Technical improvements for May Bumps 2016

Of course, the training doesn’t just start now. The athletes of SCBC have been working since Michaelmas with this goal in mind: success in May Bumps. It’s been a long time coming, with many outings and many, many hours on the ergs logged, and now with only a few months remaining we need to pick up the pace.

But it’s not just about fitness, it’s also about finesse, and some of SCBC’s engineering undergrads have put their heads together to make sure Selwyn’s boats are the best on the water before the rowers even get into them. They’ve spent hours making sure our boats are are streamlined as possible, that they ride high enough but not too high in the water, etc. As an experiment, which we will repeat with Selwyn’s other boats if successful, we have coated John Farr with a hydrophobic chemical which repels water, which should shave valuable seconds off the crew’s time by reducing drag between the boat’s surface and the water, the air layer causing slip through a two-phase flow.


By far the most drastic change, however, has been the decision to remove the cox from our upper boats (something which currently is not a financially viable plan for the whole squad) so as to reduce the weight of the boat. It was, in fact, one of our recent ex-novices who came up with this- at first quite shocking- idea, and they got together with two other engineers and a non-SCBC friend in Computer Science. Together, they have produced an ingenious system whereby the rudder has been connected to a radio-controlled operating frame, using which the cox can steer the boat without even leaving the boathouse. This has actually enabled our coxes to use even greater precision in manoeuvring the boat than before, allowing them to adjust the rudder by fractions of degrees. With one GoPro at the bow and one at the stern, our cox is afforded an excellent view (though with a blind spot behind the boat, to which the only solution so far has been to leave stern pair in charge of spotting possible hazards behind the boat) with the feed from both cameras displayed side by side on their laptop back at the boathouse. Finally, the simplest part of this set-up is a fairly normal radio-link between a headset and the boat’s speaker system, allowing the cox to maintain their important motivational role.

We currently have the two upper boats kitted out in this way, and W1 and M1 will be trialling the system in the first fortnight of term- we have high hopes for success! Of course the significant weight loss from the boat certainly won’t be enough to get us all blades by itself, but together with all our other technical improvements and some intense training and commitment, it might just do the trick…

Happy April Fools

One Reply to “Technical improvements for May Bumps 2016”

  1. Believe it – or not – W1 (2004?) actually inadvertently tried coxless VIIIs when coming back from an outing, our cox Rosalie got out and the stream on a flooded Cam was so strong that the boat carried on past the boathouse without her. It wasn’t a great success. If only we’d considered remote control at the time.

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