greenspun.com : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread

What has become of what I thought was one of the origional premises of the Oarmaster which was a handicapping system for rowing events? At this time we know who and what boat will win any given race. As ocurred at a previous Blackburn Challenge the last dory was chastised for being too slow. Should all of the boats been given 500 pounds of cod to row around Cape Ann or should the guide boats have two 225 pound "sports" sitting there as well? thanks, capt.

-- Barry Donahue (bdonahue@cnc.com), November 12, 2000


Dear Barry,

I can understand the frustration that owners of coastal workboat replicas are experiencing. Since a new (and not so new in the case of the St. Lawrence Skiffs and Adirondack Guide-Boats) breed of long, lean, lightweight fixed seat rowing craft was introduced to open- water racing in the early 1990's, the old reliable coastal workboats can't seem to buy a victory. The lighter boats have effectively bridged the performance gap between workboats and recreational sliding seat shells in that environment. That, of course, doesn't mean that the stodgier, heavier oar on gunwale classics are obsolete as cruisers. The lighter, sleeker craft are not the reason why there's no place for the historical coastal types to compete. I've long thought that the older, heavier beauties deserve a class where they would be sheltered from being savaged by the sleeker recreational open-water boats and transplanted inland workboat types. What is needed is a well-crafted rule that clearly defines the various types. Some rules have been proposed, but mostly they are awkward and fall short of being effective. In the past I have proposed a comprehensive rule but nobody has shown much interest in adopting it. My guess is that things won't change until there are significant prizes (cash) to be won in these events. As one who's pored over your many evocative photos depicting our sport I have no difficulty appreciating why you remain loyal to your Whitehall.


Andre de Bardelaben

-- Andre de Bardelaben (middlepath@aol.com), November 16, 2000.

Many thanks for your kind words. I would love to see from other rowers who have an opinion have to think about a separate class. Would it be "traditional design and traditionaly built" or designs from a specific time, or weight/length? All of this was brought home today after returning home from a Cape Cod Viking Rowing Club weekly coffee shop stop and row. There were a total of five boats a fresh Lunenberg 16 very tradtionaly built. The running joke is if you get too close to shore the green wood may take root. This boat had a non pulling passenger, my fifteen foot traditionaly built Whitehall which pulls down 350 pounds at this time of year, a 20 foot plywood built, though tradtionaly designed Coast Guard Lifeboat, a fiften foot locally built Old Wharf Dory, and a locally designed and built go fast seventeen foot Monument River Wherry rowed by legand Jon Aaborn. This is a proven winner on the race circuit. A stiff fifteen to twenty m.p.h. westerly blew all day. We all ended up a roughly together at various meeting points. I have to admit I cheated by sailing the Whitehall down to and around Little Pleasant Bay. Once a boat like a dory is mastered and I do mean mastered I feel it can out perform many go fast boats especialy in a sea and breeze. Again where else can one go out on a blustery day in November and messabout and see nothing but pulling boats? Cape C

-- Barry Donahue (bdonahue@cnc.com), November 19, 2000.

Dear Barry,

Merely calling a class "Traditional" can be problematical. What if someone shows up with a classical design built of plywood, fiberglass, carbon fiber or aircraft Dacron? What if they showed up with a boat clearly modeled on a historical type, but is so slenderized that it can't be rowed effectively without outriggers or is so light that it risks being blown away by a modest breeze if left untethered on the beach? The best rules are simple and thorough. The most important things to regulate are weight, length, either waterline or overall, and types and sizes of fittings such decking and outriggers. These are all things that can be measured with simple equipment on the beach. There should also be clearly worded clauses that exclude unsual shapes, such as reverse sectional curves in the middle half of the boat that could be employed to introduce an outrigger effect (narrow waterline beam and wide oarlock spread) without the need of true outriggers. Such a rule would leave little room for dispute. This formula could be tailored to produce any desired result and assure a fairly level field. Anyone wishing to for a more detailed description of such a rule should feel free to contact me.


Andre de Bardelaben

-- Andre de Bardelaben (middlepath@aol.com), November 19, 2000.

Andre, thanks for the feedback. Do you feel there is enough interest in such a class or should us old fashioned heavy weights just be content to race against other on the scoreboard? Next time you are on the Cape have a pull with us. As long as the water stays soft the Viking Club will be on top of

-- Barry Donahue (bdonahue@cnc.com), November 20, 2000.

Dear Barry,

You probably know that the Blackburn Challenge was begun so that people would have an event to race classic rowing craft like yours. These boats used to show up in satisfying numbers until the lighter, sleeker boats rendered them uncompetitive. If there were clear rules delineating the classes, coastal workboats from high performance open water boats, the workboats would show up again. On the sliding seat side there are recreational and racing classes. Rightly, considering the event's namesake, there's always been a dory class. It's only right that the rest of the rowing craft be grouped sensibly. Events like the Blackburn Challenge are increasingly dominated by kayaks. With coherent rules, perhaps that trend might be reversed somewhat. Of course, I would love to go rowing with the Vikings. I wish every region of the country had groups like that.



-- Andre de Bardelaben (middlepath@aol.com), November 21, 2000.

I have competed in the Blackburn eight times and won my class just once, (sliding seat touring) in '99. Early on it became apparent that there wasn't a level field within the sliding seat racing category either. Up until 1995 Alden Ocean Shell doubles, rowed as a single, were lumped-in with Maas 24's. My own best time in the former was 3:40 something, and in the latter 2:38. Now they have split the class but it is still not equitable. The Maas 24 and Peinert Dolphin are equals, but they are currently running with Alden Stars and Maas Aeros, both slower boats. In the sliding seat "touring" half, the Alden 16 leads the pack, which includes much slower craft. Then there is the question of age (of the engine, not the boat), and the expertise of the other competitors. In fairness to the Cape Ann Rowing Club though, the turnout is huge, and the divisions are highly subjective. How fine a point do you want to put on it, considering the logistics? As with any marathon, most people are happy just to finish, maybe bettering their previous performance.

For what it's worth, my advice to anyone who wants to "win" the Blackburn, is to stay within your league in terms of ability, enter the fastest boat in the category, train yourself to row/paddle 20+ miles non-stop, and pick your weather. Drinking from a bladder system will give you at least a 3 minute edge, if a quart of water will sustain you.

-- Ernie DeRushie (ederushie@zipsigns.com), December 21, 2000.

Let's open this one up again.... the first big difference is metal or glue. If fastenings are metal then you are in the traditional class if not in the modern. Then you can go to the design, like Ed does, livery vs. work.

With the Snow Row only a few months away, is there interest in talking to Ed, or to the rest of the race organizers? It might get more boats to show up.

-- Ben Fuller (bagfuller@compuserve.com), January 05, 2002.

I always figured the biggest difference between classes in most races was weight. I don't know if it's possible to have some kind of scales and weigh in procedure to classify boats. Is it too much for race organizers? Could a registration procedure carry over from one race to another, sort of like a Portsmouth handicap number? Weigh your boat once and carry that registration throughout the year? Any one else have thoughts?

-- Adam Pettengill (adampet@gis.net), January 10, 2002.

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