Adaptation Engineer Andy Crumpholt

8 Jun

Another person on the leading edge of equipment adaptation is Andy Crumpholt. I met Andy when Marlow visited Boston for the 2018 Head of the Charles Regatta. CRI was helping all the adaptive entries with practice sessions and logistical support where Andy was working at boatman. He took me around his workshop and showed me a number of the equipment adaptations he had developed (see photo above). I had a chance to catch up with him and learn more about his adaptation work.

  • What is your background in rowing?
    I had no background in rowing at all until moving the States, I do however have a lot of experience in composite design and manufacturing, I ended up working for a high end rowing shell designer and manufacture as a Production manager building singles and doubles. I found that I enjoyed working on rowing shells and working closely with the rowers, I found the aviation and aerospace experience I had gained over the past thirty plus years was very useful in the rowing world, the ever constant drive for stronger, stiffer and always lighter!
  • What was your role at CRI?
    My role at CRI was to repair and maintain the extensive rowing shell fleet of around 120 boats as well as the private owners boats. During this work and working with some wonderful athletes I developed a few “go faster” ideas for racing in general and one or two for specifically racing on the Charles.
  • How did you get into engineering adaptive equipment?
    I also became involved in designing and building custom equipment for adaptive athletes, this became a very big interest for me as I found that even a very simple piece of equipment could have a dramatic benefit for an athlete, I managed to work on many designs for seats, gloves and seat back systems as well as equipment to aid the athlete getting from their wheelchair to the dock level easily.
  • What tip do you have for adaptive coaches for adapting equipment?
    This will sound so strange but it’s been very hard to get feedback!!! talk to me, even though I manage to build a device for someone it’s only the first of its kind, very rarely right on the first attempt, it needs to be developed with the help of the athlete and the coach. Most coaches are just so happy they managed to get “something” so they don’t say anything for fear of conflict with the designer/builder, then they might end up with nothing. It sounds crazy but this is the case for most situations, most coaches have no idea what is possible because that is not their area of expertise, it is for the designer/builder and by working together many athletes will benefit, it’s all a team effort, on and off the water, even in the workshop!
  • What is the most complex adaptation you have done?
    This is a very interesting question, the most important one is a new type of seat, a truly adaptive one, I have built a couple but it still requires a lot of work although early testing has proved very promising. The other challenge is grip aids or gloves, making a device that allows the athlete to be accurately and firmly attached to the oar handle without having to use all his strength to grip and allowing him to use the wrist to square and feather. Working out how his hand will exit the handle safely when he flips the boat is crucial as well! I have done a lot of work on this issue, we have had good results only for the athlete to get stronger and faster and then shred the gloves time and time again. But this is excellent progress, this is what drives the design and development. Very few understand what is really involved and just expect that the first one is the best, it just does not happen that way. I had to change material four times, adhesive six times, improve my sewing skills beyond all recognition to get anywhere near the glove surviving a month of practice.
  • What’s the latest adaption that you have been working on?
    At the moment Iam looking into the seat and backrest design issue, something that can be assembled in a variety of configurations depending on the requirements of the athlete, it’s not as straightforward as it might sound but it will be worth it in the end, the goal it to be able to fit any of this custom equipment into a regular racing shell as I believe this is where the sport has to go to survive on the world stage, asking an adaptive athlete to row an overweight slow boat just not acceptable, adaptive athletes deserve to row the very best boats, because they can!

Andy has said that he is happy to field enquiries from people looking for help with their adaptive equipment challenges and he can be reached on pocdesignworks@gmail.com.

Andy Crumpholt - erg seat

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