Sunday, August 31, 2014

A lot more racing, and a lot more training

I've been racing almost every Sound Rowers race for the past several years. Photos I took during those races can be found at the Sound Rowers web site. Sometimes photos of me can even be found, though those were taken by other folks.
Starting about mid-2013, instead of working out on my indoor trainers (recumbent and upright), I began biking to work. My commute is slightly under 14 miles each way, and there are several fairly long hills. One hill in particular is on the return commute near the end, and is a little over a mile long and several hundred feet of elevation gain. Combined with the other hills of the I-90 floating bridge, Mercer Island, and downtown Seattle this makes for a pretty decent workout.
In addition, the company where I work has an annual human powered commute challenge during the winter. Participants get points for each mile they bike to work, double points if they walk, and triple points if they run. Extra points are awarded if they do this during light rain, heavy rain, snow, etc. Given that this is during the dark winter months one needs to have good bike lights, fenders, appropriate clothing, etc.
A lot of my cold weather boating gear worked out perfectly for biking. I did have to buy some bike lights, and ended up getting a super powerful 750 lumen light that I mounted on my bike helmet. It proved to be a very wise choice as it illuminated the roads as well as a car headlight, and drivers could definitely notice me!
Anyway, I began commuting both ways every day, rain or not, for a month, and then every other day. Yes, it took about 20 minutes longer on the road, plus another 15 minutes to shower and change clothes. By the end of the three month challenge I had lost nearly 10 pounds and had gained a lot of strength.
My first race in February, 2014 was fast and I was able to maintain my power output throughout the entire course.
I noticed a few areas for improvement in the boat, and did the following over the course of the next few months:
1. Replaced the sewer rod propeller shaft with a stainless spring steel, and a new Delrin plain bearing.
2. Raised the aka support by half an inch to reduce the drag of the amas.
3. Moved the dipping rudders further back so when deployed they are just behind the stern.
4. Replaced my old propeller and hub with a new one from Rick.
5. Regeared my drive system to better match the new propeller.
6. Inserted shims between the crank mounting box and the rails to prevent the cranks mount from moving from side to side slightly with each pedal stroke.
7. Added a stiffening cable to the propeller strut and a spring clip so when fully deployed the triangulation between the strut, cable and clip would allow the transfer of torque from the propeller to the hull rather than further deflect the propeller shaft.
8. Added a ball bearing and a Delrin extension to the propeller shaft to limit how much the propeller shaft could deflect before the prop hub presses against the strut bearing.
9. Added several pounds of weight to the stern so as to change the boat's trim from perfectly parallel to the water to be stern down/bow up.
10. Drilled a couple of breather holes in the deck, fore and aft. This is to reduce the flexing of the otherwise airtight hull as the trapped air expanded and contracted due to temperature changes.

Anyway, the changes (1-8) enabled me to get the boat to a sprint speed of 7.5 mph. That is not a lot of improvement, really, but at last some speed was being gained for the effort. Change #9 enabled me to get the boat in a sprint up to 8.5 mph. Yes, you read that correctly: Adding several pounds of weight made the boat go faster.
My theory behind this is that even though the boat has a very sharp bow there is better flow of water around the hull if the water is gently shoved below the hull and not just around the sides. Going further along those lines I think a planing hull is very possible, but it requires a gentle bow angle along the lines of the Cadence or perhaps a rowing shell.
Paddle the Shores 2014
Yesterday I took the V15-6m to Paddle the Shores. The last time I was here was in September, 2007, with a Cadence pedal boat. The weather this time was quite a bit wetter, and the temperature a bit cooler. There were 11 boats, one of which was a sleek rowing shell captained by Bob Rhoades, the organizer of the event.
To make a long story short, Bob and I were neck and neck for most of the race, with him generally ahead 10 to 30 feet, and me hot on his tail and actually passing him from time to time. I eventually finished 15 seconds behind him with a time of 46 minutes and 26 seconds - about 3 minutes faster than the time in the Cadence 7 years earlier. Of course, that year I dropped my water bottle and had to circle back for it, losing about a minute in the process. Still, a new pedal boating record was set for the event.
I also pedaled in the short 1.8 mile race, where my major competition was an OC-2 paddled by Vern Heikkila and Jeff Wong. I was ahead of the all the way to the turn buoy, but due to the large turning radius of the V15 and the proximity of the turn buoy to the shore I managed to get stuck in the weeds. The OC-2 paddled past me and were over 100 yards ahead by the time I took off after them. It seemed to take forever, but eventually I pulled past and left them in my wake. I crossed the finish line 15 seconds ahead with a time of a little over 16 minutes - a new course record. Whew!