Selecting a new rowing boat


I have been privy to a Facebook chat where the initiator asks this question

“Rowers, got any views on buying and selecting a new rowing boat. Budget is key and interested on views. Think SWIFT, Wintech v Janousek=Stämpfli.”

While not keen to start a public discussion on the benefits of any one boat maker compared to any other, this is a good time to look into the factors you need to consider.

Boat Building for Rowing Filippi Boat Building for Rowing Photo Credit: WorldRowing

Selecting a new rowing boat for your club

No boat can do everything – it can’t both teach beginners and race at the Olympics (unless you want to come bog last!). So, selecting a new rowing boat will be your job.

So consider these different questions when narrowing down your selection.

  1. Start with your purpose – WHY do you want to buy a boat?
  2. Which groups in the club will need to use the boat?
  3. Consider their experience level (beginner, intermediate, advanced)
  4. And their weight in kilogrammes – boats are built to sit in the water at the correct depth for an average athlete weight – and shoe size
  5. Selecting a rowing new boat and new riggers – wing or side mounted?
  6. What attachment method – Is a quick release system needed?
  7. Do you need to fine-tune adjustments like span, heights of swivel oarlocks?  How easy to adjust do these need to be?
  8. Now onto the materials used in the hull – what boat design hull mould do you want?  FISA has a “shape” which many boat builders use as it’s open-source.  Or do you want something more experimental?
  9. Consider the full boat assembly materials – hull, deck, canvases – and the total boat weight because FISA and local rowing associations regulate minimum weights
  10. Some of us care about the colour too – do you want go-faster stripes?
  11. Fit out is the easiest part to customise.  What do you need to adjust? Riggers, seat, slide tracks, shoes, stretcher angle, oarlock heights and pitch?  There are many suppliers and some have a better reputation for being long-wearing.  Also consider where you can get spare parts locally.
  12. Warranty – some manufacturers warrant their work for the hulls for 5 years
  13. And lastly, price – what can you afford.  Remember boatbuilders may do “deals” throwing in coxing amplification looms to get the sale.

Lastly I’d recommend asking around – just like the discussion I witnessed where other owners were able to advise the questioner about how fitments failed and where they’d had good and less good experiences using the boats over time.

Buying second hand rowing boats

Get yourself a copy of written by a professional boatman / rigger who works in the US University boat club system, Mike really knows the detail of the issues.

The book sets out a very clear 8 step process to ensuring your club buys the right equipment for the right price.

This is a reference book your club committee should have on their bookshelf (even though it’s virtual) because teaching new committee members how to choose and purchase equipment is a recurring job.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. JY

    Those are indeed the questions. It doesn’t narrow down the field much though as any of the main suppliers will be able to satisfy them. It ought to come down to cost, durability and outright speed. More often than not though it comes down to: ”can I afford a yellow one?’ If not, which maker is the coolest?

    1. Ian White

      JY. What do you mean by “coolest?” Fashionable? Quickest? Most expensive paint job? Most expensive? Fashionably expensive? Olympic quality/standard even if potential users cannot make best use?

  2. Steven Swan

    I found this discussion very helpful. However, under related posts there is an article about rowing and single use plastics. When a new boat arrives at your club have you considered how much plastic it is wrapped in? Its immense. When buying a new boat, it would be worth asking the manufacturer if the boat will be sustainably wrapped. Nothing wrong with corrugated cardboard for protection and a final thin layer of plastic for waterproofing. Remember, its a boat, it will get wet, it doesn’t need a waterproof wrapping, just damage protection!

  3. Catherine Timms

    I would also add, pick a boat where you can get good after purchase support from the manufacturer for timely repairs and parts. Here in Ontario, many of us opt for Hudson and Fluidesign because both of these local companies offer exemplary support for years after the boat purchase. They bend over backwards to get “injured” boats back on the water fast and being local, parts are never difficult to obtain quickly. That is worth their weight in gold.

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