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.
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.
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.