Boat Types

Learn about the different types of boats used in rowing in this section.

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Boat types can be divided into sliding seat and fixed seat.

Types of Sliding Seat Boats

Fine

The fine boat, also known as the Olympic class boat, is the familiar sliding seat racing shell that you will see rowed or sculled at inland competitions.

In ‘sweep’ boats, each rower has one oar (or blade). In ‘sculling’ boats the sculler uses two oars (or blades). The fine boats generally have one, two, four or eight seats/rowers. The eights will always have a coxswain (cox) to steer and direct the crew, whereas a four may be coxed or coxless depending on the type of boat used.

Types of ‘sweep’ boats

Pair boat type2- (coxless pair)
A sweep oar boat for two rowers. It has a rudder so will turn easily when one of the rowers uses a foot steering system.
Coxed pair boat2+ (coxed pair)
As above but with a cox who steers.
Coxless four4- (coxless four)
Sweep oar boat for four people with rudder and foot steering system. Bow person usually steers.
Coxed four boat4+ (coxed four)
Sweep oar boat for four people plus cox who can be seated in either the bow or the stern of the boat.
Eight boat8+ (coxed eight)
Sweep oar boat for eight people. All 8s are coxed for safety with a cox steering from the stern.
Pair boat type
2- (coxless pair)
A sweep oar boat for two rowers. It has a rudder so will turn easily when one of the rowers uses a foot steering system.
Coxed pair boat
2+ (coxed pair)
As above but with a cox who steers.
Coxless four
4- (coxless four)
Sweep oar boat for four people with rudder and foot steering system. Bow person usually steers.
Coxed four boat
4+ (coxed four)
Sweep oar boat for four people plus cox who can be seated in either the bow or the stern of the boat.
Eight boat
8+ (coxed eight)
Sweep oar boat for eight people. All 8s are coxed for safety with a cox steering from the stern.

Types of ‘sculling’ boats

Single sculling boat1x (single)
This is the smallest boat. One rower has two oars.
Double sculling boat2x (double)
Two rowers and four oars, steering by pressure on blades or footplate.
Coxless quad sculling boat4x (quad)
Four rowers, eight oars. One person has a foot steering system.
Coxed quad sculling boat4x+ (coxed quad – this type of boat is generally only used by juniors)
As above but with a cox who steers.
Octuple sculling boat8x+ (octuple – this type of boat is rarely used, and will be for junior use only)
Eight rowers and 16 oars plus a cox sat in the stern.
Single sculling boat
1x (single)
This is the smallest boat. One rower has two oars.
Double sculling boat
2x (double)
Two rowers and four oars, steering by pressure on blades or footplate.
Coxless quad sculling boat
4x (quad)
Four rowers, eight oars. One person has a foot steering system.
Coxed quad sculling boat
4x+ (coxed quad – this type of boat is generally only used by juniors)
As above but with a cox who steers.
Octuple sculling boat
8x+ (octuple – this type of boat is rarely used, and will be for junior use only)
Eight rowers and 16 oars plus a cox sat in the stern.
Coastal Boats

The coastal boats used in the UK can increasingly be categorised into two distinct classes; coastal boats used by the Coastal ARA (covering Kent and Sussex) (CARA) and Hants and Dorset ARA (H&D) associations, and the FISA standard coastal boats or French yoles.

The boat design used by the CARA and H&D is largely similar to the fine boats but is slightly wider and shorter, and has half staggered seats. These boats are suited to rowing and racing close to the shore and wide estuaries.

The FISA standard coastal boats are significantly wider than those used at the South Coast
Championships and are designed to withstand rougher sea conditions. Many clubs and rowers based in the South West UK and Channel Islands are adopting the FISA standard sliding seat boats designed by the French. The boat categories include singles, doubles and fours/quads. The standardisation of the boats has allowed a resurgence in international competition, in particular the World Rowing Coastal Challenge.

Types of Fixed Seat Boats

Cornish-Pilot-Gig-boat
© Toby Budd
Cornish Pilot Gig
Based on the original design of the gig ‘Treffry’, built in 1838 this is for six rowers and a cox.
The CPGA strives to preserve the traditional values of the sport, ensuring that each new gig is built to strict specifications – based on the ‘Treffry’ which was built in 1838 by William Peters of St. Mawes. The modern gig is a speedy craft, built from narrow leaf (ideally) Cornish Elm – 32-feet-long and four-feet-10-inches wide, fastened by copper nails. Today’s gigs are no longer working boats and are used purely for pleasure and racing around Cornwall and the West Country.
GRP Cornish Pilot Gig
© Jo Zimber
GRP Cornish Pilot Gig
The GRP gig is a direct copy of a Cornish Pilot Gig and used by almost all CPGA clubs as a training boat, although heavier, it is cheaper to construct and more forgiving for maintenance. The GRP Gigs are not permitted to race under CPGA rules.
St-Ayles-Skiff
© James Andrews
St Ayles Skiff
A four oared, fixed seat wooden boat. Rowed mainly as a sweep boat but can also be sculled. Communites build the boat themselves to help reduce the cost. Kits can be purchased and built generally over a period of 6-12 months.
Trinity 500 Sea Cadets
© Marine Society & Sea Cadets
Trinity 500
A four oared fixed seat boat largely used by the Sea Cadets, made of plastic. Because of the design it is ideal for younger children.
Celtic-Longboat
© Dale Sailing
Pembrokeshire and Celtic longboats
A four oared fixed seat boat made of plastics built for racing, training and recreation. They are mainly used in Wales by clubs along the coast as part of the Welsh Sea Rowing Association.
SurfboatSurfboat
A surfboat is an oar-driven boat designed to enter the ocean from the beach in heavy surf or severe waves. It is often used in lifesaving or rescue missions where the most expedient access to victims is directly from the beach.
Thames Cutter
© Clair Ongley
Thames Cutter
The Cutters are 34 feet long with a beam of 4ft 6ins and can be rigged for up to six oarsmen either rowing or sculling.
Skiff Wherry
Wherry01.jpg” By Motmit (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Skiff Wherry (Skerry)
A wherry is a type of boat that was traditionally used for carrying cargo or passengers on rivers and canals in England. They are mostly associated with the River Thames and also with the Broadland rivers of Norfolk and Suffolk.
Thames Skiff
© Judy Graham
Thames Skiff
A Thames skiff is a traditional hand built clinker-built wooden craft of a design which has been seen on the River Thames and other waterways in England and other countries for nearly 200 years.  They hold two rowers and a cox or they can be raced with one rower only too.
15ft Cornish SkiffCornish Skiff
One rower (pair of paddles), or three rowers (Cornish Ran Dan).
Whitby gig
© Whitby Fishermen’s Amateur Rowing Club
Whitby gig
Four rowers and cox.
Seine-boat
© Andy Darkin
Seine Boat
Four rowers and cox.
Cornish-Pilot-Gig-boat
© Toby Budd
Cornish Pilot Gig
Based on the original design of the gig ‘Treffry’, built in 1838 this is for six rowers and a cox.
The CPGA strives to preserve the traditional values of the sport, ensuring that each new gig is built to strict specifications – based on the ‘Treffry’ which was built in 1838 by William Peters of St. Mawes. The modern gig is a speedy craft, built from narrow leaf (ideally) Cornish Elm – 32-feet-long and four-feet-10-inches wide, fastened by copper nails. Today’s gigs are no longer working boats and are used purely for pleasure and racing around Cornwall and the West Country.
GRP Cornish Pilot Gig
© Jo Zimber
GRP Cornish Pilot Gig
The GRP gig is a direct copy of a Cornish Pilot Gig and used by almost all CPGA clubs as a training boat, although heavier, it is cheaper to construct and more forgiving for maintenance. The GRP Gigs are not permitted to race under CPGA rules.
St-Ayles-Skiff
© James Andrews
St Ayles Skiff
A four oared, fixed seat wooden boat. Rowed mainly as a sweep boat but can also be sculled. Communites build the boat themselves to help reduce the cost. Kits can be purchased and built generally over a period of 6-12 months.
Trinity 500 Sea Cadets
© Marine Society & Sea Cadets
Trinity 500
A four oared fixed seat boat largely used by the Sea Cadets, made of plastic. Because of the design it is ideal for younger children.
Celtic-Longboat
© Dale Sailing
Pembrokeshire and Celtic longboats
A four oared fixed seat boat made of plastics built for racing, training and recreation. They are mainly used in Wales by clubs along the coast as part of the Welsh Sea Rowing Association.
Surfboat
Surfboat
A surfboat is an oar-driven boat designed to enter the ocean from the beach in heavy surf or severe waves. It is often used in lifesaving or rescue missions where the most expedient access to victims is directly from the beach.
Thames Cutter
© Clair Ongley
Thames Cutter
The Cutters are 34 feet long with a beam of 4ft 6ins and can be rigged for up to six oarsmen either rowing or sculling.
Skiff Wherry
Wherry01.jpg” By Motmit (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
Skiff Wherry (Skerry)
A wherry is a type of boat that was traditionally used for carrying cargo or passengers on rivers and canals in England. They are mostly associated with the River Thames and also with the Broadland rivers of Norfolk and Suffolk.
Thames Skiff
© Judy Graham
Thames Skiff
A Thames skiff is a traditional hand built clinker-built wooden craft of a design which has been seen on the River Thames and other waterways in England and other countries for nearly 200 years.  They hold two rowers and a cox or they can be raced with one rower only too.
15ft Cornish Skiff
Cornish Skiff
One rower (pair of paddles), or three rowers (Cornish Ran Dan).
Whitby gig
© Whitby Fishermen’s Amateur Rowing Club
Whitby gig
Four rowers and cox.
Seine-boat
© Andy Darkin
Seine Boat
Four rowers and cox.

Recreational Rowing Boats

Recreational rowing boats are more stable than the fine racing boats, making it easier for a beginner to learn basic technique.

Recreational rowing is open to all and there are clubs across the country offering both recreational rowing and the opportunity to try your hand at long distance or touring rowing.

More in this section

Basic Rowing Equipment

If you're starting out, it's useful to have an overview of all of the basic rowing equipment that you will come across.

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