There is a massive assumption in that subject line, as there is no obligation to row in competition. Rowing is a sport where all ages can enjoy a great form of exercise outdoors, and at BARC we have the perfect setting to do this and encourage recreational rowing, and competition for those who want it.
If you do want to compete, then have a chat with the Captain or RDM or Vice-Captain who can advise you on the right path to take.

What type of competition could I get involved with?

There are options:

  • At BARC we will organize occasional informal club competition on the Aire for club members, often mixed with a social event, although in the last two years these have dropped off due to COVID. We have had Head of the Aire competitions (what’s a “Head” competition? More on that below), and we can now arrange social gatherings and some racing alongside, maybe in scratch double sculls or quads. A “scratch” crew is one where the crew comes together on the day, often with the organizer picking who is in which boat.
  • At BARC we arrange an annual War of the Roses, with races for scratch crews from invited clubs across Yorkshire and Lancashire. You do need to be classed as a “Master” to enter the War of the Roses, but at the grand old age of 27 you are regarded as Veteran/Master in this sport!
  • The next level is to compete in events that run under the authorization of our national body, British Rowing. Before going further, you should look at where there is a vast store of information covering training and types of competition. Here you will find some explanations about events. It is strongly recommended that before you race, you go along to an event with the club; help out, see what goes on. It will be a big benefit for your preparation for when you do enter to race.


During the summer the rowing calendar has regattas, with several taking place across the U.K. each weekend. A regatta is based on racing with a side-by-side stationary start (from 2 to 6 lanes depending on venue) in a knock-out format. These “sprint” races can be from 500 meters up to 2,000 meters (1,000 meters typical). Juniors are grouped with similar age Juniors, and the same in the Masters classes.

Usually there are races for all types of boat, from singles up to VIIIs. British Rowing website shows upcoming events; our club encourages entries at regattas in local regions, usually within 100 miles. The Captain regularly circulates a list of upcoming events via the Googlegroup mail account and on notice boards; for Juniors this information is circulated via Team App.

Head Races

A Head Race e.g. Yorkshire Head or Head of the Dee, is a time-trial. Crews boat from one end of the course, row up beyond the start to a marshalling position, and when all the crews are in place (that can be quite a long wait), set off building to FIRM PRESSURE just before crossing the start-line where the timing starts. The timing stops as you cross the finish line, which is typically between 2,000 meters to 6,000 meters from the start. The event results are split into types of boat, and age of those competing. Usually an hour after the finish results are published, sometimes faster. British Rowing website shows upcoming events, and the Captain circulates the forthcoming events that the club intends going to.

How do I progress from my current experience into a race crew?

Heads or Regattas are competitive! To start, you need to be able to scull or row to the technical standard needed, and be fit enough to race the distance. We have lots of experience in our club, and we have informal squads formed of members who have a similar view on how much they want to compete, and in what type of boat. Usually a squad covers a particular age group.

If you want to compete and are ready to compete, then an introduction to a squad may find you a place in a crew boat. Squads are self-organized, and they determine who rows together and in which event.

If we have a number of members who are all reaching the same level of ambition to compete, and together have the skill levels and fitness needed, then they can make a squad to race as a crew, and with help from experienced members, can enter a Regatta or Head race.

The third route is to enter as a single sculler; again, when suitable competence and fitness is proven and agreed by the Captain, and with help of experienced members.

Sounds simple! Anything else you need to know? YES, there’s lots more to consider!

All levels of competition mean making a commitment. If you say you are entering an event, then it’s never popular if you change your mind late on.

We all appreciate there are many things in life that happen that can make it impossible to go rowing on a particular day, that’s life, but events are organized by volunteers for your benefit, and it can be very difficult to change at the last minute without knock-on effects to others.

When an entry is made at a British Rowing formal event, then the level of commitment must be much higher, especially in a crew event. You must make sure that you are prepared (you are reading this, that’s a good start!) and you will put the time into training, preparing and loading and unloading your boat, and what’s inevitably a long day including the travel.

You will have learnt to row on the Aire, a lovely place to learn to row! However, other stretches of river or lake have hazards that you have not had to cope with yet…

  • Much longer and wider rivers (or lakes) are much more exposed, and you are much further from the safety of the landing stage. These bigger stretches of water are much more exposed to the weather; waves that can break into the boat are not that unusual, conditions that we just don’t experience on the Aire.
  • There may be boat traffic including powered launches, sailing boats and more. There may be obstructions we don’t have at Bradford; e.g. bridge pillars or boat moorings, we don’t have tight bends, some rivers do.
  • What is a Stake Boat? Well, it’s nothing to do with gambling tables on a river cruiser. To ensure races start level, small boats are anchored at the start, and a young lass or lad holds the stern of your boat until the GO is heard. You must practice getting your stern exactly in the right position, regardless of what the wind and stream are doing. You have to be able to get your boat pointing the right way while being held before the GO.
  • It’s true that however much preparation you have put into this, everything changes when there are competing crews alongside (hopefully soon behind you) with the adrenaline factor kicking in. It’s this excitement that’s gives most of us the buzz to do it again and again!

Anything Else? … YES, read on!

For racing at British Rowing events you need the right kit. The right kit for racing for Bradford ARC is an All-In-One which is available from the approved supplier. You will need warm and weatherproof top layers (and be able to take them off and put back on in the boat too).

To enter a British Rowing event, you will need a valid Race License, available for £60 at British Rowing

You will need an outline knowledge of the Rules of Racing. The full version is available on the British Rowing site. Get to know the basics; how races are started, what instructions the umpires may give you, and what do if there has been a clash, or another “unexpected” happening.

Before any event there is a lot of information available on the event organizer web-site. Before you go on the water, you must look at the Safety Plan (the clue is in the name) and read the Competitor Instructions to find out where you are meant to be and when, and which side of the river you should be on to reach the start and on the course. Before the event you must check the draw (who you are racing), your race number and what time to boat.

Buy a “Rigger-Jigger” (10mm/13mm spanner) to get your boat ready for travelling to the event, and to get it ready to race. Mark it as yours, these things get lost easily.

I am up for this! How do I enter?

British Rowing events are entered by an online system called BROE (British Rowing Online Entries) which the Captain takes care of. In Fitclub – Bradford Rowing Club – Documents you will find “BARC Entry Form” which is easy to complete. You will also need to pay an entry fee (£8 to £12 per head) and a contribution to cover the cost of towing the trailer of boats there and back.

WOW, that’s a lot … is that all?

Not quite all … make sure that you have a Prime Position at home to display all the medals and trophies and tankards that you are going to win!

John Austin-Davies, Captain

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