Oar Inspired and Rowing Telemetry – What can it do for me?

Recently there was a post on Rowing Related which talked about how technology can help in moving rowing forward which mentioned Oar Inspired as one of the interesting pieces of rowing technology coming, which is something I have talked about before and whole heartedly agree with.  But I thought I’d write a post with a little more detail to explain why rowing electronics can be so useful for you to improve your rowing, and in particular why Oar Inspired has the potential to be so useful for rowers.

When we are talking about electronics in rowing, the word “telemetry” is often mentioned. Telemetry is described as the “highly automated communications process by which measurements are made and other data collected at remote or inaccessible points and transmitted to receiving equipment for monitoring”. so telemetry is essentially a way to measure things that aren’t immediately apparent to the rower and then show them in a way for the rower to lo at.

NK speedcoach

NK Speedcoach

Oar Inspired aren’t the first company to bring rowing telemetry to the market (and im sure will not be the last), the most established and well-known being Nielsen Kellerman with their range of strokecoach/speedcoach’s and cox box systems, plus there are also a number of other companies that offer a comprehensive telemetry system to take a full range of measurements of the rowing stroke, however currently these systems have all been in either of these two groups

  • Low cost (Sub £1000) telemetry systems that take only one or two measurements at a time (e.g. NK – stroke rate/speed)
  • Higher cost (Above £2000) telemetry systems that measure a comprehensive range of measurements like length, force, speed etc

Previously there hasn’t been an option to get a system that sits in the middle, a product which is low cost but allows you to take a larger number of measurements, but this is exactly the position that Oar Inspired are aiming to place  their product with their “basic” package for a single of a screen, gate and impeller/GPS coming in with a RRP of around £700 + VAT + Postage, slightly more expensive than the current range of low cost devices but with a larger range of possible measurements that is normally only available with products more than twice the price.

 But what is it that a full telemetry system can do for you? To try and help explain I will go through some of the features that Oar inspired have announced and explain why they are useful for learning to go faster, but firstly, what is it that makes a fast crew fast? Mike Spracklen has famously simplified this question with his response

the fastest crews have 3 things: Long Stroke Length, High Rating, Top Power.

As mentioned, previously rowing telemetry in the budget range has focused on measuring only one of these variables, but Oar inspired’s offering is looking to allow you to measure all 3:

 Long Stroke Length

The Intelligate lets you see where your maximimum reach is where the maximum point

Long catch

you are reaching at either end of the stroke is to understand if you are getting a long enough stroke length, but maximum angles is only one measurement as it important to understand what the blade is doing when you reach your maximum length. There’s not much point is getting to the catch if your blade is “skying” in the air as you will then miss the time in the water, hence why the effective length (time in the water) is an important measurement that Oarinspired will be giving you

 Top Power

Cavitation – Cavitation in rowing is the addition of air bubbles to the water when taking the stroke, you may have heard of coaches talking about “ripping” or “tearing” the water or blade slip which is cavitation in action, it’s essentially wasting your applied force in the same way that a car will waste its own force when wheelspinning. One feature of the hull sensor is an ability to quantify the cavitation by measuring the boat speed, comparing the catch, and providing you with details on how well you are connecting to the water to move the boat


Some Cavitation?

 Force measurement – The intelligate presents you with details of each rowers force curve, and can compare it with each of the other rowers curves as well in real time on the RowCom screen so you can work as a crew to align the force curves

Force curve from a rowperfect

Force curve from a rowperfect

 High Rating

Simply enough, the RowCom shows you stroke rate! 🙂

To summarise then, all of the main measurements that you would need to view and look to improve to increase your boat speed are all covered by the “basic” single level kit that Oar Inspired offer. But that’s not the end of the features that you can have, as they also offer additional features to help, such as

  • Footplate force measurement – Measure how your legs are applying force and compare to the gate (are you pressing with the legs before the blades are connected?) to get really accurate details on what forces are interacting with the boat to potentially slow it down.
  • RowCom7 – Wireless Broadcast of data to coach over a range of 1km (or more) and built in speakers/plug in headsets so the coach can communicate directly with the crew and see live data from the boat
  • ANT+ Support – ANT is an open wireless communication that’s commonly used in sports equipment, and in this case means support for ANT+ Heart Rate monitors so you can record your Heart rate when rowing.
  • Cloud analysis for post outing analysis will make it easier for everyone in the crew to access and view the outing data and work out what they can do to improve

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, there really are too many features to list in one post, and the clever part is that due to the modular system they offer, and the fact that the RowCom screen can be tailored to show as much or as little information as you want, then it is completely up to you how much you want to monitor your own rowing so you can start with just the RowCom4 screen telling you your rate if you wish, then add the hull sensor when you would like to see how fast you are going, then add the gates and the rest as you get faster and look for more and more ways to get faster…

Hopefully this post has helped show why products showing you additional telemetry over just stroke rate can help you improve your rowing, if you think this is something you would find useful then id encourage you to quickly check out the Kickstarter which offers you 20% off the RRP when it launches in 2015 and at the time of writing it has blown through its minimum funding amount. But if you are interested then you had better hurry as the offer is ending on the 4th October at 11pm BST!


About stelph82

I am a rower who is a lot of a technology geek as well!
This entry was posted in Biomechanics, Gadgets, Rowing software, Rowing Telemetry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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