Rowing deep – no longer a drag?

A new blade attachment that prevents the oar from going deep  has been approved by FISA for use in World Rowing regattas.

The high-grade plastic RANDALLfoil is ‘glued’ onto the top edge of the spoon. It seems to act like a lip that sits on the surface of the water, resisting any downward pressure.

The foils can increase boat speed, the Aussie inventor claims.

Some rigging changes are required (gate height and pitch) and the company suggests that with these changes you won’t have to change your hand heights to see the benefit.

RANDALLfoils
RANDALLfoils can be fitted to your oars to stop you from rowing deep

It sounds like an elegant solution for correcting a blade-depth problem in training. If it brings more stability to an otherwise wobbly crew boat, bring it on.

But I wonder whether it can ever correct the cause (not just the symptom), and whether there might be unintended consequences.

It’s not uncommon to see rowers take the catch with their arms/shoulders, pulling the handles upwards and burying half of the shaft. Will they just keep wrestling the now unsinkable oar? Or, over time, will they learn to engage the muscles of the lower body? Please comment below if you’ve used them.

In racing, I guess rowers with good blade depth are about to lose a technical advantage. The old heavyweight-vs-lightweight debate springs to mind—if we all end up rowing equally well, technically, then isn’t it likely that the biggest / strongest / most powerful rower/crew will always win the race? I know there are many other factors at play.

blade depth - Lake Macdonald
Blade depth – just a spoonful

My rowing technology wish list

As a spatially challenged single sculler with poor vision, top of my rowing technology wish list would be a virtual cox (sorry, little people):

  • It would steer my boat, avoiding all hazards, above and below water, so that I wouldn’t have to look behind. At the very least, it would steer a straight line on a buoyed course (well, if a car can drive itself… ).
  • In a race, it would make the calls, directly into my ear; keep track of the opposition; rev me up; calm me down; remind me to breathe; speak encouraging affirmations when I am dying (using machine learning, it would figure out what works and when); tell me exactly how many strokes to the finish line.
  • It would be tiny, weighing maybe a few grams, and I would clip it behind my ear (maybe I’ve been watching too much Black Mirror).
Me: “What do you mean we’re only at 500m? Help me go faster, Hal!”
Cox Hal: “I’m sorry, old fart, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Why stop there? What about a device that:

  • holds my knees down on the recovery until I am fully rocked over (wheel locks?)
  • prompts me when to drop the blades in the water (a tiny cattle prod?)
  • keeps my hand heights perfectly aligned on the recovery (some kind of laser beams?).

With luck, these devices don’t contravene FISA’s innovation rule of evolution, not revolution.

 

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7 thoughts on “Rowing deep – no longer a drag?

  1. Question for Magnus and David. I am thinking about getting some foils, but I’m an EmPower user. The issue is that the EmPower Oarlock has a fixed 4 degree pitch. The RandallFoil rigging instructions recommend using a 3 degree pitch. Have either of you used the foil with an EmPower oarlock?

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    1. My pair partner and I changed nothing when going to the foils. Video taken of us shows perfectly level oar height during the drive. But, video taken without the foils shows the same thing. For us, they are just more efficient. It is especially true at high pressure and during the start sequence when I do not see the stern splash I have seen before.

      But, different boats and oarlocks and oars are different, and you may need to experiment.

      The oarlocks on our boats allow for the pitch to be adjusted. I do not understand why Empower oarlocks would be any different. Talk to NK about this.

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  2. My pair partner and I have used the foils for months now.

    Gold at the US Masters National Championships. First use of foils at the national championship level.

    https://hydrofoiloar.blogspot.com/

    It does not make it impossible to bury the blade. Just reinforces good technique. And, the blade seems more efficient when the oar placement is at the proper level. We saw a five second split rate improvement in two back to back tests. No longer row the pair without the foils.

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  3. My pair partner and I have used the foils for months now.

    Gold at the US Masters National Championships. First use of foils at the national championship level.

    https://hydrofoiloar.blogspot.com/

    It does not make it impossible to bury the blade. Just reinforces good technique. And, the blade seems more efficient when the oar placement is at the proper level. We saw a five second split rate improvement in two back to back tests. No longer row the pair without the foils.

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  4. Hi,

    I’ve trained and raced with these foils in my single and also in a double with Ian Randall, said inventor. My take on the foils is that I like the feel of them, I can’t say whether I’ve gone faster or slower as conditions vary so dramatically and affect time. What is interesting is when you alternate between using them and taking them off, when off you have a new sense of feel for the depth of the spoon. I didn’t bother adjusting the pitch or height in the single but we did need to change the pitch by one degree in the double.

    Do you really want to know exactly how many strokes to the finish line? a cox almost always gets it wrong, on purpose or not, by calling those last 10’s or winds too early… only to see your best time achieved, or would the AI pick up on this as well through trial and error.

    If we go down the Black Mirror route, we’d race it in virtual and have decided upon the winner before we reach the start line 🙂

    Magnus

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    1. Hi Magnus.

      That’s a great observation on the foils. Thanks for sharing.

      I hope we never get to the point where everything’s a foregone conclusion. No fun in that. But it’s interesting to imagine where things might go with AI.

      Cheers, Mary

      Like

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