What Is A Head Race In Rowing

What Is A Head Race In Rowing?


Rowing is a sport that has been around for centuries and involves propelling a boat on water using oars. There are different types of rowing races, one of which is a head race. In this article, we will explore what a head race is and how it differs from other rowing events.


A head race is a type of rowing competition that takes place on a river or a long stretch of water. It is a timed race where rowers start at intervals, usually every 10 to 15 seconds, and compete against the clock rather than directly against other boats. The objective is to complete the course in the shortest amount of time.


Head races are typically conducted on a longer course compared to other rowing events. The distance of a head race course can vary but is usually around 3 to 6 miles in length. The course is marked with buoys or flags to guide the rowers along the designated path.

Start and Finish

At the start of a head race, each boat is aligned and held by a stakeboat or anchored to the riverbank. The boats are then released at regular intervals, creating a staggered start. This allows each crew to have clear water ahead and reduces the possibility of collisions.

The finish line of a head race is usually marked by a buoy or a bridge. As rowers cross the finish line, their time is recorded, and the fastest time wins the race.


Unlike other rowing races, where boats compete side by side, head races require a different strategy. Since rowers are not directly racing against each other, the focus is on maintaining a consistent and efficient pace throughout the course. Rowers need to have a good sense of pacing and stamina to sustain their effort over a longer duration.

Another important aspect of head races is overtaking. Since boats start at intervals, faster crews may catch up to slower ones. It becomes crucial for the overtaking crew to navigate past the slower boat without impeding their progress or causing disruption.


Head races in rowing are a challenging and exciting form of competition. They test rowers’ endurance, strategy, and ability to maintain a consistent pace. With its staggered start and focus on individual times, head races provide a unique experience for both rowers and spectators alike. So, if you ever have the chance to watch or participate in a head race, make sure to seize the opportunity and appreciate the skill and determination of the rowers.

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