Here are some of the best times from the World Championships of the sport of rowing as of March 29, 2002.

Lightweight Men

Single Sculls: 6.47.97, Karsten Nielsen of Denmark, St Catharines 1999.

Double Sculls: 6.14.57, Tomasz Kucharski and Robert Sycz of Poland, Aiguebelette 1997.

Quadruple Sculls: 5.45.96, Francesco Esposito, Massimo Lana, Michelangelo Crispi, and Massimo Guglielmi of Italy, Racice 1993.

Straight Pair: 6.32.81, Mathias Binder and Benedikt Schmidt of Switzerland, Aiguebelette 1997.

Straight Four: 5.45.60, T. Ebert, T. Poulsen, E. Ebbesen, V. Feddersen, Lucerne.

Eight: 5.30.24, by the German crew at Montreal, 1992.

Heavyweight Men

Single Sculls: 6.36.68, Rob Waddell of New Zealand, St Catharines 1999.

Double Sculls: 6.04.37, Luka Spik and Iztok Cop of Slovakia, St Catharines 1999.

Quadruple Sculls: 5.37.68, Paradiso, Sarrtori, Galtarossa, and Corona of Italy, Indianapolis 1994.

Straight Pair: 6.18.65, Steven Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent of Great Britain, Indianapolis 1994.

Coxed Pair: 6.42.16, Igor Boraska, Tihomir Frankovic, and Milan Razov of Croatia, Indianapolis 1994.

Straight Four: 5.48.06, James Cracknell, Steven Redgrave, Tim Foster, and Matthew Pinsent of Great Britain, Cologne 1998.

Coxed Four: 5.58.96, Matthias Ungemach, Armin Eichholz, Armin Weyrauch, Bahne Rabe, and Joerg Dederding of Germany, Vienna 1991.

Eight: 5.22.80, Adri Middag, Derk Fontein, Niels Van der Zwan, Stephan Van Dongen, Geert Jan Derksen, Gijs Kind, Joeri Van Leuwen, Nico Rienks, and Merijn Van Ooijen of The Netherlands, St Catharines 1999.

Lightweight Women

Single Sculls: 7.29.99, Philippa Baker of New Zealand, Vienna 1991.

Double Sculls: 6.54.85, Canadian crew at the B Final, Indianapolis 1994.

Quadruple Sculls: 6.29.68, Catriona Roach, Amber Halliday, Sally Causby, and Josephine Lips of Australia, Lucerne 2001.

Straight Pair: 7.18.32, Eliza Blair and Justine Joyce of Australia, Aiguebelette 1997.

Heavyweight Women

Single Sculls: 7.11.68, Ekaterina Karsten of Belarus, St Catharines 1999

Double Sculls: 6.41.98, Jana Thieme and Kathrin Boron of Germany, St Catharines 1999.

Quadruple Sculls: 6.11.73, Kristina Mundt, Katrin Ruschow, Jana Sorgers, and Kerstin Koppen of Germany, Indianapolis 1994.

Straight Pair: 6.57.42, Marnie McBean and Kathleen Heddle of Canada, Vienna 1991.

Straight Four: 6.25.47, Kirsten Barnes, Brenda Taylor, Jessica Monroe, and Jennifer Doey of Canada, Vienna 1991.

Eight: 5.59.26, Constanta Pipota, Anisoara Oprea, Doina Snep, Marioara Curelea, Iulia Bobeica, Veronica Cochela, Marioara Popescu, Doina Robu, and Elena Nedelcu of Romania, Lake Barrington 1990.

The times listed above are from FISA World Championship regattas which are held in a different site each year, hence the location and year data. The races are all 2 kilometers. If you're interested in the reasons why I chose these data, and their real meaning, read on.

World records for rowing aren't held in the same regard as world records for other sports, such as swimming or track and field. When you run on a track, it is essentially the same every time. Furthermore, tracks around the world are pretty uniform. Regattas are run on rivers and lakes that have currents and winds that are constantly shifting. This has a huge impact, a much bigger effect than most people realize. For this reason, FISA tends to choose sites for the Championships that have flat, calm water and good weather. However, they don't have any control over the conditions on the racing days and the conditions are rarely perfect for the whole race. Since these variables are out of human hands, the world best times achieved by a crew do not necessarily mean that they were the best crew to ever race.

Because conditions have such an effect on times, I chose to list only the best times recorded at the World Championships. The fastest course I've ever rowed on has to be Yale's home course in Derby, Connecticut. When we raced there, a huge tailwind and tail current were present all morning. Even without the wind, I imagine that course is very fast day in and day out. It ends in a waterfall approximately 700 meters past the finish line, which leads me to believe there are always tail currents. The day we raced them, the winning time crushed the world record for the lightweight eight. Nobody felt the need to get on the phone to FISA to report a new record. The primary reason for the fast times was the conditions. On the other hand, the Charles River basin is infamous for its unpredictable weather. It's almost always bad in the basin. Crews typically race more slowly on the Charles than on almost any other body of water.

How do you stack up against the world's best? You can easily gauge how close you are to Michael Johnson by running on a track. It's quite a chore for an untrained person to get into a single and start sculling. Novice scullers are often found flipped over in the middle of nasty bodies of water. Instead, you can go to the gym and set the ergometer for 2000 meters and see how you do. The erg is a good equalizer and levels the playing field for all, but it's also quite boring compared to real rowing. The best times recorded on the erg stand at the following:

Lightweight Men: 6:03.20, Eskild Ebbesson, Denmark.

Heavyweight Men: 5:37.00, Matthias Siejkowsk, Germany.

Lightweight Women: 6:56.70, Lisa Schlenker, United States.

Heavyweight Women: 6:28.30, Georgina Evers-Swindell, New Zealand.

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