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Performance Skiffs

March 23, 2021 in Uncategorized


Do you like to go fast? Speed is a relative experience and the closer you are to something while moving, the faster you will seem to be moving. Which relates perfectly to boating and the experience of speed. In my last few blogs I have been reviewing the features of rowing skiffs. In normal circumstances, the rowing skiff moves at a leisurely speed, ideal for making your way slowly around the lake.

On regatta day, the rowing skiff becomes a different beast all together. Speed becomes a paramount issue and all kinds of strategies come into play when trying to be the first person between the flags. First up is boat length. While 16’ or 18’ boats are heavier, they will go faster, especially with two rowers, than a shorter boat. You start to climb a short boat’s wake at a fairly modest speed. Next up are the oars. The curve of the spoon, the balance point and length help maximize your leverage against the water. Oar locks are also important since you want them to be smooth acting and secure. Port Carling built boats have the oar pin slotted into a block mounted against the inner hull. This uses the strength of the hull and the angle of the planking to give ideal purchase.

Oars are usually made of cedar, and Muskoka-style oars allow vertical movement of the oar lock on its sleeve. There is usually just a single stop made of leather, nailed into the shaft at a good balance point. If a shaft is round, it takes some practice to set your hands for the catch and swivel. Avid rowers are prepared for the blisters and callouses that develop, even with gloves and a good grip. Always dip the oar lock into the water, before placing the pin into the slot, to give it a bit of lubrication.

Giving it all you’ve got in a skiff also involves setting up the foot stops and sitting up straight. Before the days of sliding seat rails in rowing shells, racers would grease their bottoms to slide back and forth on the seat.

By Tim Du Vernet

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