Catching a Better Oar Design

Rowing is a highly competitive international sport that is experiencing rapid growth in all parts of the world. As with most other sports, it has seen a number of changes in equipment during the past three decades, as composite materials have replaced wood and stainless steel for hulls, oars and riggers. While changes to the shape of hulls may elude the casual observer, changes to the shape of oars have not. The symmetric, tulip-shaped oar blades of the past have been replaced with a hatchet design that offers a straight edge as the oar enters the water. The increased surface area allows for a more effective transfer of power from the rower to the water.
A manufacturer of high performance rowing oars wished to develop a design tool to aid the development and evaluation of sophisticated geometries being considered for future oar designs. The primary objective was to overcome the cost and time constraints normally associated with the typical build-and-test development approach. The client approached engineers at Intelligent Fluid Solutions, a unique consulting service that specializes in fluids-based engineering design. The design effort used a mixture of spreadsheet modeling and CFD analysis.