.
  • However they can draw attention to information that the umpire was previously unaware of.
  • Any formal appeals against umpiring/event decisions should be made by the entering club's Captain.
  • Typically the club Captain would be responsible for deciding whether an appeal is appropriate.
  • Politeness rules!

  • Shouting is unlikely to help your cause.
  • A polite, reasoned appeal against a decision is more likely to result in a favourable outcome.
  • But... don't flog a dead horse. Accept any decision in good grace.
  • Points to Note

    Umpire vs Marshal

  • Only licensed umpires may disqualify crews or give official warnings.
  • Marshals assist with the running of the regatta but otherwise have limited powers.
  • Unsportsmanslike behaviour

  • This is not tolerated and will likely result in a disqualification at a minimum.
  • Note that supporters/coaches could cause a crew/whole club to be sanctioned.
  • More Information

  • This guide provides a very concise summary of some of the rules.
  • You should refer to the full rules of racing on the British Rowing website or in the British Rowing Almanac for a definitive guide.
  • Umpires are happy to advise on specific aspects of the rules. Your regional umpiring committee can put you in touch with umpires who would be willing to come and talk to club members and answer questions.