Rules of Racing

An Overview for Competitors

(based on 2023 Rules)

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 7-2-5.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 competition's regulations. ...
  • ... In exceptional circumstances ... crew members may wear a plain colour, either white or a colour similar to the normal racing strip. This is at the competition/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.
  • From April 2023 coxwain minimum weight rules change.
    • Crews entered in junior 15 and under events - 45kg.
    • All other events - 55kg.
    • The separate weight for women's crews is no longer.
  • 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.
  • The substituted crew must race at the age category on the draw.
  • Equipment check

  • Clubs are responsible for ensuring that equipment is safe and follows Row Safe guidance.
  • 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. A white flag and 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.
  • Unapproved boats or launches are not allowed to follow or pace a crew during the race.
  • 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/competition 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/regional rowing council can put you in touch with umpires who would be willing to come and talk to club members and answer questions.