A variable paddle and The Compromise

The experience of changing paddles on WS C has got me thinking about blade sizes and design. What is really needed is a blade which can adapt during a race.

At the start, the boat is stationary so a big sized blade is required to enable some big, powerful strokes to get it moving. Once the inertia is removed, a smaller blade is needed to enable a fast cadence to accelerate the boat up to speed.

Then a middle sized blade for cruising, maybe even changing for upstream and downstream paddling.

As the portage approaches, the blade size should increase to allow a really good brake to stop the boat and bring it into the side. This size should remain at the get-in so once again, the boat can get going with a few hard strokes.

This is a similar principle to an aeroplane wing. More lift is required at take-off so the wing size and shape changes. Once the plane is airborne and cruising, all that wing surface area is redundant so it is reduced.

Variable wings

Variable wings


On landing, the plane is slowed by the wing which increases in size, and the shape changes too.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone invented an adaptive paddle which could measure ones power input and automatically resize/shape to ensure the most efficient paddle configuration?

Meanwhile, back to reality, I think there is some merit in changing paddles in a long race as the paddler gets tired.

I shall try this again on WS D, probably swapping at Wooten Rivers. This means the initial first 14 mile stretch with the big paddle and then a smaller blade to compensate for fatigue, depending on how I feel.

I’m also working on a slightly smaller paddle, as I think “Big Daddy” is a bit too big. It’s great at the start, but after a couple of hours it gets harder to pull against.

So, I’ve made a new paddle which I’m calling “The Compromise”. It has a reduced surface area and I’ve done away with the full length dihedral on the power face, as it was pointed out to me that there is no sense in directing the water towards the edge of the blade if it is prevented from spilling over the edge because of the grippy edge.

Big Daddy and The Compromise

Big Daddy and The Compromise


I’d also hoped that the dihedral would reduce the risk of flutter, but as you can see in the video, the paddle does not follow a straight path. Trouble is, I’ve got used to it and don’t notice any more.
Paddle evolution

Paddle evolution


The Compromise shaft is slightly longer than Big Daddy.
I tried to make this paddle in one go and “sandwich” the shaft between two layers at the same time. I should have made a “jig” to hold the shaft at the correct angle whilst the resin went off. I managed in the end with a whole series of clamps, and forced the carbon fabric onto the mould with lots of tape. It was not great!
The Compromise mold

The Compromise mold


The shiny black finish on the paddle is caused by the polymer filler I had to use to patch up the indentations.
The Compromise blade

The Compromise blade


It ain’t pretty, but I tested it today on the K&A at Pewsey Wharf, swapping from Big Daddy to The Compromise and posted a video on YouTube.

The paddle does represent another step forward. I rather like the slightly longer shaft. The smaller blade enables a faster cadence and less fatigue. It doesn’t seem to flutter as much and I may be able to get one more stroke before I have to switch.

I’ll find out more on Waterside D.

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