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Keywords:

  • Collective action;
  • Cambridge University Boat Club;
  • rowing;
  • sport;
  • ethnography

Abstract

Many sociologists have observed the close connection between coordination and rhythm. In order to accomplish a communal task, participants need to develop a common rhythm if they are to coordinate their actions. Indeed, the harder the collective task, the more critical – but difficult – it is for participants to develop a common rhythm in order to synchronize their actions. Rhythm is thus an important and recurrent feature of social performance. This article explores the ways in which participants try to generate common rhythm in order to execute collective performances. To this end, the paper takes a single sporting example. It examines a decisive period in the 153rd Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in 2007 to examine how a small social group, the Cambridge crew, struggled to create and maintain a rhythm in order to maximize their rowing performance.