An intelligent discussion about different spoon shapes – Macon, Hatchet, ApexR on RSR
Charles Carroll says
This was reported in the "Rowing News," the October 2004 issue, p. 50.
"… the conventional wisdom [is] that hatchets help novices greatly but have less impact at the top end of the sport. Elite coach Volker Nolte graphed the best Olympic and world championship times during the transition from Macons to the Big Blade. 'You do no see specific improvements between 1991 and 1992,' he says. 'I also could not see [a difference] when I coached the Canadian lightweight men's eight. I actually rowed Macon oars on one side and Big Blades on the other, removed the rudder and asked the rowers to row with closed eyes. The boat went perfectly straight.'"
Now as for blade area, very few people pay any attention to blade area but will constantly play with their gearing. But isn't this understandable? Once you purchased a boat and sculls, isn't it easier to change spread, outboard and inboard then it is to swap out blades? As for blade area and shape, that was the whole point of bringing up the Dreher LS1999 blade. The length of this blade is shorter than a Macon, the width is wider, and the blade has less curve to it.
I was in a hurry, as I always am, and picked out a set of sculls from the Club Rack thinking I was selecting a set of Macons. Surprise! The first problem I had was backing up. I just couldn't get the blade out of the water. I am a bit ashamed to admit this, but backing up was so difficult that I turned around and rowed out of the Marina. In the hour or so that I used these sculls I never did manage to back up worth a damn. The second problem I encountered was at the catch. I found that in order to get a decent catch with the LS1999s I had to be much more careful about building up pressure against the pins. If I built up this pressure too suddenly – that is, slammed back against the pins – the LS1999s lost hold of the water. That air entrainment behind the blades that you have so expertly written about, Carl! [refers to earlier post by Carl Douglas].
So with the LS1999s I had to be subtler and more delicate when I took the catch. It seems to me that another way of saying this is that to take a good catch with the LS1999s required more skill than is required by conventional Macons, hatchets or Apex-RX designs. But the upside to the LS1999s is that when the blades lost hold of the water at the catch, I didn't feel the same hard, punishing load that I feel when my Apex-Rex blades lose their hold on the water. The only problem with losing hold of the water with the LS1999s is that I just didn't go as fast as when I kept my hold on the water. In the hour or so that I sculled with the LS1999s I eventually learned how to catch water and hold on to it. And when I did, I found that I could build up pressure against the pins every bit as well as I can with a set of hatchets, or Macons, or Apex-Rx blades.
My conclusion, for what its worth, corroborates what Paul [Smith] wrote in an earlier posting. The LS1999s and Macons require more skill than hatchets or Apex-Rx blades. But once you have attained this skill, LS1999s and Macons are every bit as effective at catching water and holding on to it as the other, bigger blades.