What are the basic rules of Olympic rowing?

All races are 2,000 meters, referred to as "2K." There are six lanes in each race. The six lanes are clearly marked by buoys every 10 to 12.5 meters (32 to 41 feet). The lanes must be straight and have a width of at least 13.5 meters (44 feet) over their whole length. The competition course must have a depth of at least three meters (approximately 10 feet) and the banks should be designed to absorb the waves, not reflect them. While it is not advised, crews are allowed to move across from one lane to another as long as they do not impede or obstruct another crew while doing so.

Crews committing a false start are first given a warning. If a crew has two false starts in the same race, they will be disqualified.

Every 250 meters beyond the start, the distance shall be marked on both sides of the course, either by clearly visible boards on the banks or by cubes on the water. Equipment for reporting intermediate times of the racers is placed every 500 meters.

A boat’s final time is determined by when its bow crosses the finish line. In the case of a close finish, a photo finish will be consulted to determine the order that the bow of each boat crossed the line.

Other frequently-asked questions about Olympic rowing rules

Are Olympic rowers allowed to leave their lane during a competition?

Yes. Unlike in canoeing competitions, rowers are allowed to leave their lanes without any penalty, but only if they don't interfere with another rower's opportunity to win.

Is there a weight limit for the Olympic rowing team?

For most boat categories, there is no weight limit. But for lightweight double sculls, the maximum weight for each male competitor is 72.5 kg (159.8 lbs), and the average weight of the boat cannot exceed 70 kg (154.3 lbs). For the female rowers, the maximum individual weight is 59 kg (130 lbs) and the average weight cannot be more than 57 kg (125.6 lbs).

What are the phases of Olympic rowing?

There are four phases of the rowing stroke: catch, drive, release and recovery.

The catch represents the entry of the blade into the water. The drive is when the blade gets  buried in the water, moving horizontally and at even depth. The release follows the drive, and is a quick, fluid motion of the blade up and out of the water. Finally, the blade travels back toward the bow of the boat during the recovery phase.