Learn to row June 1

by Matt Corpening
Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Supplied photo courtesy of Dave Murray 

Members of the Cape Fear River Rowing Club take novices out in an eight-person sweep boat on June 4, 2011, National Learn to Row Day.


The first of June is National Learn to Row Day. The Cape Fear River Rowing Club, formed in 1989 by a group of rowers looking to bring recreational rowing to the area, plans to host an event dedicated to creating interest in the sport. 

“The CFRRC is really excited about it. We held this event two years ago and at least 25 people attended. We hope to have 50 plus this time,” said Mary Wooten, events coordinator for the CFRRC.

Rowing is one of the original sports in the modern Olympics and the U.S. team won the gold medal in the men’s eight-oared category at all the games from 1920 until 1956. Eight-oared shells are about 60-feet long and carry more than three-quarters of a ton, but they are made of fiberglass composite material and may weigh only 200 pounds.

The event will feature boathouse tours of the Wilmington Marine Center at 3410 River Road, which includes 75 feet of floating dock, a boat trailer and a full complement of oars. Demonstrations on rowing machines called ergometers — ergs for short — and instruction on the water will also take place.

Wooten said the club holds learn-to-row classes to teach participants the basics of sweep rowing, which is one oar per person, and sculling, which is two oars per person. The three sculling events, identified by the number of rowers, are the single, double and quad. Sweep boats come in pairs and fours with or without a coxswain, the non-rowing member who steers the boat, and eights, which are the fastest boats on the water and always carry a coxswain. Whether or not a boat carries a coxswain is represented in writing by a plus or minus following the number of rowers onboard. 

While the CFRRC mostly rows for pleasure, it is competitive as well. 

“We have fielded a women’s masters team for the Charleston Head Race in Charleston, S.C. in 2011 and placed second. In 2012 our women’s master’s team placed third in the Southeastern Regionals held in Aiken, S.C.,” Wooten said. “This year we will race in the Richmond Rocketts Sprint Race in Richmond, Va., with a women’s masters four plus women’s novice masters four plus and women’s masters eight plus.”

The club holds recreational sweep rowing classes on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. and Sundays at 8 a.m. Sculling classes take place on Saturdays at 8 a.m. and at sunrise on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

National Learn to Row Day will be similarly commemorated throughout the country, but the CFRRC event is one of only a few in North Carolina.

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