When we experienced the PR1 capsize at Marlow RC last year, we did a complete review of the risk assessment for PR1 sculling. One of the contributing risk factors concerned the stability of the boat itself. The Wintech floats sit directly under the oar locks (while Swift and Filippi extend at an angle away from the boat to provide a wider outrigger effect). The taller, heavier athlete who capsized had a very high centre of gravity and the narrowly positioned pontoons didn’t do enough to maintain stability. Marlow pararowing coach Paul Thomas (and engineer by occupation) considered whether there was any way to sit the Wintech pontoons wider. So we took our rigger bracket to the local metal workshop, E&R Meakes (who have done many equipment adaptations for the club). They cut the pontoon holder on the bracket and re-attached it at a 45-degree angle (see photo directly below).
The angle does require the float post to be longer (because Pythagorean Theorem). Conventionally, the posts are 13cm long, but we required 24cm long posts.
New PR1 Stephen Montague trialed the new set up and it seemed to be very effective in increasing stability. Not only was Stephen a novice (ie. harder for him to know how to maintain stability and a greater risk of capsize), but he is also quite tall (ie. 6’ 3”) which raises the centre of gravity in the boat giving it more leverage to tip over.
One consideration with the wider-hence-harder-to-flip rigger setup is that in the event of a capsize, it is equally difficult to flip back using the popular righting technique. At Marlow, we identified this when we used the boat in our recent PR1 capsize drill and PR1 rescue training. We tried to “right” the boat and even myself – 6’4″, 100+ kilos and fair amount of upper body strength struggled to get the empty boat flipped when I was demonstrating the righting technique. We decided that the protocol for PR1s using the wide-bracket setup should default to “strap assistance” over “righting”. We added for extra measure that each safety launch driver confirm with the PR1 athlete which technique of assistance they would be using first in the event of a capsize. The decision to prioritise “strap assistance” might not just be due to an extra stable boat with wide floats, but it could be the case that the safety driver is smaller (as Ella Willott was assessing the various rescue techniques with British Rowing).
Stephen will be demonstrating the angled-bracket setup at this weekend’s City of Oxford Regatta for its maiden competition.