Sport: Shark Bytes

  • Susan Farewell

The St. Johns river in DeLand, Fla., is not a good place to tip a rowing shell; it is home to countless alligators. It also was the host site, during a week in January, for the All-American Rowing Camp, an event that serves as one way for Northern scullers such as myself to get in some midwinter practice and work out bad habits with coaches from around the country.

At the camp, I was among a group of masters rowers (ages 27 and older) who had a chance to test the Great White, a single-person craft that is part of the Shark Series of single and crew shells Hudson Boat Works of Ontario, Canada, introduced last year.

Hudson, a relatively young brand (it was founded in 1981), is among the shell-building companies that have begun employing computational fluid dynamics when designing their boats. The technology, a branch of fluid mechanics, uses computers to analyze scenarios involving the movement of fluid. It enables Hudson and other shell builders to perform simulations that test the effects of various boat design features. Ultimately, a shell designer can use the simulations to create new hull shapes that not only make the boats move more quickly through the water, but also are more comfortable for the rowers. Hudson’s Great White, which is priced at about $8,000, is the product of this new technology.

At the camp in Florida, I approached the Great White with some trepidation, because Hudson’s previous generation of single shells was known for its especially rounded hull, which made the boats fast but also difficult to row—and very tippy. However, my fears were allayed moments after I pushed off from the dock. Hudson has moved the hull volume toward the bow, making this boat much more stable than its predecessors. The new design also includes a wider and therefore more comfortable cockpit. And your feet are positioned farther apart than they are in most other shells, providing you with a wider base of support for the drive part of the stroke.

A fellow camper, 42-year-old Timothy Jones, a former MIT rower and now a masters member of the MIT Rowing Club as well as the CEO of an Internet company, compared the Great White’s responsiveness to that of a finely tuned sports car. "The sense of connection with the boat is very noticeable," he observed.

Yes, it is very noticeable. Once I really got going, the boat displayed unrelentingly high standards; it became unforgiving whenever I was sloppy or lazy. However, when I employed proper technique, the boat soared through the water with finesse and elegance—kind of like, well, a shark. The Great White likes to go fast. That was the message I received loud and clear.

"It does go fast," noted another fellow camper, Scott Knox, a 51-year-old veterinarian from Ashland, Ore. He could not have been more pleased with the Great White that he had rowed last year in the Canadian Masters Championships, shortly after Hudson introduced the new series. "Basically," he said, "I got in the boat for the first time, rowed out to the start, did a warm-up, and wound up winning the masters lightweight D-class event."

Hudson Boat Works, 519.473.9864, www.hudsonboatworks.com

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