Once in a while something special comes along that looks set to transform the sport of rowing. The Oscar Blades TM 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 modeling.
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 BladesTM consists of multiple, narrow (0.5mm) slits through the blade which creates solid “fingers” between them. These slits, or PowerSlitsTM as they are known, generate focussed water jets to counter backflows behind the blade and so increase thrust. The “fingers” produce the drag which propels the boat.
Oscar Blades TM with PowerSlitsTM
Oscar BladesTM currently have the same shape and profile as the Concept 2 Big Blade. PowerSlitsTM technology can be applied to any blade shape.
The Proof of the Pudding: On Water testing at Peterborough RC
Volunteer rowers, including the heavyweight sculling team from Peterborough RC, have been trialling Oscar BladesTM since April 2018 to prove their performance. Their trials have shown consistent, winning time advantages, over 500m at full pressure, of 1 to 2 seconds.The trials were carried out according to the Concept2 protocol of 6 x 500m timed pieces rowed at full pressure, supervised by an independent coach.
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 rates, as shown in the graph below, 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.
Results from one of the Peterborough RC trials, rate capped at 26 strokes/min
David Taylor invented the Oscar BladeTM 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 BladesTM with their PowerSlitsTM 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? 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 BladesTM. We would welcome more sculler volunteers to test them, initially in the UK and then internationally.