That’s a fascinating exchange about English strokes using narrow blades. As a stroke myself I would have loved to use such an oar, but in the 1960s at least, when I rowed in England, all blades were the same size. And, honestly, as a stroke I’m glad they were because you couldn’t feel the poise and power of the crew – and know what pace to set – if you weren’t just as exhausted as the other guys.
The second e-mail came from another rowing historian, Tom Weil, who on this matter writes:
As Guy Nickalls [seen in the photograph] was casting about to improve his 1921 Yale crew, which he had termed ‘gutless’, he saw the performance of one J. Freeman, who had just stroked Yale’s very first 150 lb. crew to victory in the American Henley on the Schuylkill. He put the lightweight Freeman into the stroke seat of the New London crew, and equipped him with a shaved blade. Nickalls was fired by the Yale Committee because of his unfortunate comment, but his parting contribution to the Yale varsity, wielding his shaved oar, led the ‘gutless’ crew to victory over Harvard.
There is an interesting photograph showing Guy Nickalls and freshman coach Giannini at Yale’s training quarters at Gales Ferry on 10 June, 1915 (© Bettmann/CORBIS), here.
Are there any more ideas out there about a stroke’s narrow or ‘shaved’ blade? If so, please send it to: gbuckhorn – at – gmail.com