What is the difference between an intermediate, senior, and elite rower?
What is a junior rower? What is a masters rower?
A simple explanation:
The US Rules of Rowing provide for two classifications of rowers: by skill and by age. Classification by skill is divided into intermediates, senior, and elite. Basically, you are an intermediate unless and until you advance to senior or elite. You advance to senior by winning at the American Rowing championships and you advance to elite by winning at the US National Rowing championships. You can always "row up", but never "row down", i.e., an intermediate can row in a senior or elite event, but a senior or elite cannot row in an intermediate event.
If an event is not designated intermediate or senior, it is "open" which is effectively synonymous with elite. So, for the Schuylkill Navy and Independence Day regattas, where many events are not identified by a "classification by skill", they are "open".
The complete section from the U.S. Rules of Rowing reads:
(a) A competitor's classification by skill shall be determined separately with respect to sweep events and sculling events. Except for the provisions of subsection (b)(2) below (Elite status affecting scull or sweep status), a competitor's classification in one category shall not affect his or her classification in the other. A competitor's classification by skill shall not be determined separately with respect to open events and lightweight events, and thus a competitor's status as Elite, Senior or Intermediate is applicable regardless of weight class.
(b) Competitors shall be classified according to skill by the following criteria:
(1) Intermediate: A competitor is an Intermediate who has not advanced to the status of Senior or Elite.
(2) Senior: A competitor is a Senior who has won any intermediate or senior event over 2000 meters at the American Rowing Championship Regatta or at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta, and who has not advanced to the status of Elite. A competitor who is an Elite as a sweep rower shall also be advanced to Senior for all sculling events, and a competitor who is an Elite as a scull rower shall be advanced to Senior for all sweep events.
(3) Elite: A competitor is an Elite who has won one 2000 meter event classified as Elite at the USRowing National Championship Regatta, an Open 2000 meter event at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta, or any 2000 meter event other than a Junior or Masters event at a USRowing Open or Lightweight National Team Trials' regatta. A competitor also becomes an Elite if he or she has won any two 2000 meter events classified as Senior at the American Rowing Championship Regatta or equivalent level at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta; or who has been a member of a USRowing National Team as a competitor (including as a spare) in the category at issue, other than in a Junior or Masters event.
(c) All trials events to select the National Team, except those for Junior or Masters events, shall be classified as Elite events.
(d) Junior or Masters races do not effect a competitor's classification by skill under this Rule.
(e) All changes in classification by skill shall take effect on January 1 following the year of competition.
(f) Any other provision of these Rules notwithstanding, a competitor who is not an amateur shall be deemed an Elite for all events, whether sweep or sculling, open or lightweight.
The layman's explanation:
A "Junior" is anyone 18 or under. A "master" is anyone 27 or over. Both use December 31 as the effective date, so your "rowing age" is your age at the end of the calendar year. A junior or a master could row in an intermediate, senior, or elite event, but it's uncommon. They usually prefer to compete within their age group. I have known individuals, usually accomplished rowers, who continued to compete as intermediates into their late 20's and early 30's.
Masters are divided into subgroups: A (27 - 35), B (36 - 42), C (43 - 49), D (50 - 54), E (55 - 59), F (60 - 64), G (65 - 69), H (70 - 74), I (75 - 79), J (80 & over). If all crews in a masters race are within the same age category, no handicaps are applied. If any one crew in a masters race is in a different age category from the others, age handicaps from a lookup table in the rule book are applied.
The relevant section from the Rules of Rowing:
(a) Junior: A Junior is a competitor who in the current calendar year does not attain the age of 19, or who is and has been continuously enrolled in secondary school as a full time student seeking a diploma. A competitor thus ceases to be a Junior after December 31 of the year of his or her 18th birthday, or of the year in which he or she completes the 12th grade of secondary school, having been a full time student, whichever is later. [Editor's Note: Please note that rules relating to USRowing Junior National Team Trials' regattas and regattas governed by FISA, the International Rowing Federation, may vary; refer to Rule 6-203.]
(1) A competitor's eligibility to compete in Junior events is not affected by his or her classification by skill under Rule 4-105 ("Classification by Skill"). A Junior competitor's classification by skill in non-Junior events shall be as provided in that Rule.
(2) Within the Junior classification, there shall be a subclassification known as "Junior B" made up of those Juniors who in the current calendar year do not attain the age of 17.
(b) Master: A Master is a competitor who has attained or will attain the age of 27 during the current calendar year. A competitor's age is determined as of December 31 of the current calendar year, rounded down to the highest contained integer. A competitor thus becomes a Master on January 1 of the year of his or her 27th birthday. A Masters crew shall be comprised exclusively of Masters rowers, but the coxswain need not be a Master.
(1) Masters crews shall be classified by age according to the following categories: (A) 27 to 35 years, (B) 36 to 42 years, (C) 43 to 49 years, (D) 50 to 54 years, (E) 55 to 59 years, (F) 60 to 64 years, (G) 65 to 69 years, and (H) 70 years and over. The age category of a Masters crew shall be determined by the average age of the rowers in the crew, rounded to the nearest integer. The age of a coxswain shall not be counted. The ages of individual rowers need not fall within the age category, so long as each rower is a Master and so long as the average age of the crew falls within the applicable category.
(2) A Masters crew may compete in a lower (younger) age category, but not in a higher category.
(3) [Editor's Note: This section, which created a separate "Grandmasters" category, has been deleted.]
(4) A Master competitor's eligibility to compete in Masters events is not affected by his or her classification by skill under Rule 4-105 ("Classification by Skill"). A Master competitor's classification by skill in non-Masters events shall be as otherwise provided in that Rule. A rower who is a member of the current year's National Team, or received a medal (Rule 5-305A) in any Elite or Senior event at the USRowing Nationals or the American Rowing Championships, shall not be eligible to compete in the current year at the Masters Nationals.