Who are the cyclists keeping pace with the rowers at the Olympics? Why have a B final? And what exactly is a repechage anyway? NZ Herald's David Leggat answers all the questions you were too afraid to ask.

1: Who are those cyclists keeping pace with the rowers?

Coaches of the crews. Rather than try and watch how their charges are performing from 1500 metres away with binoculars, they cycle alongside, all the while keeping an eye on traffic in front.

2: Why have B finals?


It is primarily to maintain a world ranking system and it is used to help clarify the qualification process for the next Olympic Games. Win the B final and you are ranked No 7 in the world - finals comprising six crews.

At the world champs in the year preceding an Olympics a certain number of places are awarded direct entry to the Games - for those countries, not necessarily the specific rowers who have won the place for their country.

So if the top 10 finishers in the single scull are given direct Olympic entry, that means the six A finalists and the first four across the line in the B final. The remaining places are decided by regional events and, as the final opportunity, a regatta in Europe held a few weeks before the Games.

3: What is a repechage?

Essentially a second chance. A certain number of rowers in each discipline qualify directly either for quarters, semis or finals, depending on the number of entries in that class.

Those who miss advancing directly go into a repechage to complete the makeup of the next stage. Usually no more than the best two crews progress out of the repechage. Those who miss out at that point pack their bags.

4: What is a bow ball?

You might hear the commentators refer to a crew leading by a bow ball. It's the safety ball fitted to the bow, or front, end of the boat. If you hear the commentator say a crew is ahead by a bow ball, it's safe to say it is a tight race.

5: What's the difference between sculling and rowing?

Scullers use two oars, sweep rowers use one. Mahe Drysdale is a sculler; fellow world champions Hamish Bond and Eric Murray are rowers.

6: What is a crab?

In rowing parlance, it is what happens when a rower fails to get the oar out of the water at the end of a stroke. It results in the oar getting caught in the water. The boat tends to stop in a hurry.

7: What is a blade?

The flattened, or spoon-shaped end of the oar. Sometimes it's used as a term for the oar.