Rowing 101: Competition format
Rowing competition takes place over the course of eight days and consists of a round of heats, followed by a repechage, and then a final race.
In Olympic rowing, the competition format varies from event to event, depending on the number of entries. All events begin with a round of heats, followed by a repechage (see below). If there are 12 or fewer boats in the field, the heats and repechage combine to determine the finalists. If there are more than 12 boats in the field, there will be a semifinal round preceding the final.
Rowing follows a unique format in that boats have the benefit of double elimination. The repechage, loosely translated from French as "second chance," is the name for the second round of competition that ensures everyone has two chances to advance from preliminary races to either the semifinals or final (if an event does not have semifinals).
A and B finals are contested in events with eight or more entries (A is for places one through six, B is for places seven through 12). When 13 or more crews are entered, a C final is held; if 19 or more crews are entered, a D final is held; and so on. The boat that wins the A final is awarded with the Olympic gold medal in the event.