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Officials to Trial 'Appearance and Performance' Category in '06
April 1, 2006

A new rowing category for Masters women is being tested at several US regattas this year, primarily in the Southeast region. The category, which would appear in schedules with an A/P suffix (i.e., Women's C8 A/P), will be a judged category. Addition of these events is in response to a growing number of masters women disillusioned by the hardcore female jocks occupying the podium at major regattas. The category will earn points for presentation, unity, overall appearance and spirit, time penalties for faults in the same categories.

USRA and United States Masters Rowers Association have not committed to the category at this time. A spokesperson for USRA says, "We are working on the language in the rule book now, and creating standards for hair, make-up and presentation that works for all involved. We are getting expert assistance from the United States Ice Dancing Association, United States Synchronized Swimming, and the American Kennel Club - we want to ensure that the judges have the tools to score appropriately." Sticking points on the rules discussion seem to be merits earned for color choice and appropriate time penalties for coxswain commands that fall outside the standards.

At the starting line of a trail regatta in Aiken, South Carolina, a cheerful command of "chin up, no slouching, all smiles," was overheard. One coxswain was suspended for a year and her crew was penalized 30 seconds for saying "c'mon (expletive deleted), let's throw down!"

Stacy Small from Atlanta, Georgia has put herself frontline for this category, and attends all meetings during the development stage. "I started rowing three years ago to "firm up certain trouble spots," let's say, but let's be reasonable," she asserts. "I mean one woman in my club - I think she must use steroids or something. Besides, she wears the same socks for every race."

The category has rowing apparel companies scrambling but excited. Jess Klein from RowersNations Apparel says, "We are developing the first samples of unisuits made with increased Lycra content for support - especially in the hips and tummy. Our favorite feature we are working on now is the integral underwire bra. Right away we recognized that the uniboob look did not work for this competition or these athletes." Klein adds, "We are also looking into more feminine colors to enhance the slimming black; like citron, periwinkle and blush."

One women rower summed up her feelings on this trend: "I mean, we go to regattas and we want to look presentable. Guys do just fine in unis, say no more - a nod's as good as wink to a blind bat!"

Adds Stacy Small, who is delighted by the more wardrobe options, "I think boat builders will have to respond as well. With the judges looking at overall appearance, the boat will ultimately enter the mix."

"We are talking to the people at Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo shoes to create leather seats and stylish footwear for boat suppliers, and we really think that as this category grows, riggers will be matching unisuits for top-level teams."

Over the winter, converts to this category have been looking for any advantage possible, foregoing the traditional erg sessions to meet with cutting edge stylists from the ice dancing community. Comments one participant: "We want to do this right. Miss America and other pageants are evolving, but we want to make it clear that we are athletes here, we just choose beauty and poise also."

In another development, rumors abound of a so-called "Real indoor rowing" championship, billed as the world's first Sychronised rowing competition. Prizes would be awarded for best dressed crew, execution of chop turns, rowing style, clean catches, and getting the boat in and out of a pool. Extra points will be awarded for any coxswain who can cleanly get into his or her seat from the 10-meter board.

It is not yet determined whether nose plugs will be required.