In the November/December 2012 issue of Rowing & Regatta (the official magazine of British Rowing) there is an excellent article about ergometer evolution called “Magnificent men in their rowing machines…” It is a brief history of the rowing machine from 1871 when the first patent was filed by W. B. Curtis right up to the modern ergometers in use today. The article mentions that “rowing machines were used in the rehabilitation of soldiers wounded in the First World War”. This can be seen in a short British Pathé video showing “Queen Mary Opening the New Albert Dock Hospital”.
The article was written by a friend and old crewmate of mine, the indomitable Jim Flood. Jim is a British Rowing and FISA Coach Educator and is author of Know the Game: Rowing and co-authored with Dr. Charlie Simpson of The Complete Guide to Indoor Rowing. He has also written three free e-books, The ergonomics of rowing , Balance and Coaching achieving the best results possible. These are all available on the Rowperfect website.
I know Jim from his time in Milton Keynes when he worked for the The Open University and rowed with me at Milton Keynes Rowing Club. One of our most memorable races was the 31 mile Boston (Lincolnshire, England) Marathon in 2002 which we completed in 3 hours, 59 minutes and 50 seconds (ten seconds can be very important!).
Boston Marathon 15 September, 2002, Jim (bow) & the MKRC Vet C 4+ (the article writer in 2 seat).
Jim has recently returned from Alexandria, Egypt, where he was running coaching clinics at the African Rowing Championships. Development of rowing in poorer countries is very close to Jim’s heart and perhaps this is something that should concern us all, as it is FISA’s (World Rowing) inclusivity policy that is keeping rowing on the Olympic programme.
Another programme that Jim has developed is ‘Openergo’ which is a project to develop a low-cost rowing machine which can be made using basic DIY skills for a cost of £25/$40. The Openergo website has all the details and a short video showing a wooden frame prototype in use. There is also an angle iron frame version and a longer video here on which Jim provides commentary.