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Holes in oars make the boat go even faster

Ben Rodford, an England champion sculler recently tested the Oscar Blades with the holes in oars at Gloucester RC. … read more

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Ben Rodford, an England champion sculler recently tested the Oscar Blades with the holes in oars at Gloucester RC.

Ben Rodford, rowing UK, rowing photographer Ben Rodford sculling. Photo Credit: Ben Rodford Photography

His results were impressive, demonstrating a time advantage of 3.24 seconds for the Oscar Blades TM  against similar blades without slits. This is a 2.8% improvement over the non-slitted blades and equates to a 1.18 boat lengths advantage over 500m.

Oar Trial Method

Ben’s 4 trials were carried out according to the Concept2 protocol of 6 x 500m timed pieces rowed at full pressure.

Ben’s consistent performance is evident from how straight his graphs are: normally they would have a slight kink along their length and the gradients would be different, because each piece varies.

Ben Rodford Oar Trial speed graphs Ben Rodford Oar Trial speed graphs

Ben comments

that not only did the Oscar Blades  give him a time advantage but also that they felt lighter in the water. This allowed him to keep the drive going more consistently: it felt easier to connect through the body and the arms and, because they felt lighter, he could take the rate up.

He also remarked that

normally he would feel a dead patch in the middle of the stroke but the Oscar Blades  allowed him to work through this and so he had a quicker drive-through and experienced less of a “double push” action.

Watch Oscar Sculls interview with Ben Rodford after the oar trials

Faster by Design

The Oscar Blade  is a radically new blade design for sculling and sweep oars which mimics how elite swimmers now swim faster with their fingers spaced apart.

It is now undergoing on-water time trials and more than matching the 1% to 2% increase in boat speed predicted by computer modelling.

Oars and paddles operate by creating a pressure difference between front and back surfaces of the blade, so generating drag. However, high-pressure backflows from the front of the blade into the low-pressure area at the back of the blade reduce this pressure difference and limit the thrust generated by the blade. This reduces the potential velocity which the boat can achieve.

Oscar Blades  consist of multiple, narrow (0.5mm) slits through the blade which create solid “fingers” between them. These slits, or PowerSlits TM as they are known, generate focused water jets to counter backflows behind the blade and so increase thrust. The “fingers” produce the drag which propels the boat.

Oscar Blades  currently have the same shape and profile as the Big Blade. PowerSlits technology can be applied to any blade shape.

The 14 trials so far undertaken have shown consistent, winning, time advantages, of 1 to 3.4 seconds, over 500m at full pressure.

The rowers report that pulling the blades is noticeably lighter and more enjoyable. This allows them to comfortably increase the stroke rate. However, trials at fixed stroke rate have also shown a speed advantage. So we are convinced that the speed advantage comes from a combination of higher stroke rate and increased thrust. The added benefit of the lighter feel helps the rower to work harder.

Oscar Blades  offer an advantage to competent rowers with a range of abilities, so their benefits are not just limited to elite rowers.

We now aim to test the Blades at higher rates – 34 to 40. The trend so far indicates that whilst a higher rate will definitely generate more speed, the time advantage of the Oscar Blades  over the non slitted blades should increase. Plus, because the Oscar Blades  are lighter to pull, rowers will find it easier to maintain higher rates comfortably.

Faster by Thought

David Taylor invented the Oscar Blades  while rowing competitively for 3 years in his college team and studying engineering. Whilst pulling hard on his oar he observed the “bow wave” at the front of the blade and the “dip” in the water at the back. Clearly there was a pressure difference and the thought occurred that joining the two sides with holes could make pulling the blade lighter without loss of thrust, providing the holes were small enough.

If it worked, it would make rowing a little more enjoyable whilst enhancing the sport.Putting holes in a perfectly good blade seemed counter-intuitive at the time, but a recent project carried out for Oscar Propulsion by Southampton University has since proved that the Oscar Blades  with their PowerSlits really do work.

We have patented the technology and now want to make it available to every rower.Provided manufacturers adopt the technology, sculling and sweep oars could be available to rowers around the world in 2019.

Like to be part of the Oscar Revolution? More Test Pilots required.

We need to carry out more testing with different rowers to cement our positive findings to date, so we are looking for more volunteers to help test the Oscar Blades. We would welcome more sculler volunteers to test them, initially in UK and then internationally.

Oscar Test Pilots who have Already helped Ignite the revolution:

Our thanks to:

  • Ex-Imperial RC: John Hale
  • Peterborough RC:Camilla Plumb, Mike King, George Bushell,
  • Damen Sanderson, Connor Mumford, 
  • Gloucester RC: Ben Rodford
  • Leander RC: Andy Joel
  • Thanks also to Leon Redman of Henley RC and James Plumb of Peterborough RC

If you would like to be an Oscar Test Pilot, or to find out more about Oscar Blades, please contact us at or call David Taylor on 07784042680


More Resources about Oscar Propulsion

About Rebecca Caroe
Rebecca is the host of RowingChat podcast and is a masters athlete and coach. Passionate about helping others enjoy the sport as much as she does. View all posts from Rebecca Caroe

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