Row Porty have been considering oarlock set ups, and would like to spark a debate within the Association with regard to the current measurement rules for the St Ayles skiffs. They have kindly put thoughts into writing below. We would welcome comments on this, but please ensure that you give your full name and location with your comment. This is not a matter in which we can reach a conclusion by the time of the AGM, if there is to be any change. However we should consider putting together a sub-committee to make recommendations, once there has been a wee bit of debate. It would be helpful to have a balance of views on such a committee, as well as representatives from builders and users of St Ayles skiffs in USA, Australia, England, Netherlands….. worldwide.
RowPorty write as follows:
“After reflecting on a seasons rowing & racing with many different clubs and boat set-ups, we believe that having fixed oar system (such as Port Seton, Achiltibuie etc.) makes the St Ayles Skiffs easier to row and is more efficient at transferring power from rower to blade than the ‘pin & kabe’ system we have. Therefore it is our intention to try this system out over winter and use it next year in competitions. However it is with some reluctance that we do this, first and foremost because we enjoy a style of rowing that has more scope for technique development.
We also think there is a considerable safety issue with having a fixed oar: with a fixed oar it is not possible to ship the oar in an instant. This may not be a so much of a problem for teams with short fixed oars, but for others we think there are situations where this presents a danger (in tight harbours or during races where boats are close to one another). With our system of a pin and a kabe (like N. Berwick) we can slide the oar in by any amount, and furthermore keep rowing with it until we have cleared the danger or ship it altogether with great ease and speed.
“It is not uncommon in many sports for restrictions to be placed on equipment used in order to increase the skill required of the sportsman and improve safety. The overall effect of which is that the craft/vehicle doesn’t go as fast as it possibly could if no restrictions were in place (F1 racing for example).
“Having rowed in three different boats with a fixed oar system, we believe that fixed-oar systems are easier to row such that you can put a novice in such a boat and they will be able to row, if not with perfect timing, with relative ease.
“RowPorty have a pin & kabe system. As a club we have developed a couple of sets of oars with round shafts which enable rowers to feather if they wish. Using a round-shafted oar with our set up, there is the added challenge for the rower, in addition to timing, of not only ensuring the oar stays in the correct place on the gunnel, but also ensuring that the blade enters the water at the correct angle. For many rowers moving from square oars to round oars was not easy, but those that persevered and mastered it have enjoyed the satisfaction of learning a new skill.
“Within our club, we are asking ourselves how technically challenging we want rowing to be? Do we want to develop the most efficient and easy means of rowing, or do we want to develop rowing as a sport which involves developing and refining skills and technique?
“As a club, we can see advantages but also a disadvantage in making rowing easier. The advantages being that it will be easier for less experienced rowers and juniors to jump in the boat and have a good row and will be good for social rowing.
“However the disadvantage is that with limited technique and skill involved, more competitively minded people who may like to feel the satisfaction of improvement and progression over time may find it a bit limiting and loose interest in the long term, yet will obviously want to keep up with development to ensure they are racing on a ‘level playing field’.
“We have discussed this as a club and we are interested to see how other clubs feel, and also discuss whether it is something that the SCRA needs to consider. So far when it comes to racing, the boat set up has developed very quickly: we all see one club doing well so we try what they’re doing, plus we try to improve it a bit and then it develops further. With so many talented and interested people involved, the evolution of the skiff boats has progressed very quickly and will continue to do so. But we see this route having the potential disadvantage of making rowing easier and easier and less technical which could in the long term lead to people becoming less interested.
” So the question we are asking is:
- Do we need any limitations to develop Scottish Coastal Rowing as a sport to obtain a balance between skill & technique and strength & fitness?
“We are aware that in 2010 there was debate about oar fixings which resulted in the rules about no metal oar fixings being enforced. We feel the issue here is quite different and it is a crucial time in the birth and early development of this new and exciting sport to discuss this, whether or not any action is needed.
“We would like to stress that we ourselves are not sure what it the best route to take and so would like to open this up as a discussion.”