Inrigger: A Rare Boat Type

The coxed inrigger four is indeed a very rare boat type nowadays even in the Scandinavian countries. It was actually introduced as an Olympic boat class at the fifth Olympiad, the Stockholm Olympic Games in 1912. In the Rowing Programme, Rules and General Regulations,* published in 1912 by the Swedish Olympic Committee, there is a definition of a ‘Four-oared Inrigger’ stating that

“An inrigger gig shall be clinker built and comply with the following measurements and weights: –

Length: maximum 10.60 metres
Width: at the widest place, minimum 1.05 metres
Depth: 0.36 metre
Width at water line: 0.78 metre
Weight: 85 kilos
Number of boards on either side: 7.

The width of the boards must not in any part of the cross-sections of the boat vary more than 2 centimetres. For the purpose of measuring the width at the water line, an apparatus of the following construction will be used:
A bar, about 1 metre in length, placed on its edge and supplied with two vertical, movable arms, 12 1/2 centimetres high, one at each end.
In the middle of the bar a notch large enough to fit over the keel of the boat.

When a boat is to be measured, it shall be laid bottom upwards, with the apparatus placed over the middle rib. The vertical arm is then pushed so far along the bar as to touch the sides of the boat, at the water line. The distance is measured on the bar between the vertical arms, and if, for example, this distance for a four-oared boat is at least 0.78 metre, the boat holds the measurement; if the distance is less, it is not up to the standard.

The length shall be measured in a straight line between the extreme ends of the stem and the stern. The depth shall be measured inwards, from the deepest point of the keel to the deepest part of the boat and perpendicularly up to a line through the upper edges of the uppermost boards. The width shall be measured between the outer edges of the uppermost boards on the widest part of the boat. The width at the water line shall be measured outwards on the middle rib and a height of 12 1/2 centimetres above the lowest board.

The boat shall have an outward keel which in every cross-section shall reach at least 1 centrimetre below the lowest edge of the lowest board. The weight of the boat is reckoned exclusive of the oars but inclusive of all other equipment of the boat. The position of the rowlocks or the axle of the movable rowlock may not be more than 3 centimetres outside the outer edge of the upper board, and the measurement shall be made straight out from the place where the rowlock is fixed.”

At the Olympic rowing event in Stockholm the following inrigger crews competed: Nykjøbings paa Falster Roklub, Denmark; Société Nautique de Bayonne, France; Christiania Roklub, Norway; Ormsund Roklub, Norway; Göteborgs Roddförening, Sweden; Roddklubben af 1912, Sweden. The Danish boat won followed by the Swedish, Roddklubben af 1912 (seen below). See also HTBS 21 April, 2009. The inrigger would never again appear at an Olympic rowing event, and has to be regarded as an Olympic curiosity.

What is not known, or maybe more correctly, remembered nowadays is that they also had inriggers in New Zealand during the 1880s and 1890s. Michael Grace, author of the eminent The Dolly Varden Legacy, wrote in an e-mail that he had a draft about inriggers in New Zealand for his book, but it never made it into the final version. This is what he wrote about the inriggers:

“Competition in inrigged fours was still very much prevalent into the 1880s and 1890s. However, the practice of acknowledging the representative boats, rather than the crew themselves, seems to have subsided about the time the NZARA was established (1887). While there is no record of the names themselves, the Club recorded a number of victories in Senior, Junior and Maiden Inrigged Fours during late 1880s and early 1890s. At a NZARA meeting in December 1896, a rule was passed that Maiden four-oared races were only to be rowed in out-rigged boats at all regattas. This effectively spelt the death knell of inrigged racing in New Zealand and this form of boat subsequently faded into obscurity.”**

This boat type has also started to fade away in the Nordic countries, which is really a pity!

* A photo copy of the Rowing Programme, Rules and General Regulations was sent to me by Tim Koch. His club, Auriol Kensington RC in London, has a copy of this rare publication in their archives. It once belonged to the club’s prominent sculler, Wally Kinnear, who took an Olympic gold in the single scull in Stockholm.
** My thanks to Michael Grace for allowing me to publish this piece.
For more about the Olympic rowing in Stockholm, see my article
Samuel F. Gordon and the 1912 Olympic Rowing.

4 comments

  1. Thanks for an enlightning piece!
    The inrigger is still widely used in costal areas in Denmark. It is used extensively for touring and long distance racing. It is also used for shorter distances 1 and 2km at some regattas.

    Claus Kirk
    Former member at Risskov Rowing Club.

  2. Claus, thank you for the information. I have always been impressed by the amount of inriggers that still exists in Denmark. I especially remember being a spectator at the Danish Championships on Bagsværd Sø in the beginning of the 1990s. I have never seen so many inriggers competing in the same regatta. It was truly wonderful! Of course, this was 20 years ago…

  3. Four-oar inriggers still are very popular in Denmark as they are perfectly suited for coastal rowing in relatively calm wind conditions and moderate waves. Allthough being a very small country Denmark has more than 7300 km of coast line and many lakes. 139 rowing clubs all over the country support elite and leasure rowers with boats and training. Inriggers, gigs, scullers and kayaks. Inriggers also provide perfect means of transportation for weekend and holiday trips as they can carry full camping luggage for the 5 people on board. Check http://www.roning.dk/DFfR.aspx (in Danish).
    BW Anne Bay Overgaard

  4. It seems that an inrigged boat is used for the Royal St. John's Regatta in St. John's, Newfoundland in Canada, though any sources I've found don't refer to it as such.

    Based on the diagram on the website of the regatta and some other news clips about the event on the internet, the boats looks like inrigged sixes with non-sliding seats.

    I've known for a while about the Royal St. John's Regatta, but discovered only recently that the boats they use are unique to the event.

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