What's the scoop with blades? 

 

As elite rowers, our NZ team are lucky enough to get to test and use a lot of top level equipment. In a sport where an entire final can be seperated by a few seconds, any advances in gear technology can make a pretty big difference. Over the years there have been many advances and experiments on different elements of the boat itself and the oars we use. More recently the biggest eyebrow raiser as far as technology is concerned is the introduction of the comp blade. This blade is a more condensed shape that is deeper and shorter than a "standard" smoothie blade and has "wavier", more rounded edges.


According to concept 2, the comp blade is designed for better stability in the water, an easier tap out at the finish and increased energy efficiency across the stroke.

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Jackie Kiddle and Shannon Cox racing in the Women's Lightweight Double at the 2023 World Championships which was held back in September in Belgrade. They are using the new Concept2 'comp' blades. 

With that being said, what's the difference?

We'll in terms of feel, I like to think of them like the clutch in different cars.

My first car was a white Subaru Impreza. That car had a very long clutch, where there was a long release of the clutch pedal before the bite kicked in. My sister's first car was a little green Mazda Demio. Her car had a very short clutch, where the bite kicked in just after you lifted your foot. The feel of the demio is like the feel of a standard blade. You feel the connection or "lock" of the blade almost immediately as you drive off the front.

The comps are more like my impreza. It takes a lot longer to feel the lock of the blade even if your catch is perfect.

The comp blade and my impreza are both more forgiving. You can easily pump the clutch back in if you can't find the right gear with a long clutch same as you can get the catch placement a little bit wrong and still lock with the boat with a comp. The demio on the other hand, if you miss the clutch you bunny hop or stall, the gap to get it right is shorter. Similar with a standard blade, the connection is missed if you don't get it right as you place.

Neither makes the car any more or less driveable, and the more you get used to one car the more natural the feeling becomes. The same goes for the different blades, the more you use them the more natural the connection feels.

So which blade do you choose?

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The Concept2 Smoothie 2 Plain Edge blade featured above the Concept2 Comp blade. 

Ultimately it comes down to personal preference. A lot of rowers with a front end stroke don't like the long clutch feel of the comp blade and will opt for the standard shape. The comps tend to allow for a higher stroke rating because of the lighter handle feel and easier tap out, so crews that tend to rate higher, or want to rate higher might opt for a comp. Same goes for athletes with back issues or injuries where the loading is a bit more gradual and softer on the body off the front. You do tend to see the comp blades appearing in the doubles and quad events more so than the single's or sweep boats. Like everything in elite level rowing it comes down to testing, experimenting and really just choosing what you believe is going to benefit you and your crew the best.

Have you tried the new comp blades?