Gig Rowing, like many sports, has its unique set of terms and vocabulary. To help you navigate your way through this sport, we thought we'd share a short glossary of popular Cornish Pilot Gig Rowing terms!
Bow: Front of gig.
Stern: Back of gig.
Gunwale: The strong top rail of the gig.
Stroke Side: Side that has stroke oar - starboard side of gig
Bow Side: Side that has bow oar - port side of gig
Rudder: Attached on pintles to the transom and allows gig to be steered. A yoke attached to the rudder has two steering lines controlled by the cox.
Pilot Seat: Seat for a passenger in the bow; also called the Seagull Seat.
Oars: Specific to and numbered for each of the six rowing positions. The oar has a handle, the shaft (or loom) with leathers and the blade.
Pins: Thole Pins are used as the pivots for holding the oar in position. The pin nearest the bow is of a stronger wood than the pin nearest the stern. Bow Hard: Stern Soft. If a crab is caught or any other untoward problem occurs, and the recovery is too slow, the soft pin is designed to break. This protects the fragile gunwale of the gig from excessive forces. Pins should always be free to lift in and out. Do not tap the pins down in their location holes.
Leathers: Bearing surfaces on oars and on gunwale. Leathers on oars are laced onto the oar. Vaseline is used to lubricate the leathers.
Stretcher: The stretcher, or foot bar, has a number of possible positions to accommodate differing leg lengths. Begin by placing it as far forward as possible so that when you sit with your legs slightly bent you are almost falling off the front of the seat. During the drive the legs straighten, you pivot at the hip and the bum tends to move back on the seat a little. Sit too far back and you may inhibit the rower behind you and you also tend to have a weak drive. There are sometimes stretcher extensions in a boat that can be used to find a half-way position.
Foot Straps: Many rowers use foot straps. The principal requirement is that you could slip out quickly if necessary. If you have a good technique at the end of the drive your centre of gravity is far back so that you cannot easily and smoothly reach forward again. As you lead your hands away your feet will want to rise and you spoil your balance finish and recovery. You must not use the oar to pull yourself up with.
Thwarts: Seats which have cushions attached for comfort and as buoyancy in emergency. In wooden gigs the seat has a thwart support taking the weight of the rower in the middle.
Frenchman: Wedge shape support for holding gig horizontal during storage or on the beach.
Cox: Sits in stern and is in charge of the boat and crew.
Stroke: No. 6 rower who sets the pace and length of stroke.
Hood: Angle of blade relative to water. More hood means the top of blade is tilted more to the stern of the boat.
Catch: When the oar enters the water with rower reaching fully forward.
Drive: Main thrust of the stroke from catch to end of stroke (finish).
Return: From end of stroke to catch; generally, the rower feathers the oar.
Feather: During the return of the oar, in the air, the blade is twisted to approx. 45° from vertical to reduce wind resistance,
Catch a Crab: Blade of oar out of control and “caught” in water. Oar handle should be immediately raised, oar recovered and then placed back into the pins and then resume rowing in time with stroke.
Tossing the Oar: During racing to achieve a faster port turn at a buoy the bow rower changes the oar from the normal position (blade on port) to the opposite side (blade on starboard). Each gig has double thole pin positions for No. 1.