Ever since the first eight guys got together and rowed in time, people have been trying to figure out ways to gain technological advances over opponents.
Sleeker hulls. The correct angles to set the oarlocks. Where to place the to get the maximum amount of power from the rower
Now another dimension has been added to the college crew scene: Concept II. The wonderful people who created the ergometer, found in boathouses across America, have introduced a new oar design that supposedly increases both speed and stability.
The oars are getting mixed reaction from the Harvard and Radcliffe crew coaches, however.
"They seem to be more effective," Men's Heavyweight Coach Harry Parker said. "But nothing's been proven, conclusively."
On a traditional oar, the blade is symmeterical around the shaft. Concept II has shifted the blade so that three quarters of the surface area is now below the shaft. The blade is angled up, so that the top and bottom edges are parallel to the water surface, and the shape has been changed from a rectangle to more of a square.
"It's fairly radical," Parker said.
Parker's qualified endorsement is matched by Radcliffe Heavyweight Coach Liz O'Leary.
"There's more surface area in the water, which adds to speed and stability," O'Leary said, "and it feels more solid through the finish of the stroke."
But O'Leary noted several negative effects of the new technology.
"I would be interested to see the oars in less than perfect weather," O'Lery said, "especially in a headwind. With that large surface area, squaring the oars could slow a boat down a lot."
Both Harvard and Radcliffe crew have obtained sets of the new oars. Parker's crews rowed with the oars last weekend against Brown, while O'Leary has yet to race with them.
In fact, O'Leary would just as soon not get the oars. "I'm somewhat reluctant," O'Leary said. "I'm a purist: I don't like to see technology take away from the athletes themselves."