The No-Wiggle Rigs

Dr. John D. Barrow

I am lousy at math. As a child I hated math in school. When my children ask me for help with their math homework, I most of the time point at their mother, Mrs. B., as their reliable home-resource for those kind of things. (I am pretty good at Shakespeare, though…)

So when it comes to math in sports, for example rowing, I am soon lost in the equations. While I do understand that a ‘German rig’ and an ‘Italian rig’ have their advantages to a so called standard rig, I cannot really see that in a lot of numbers. The German rig, as most of you certainly know, was used by crews trained by Karl Adam at Ratzeburg rowing club in Germany in the late 1950s, and the Italian rig has its origin from Giulio Cesare Carcano, a motorcycle engineer at the Moto Guzzi company, who in 1956, watched a coxed four from the Moto Guzzi Club not being able to go straight – the crew later took the 1956 Olympic gold medal in the coxed four.

Anyway, one person who can explain these things by writing ‘numbers’ is Dr. John D. Barrow, math professor, or mathematical physicist, at University of Cambridge in England. Not only does he explain the German rig and the Italian rig, he has also come up with two new what he calls ‘no-wiggle rigs’ for eights, which actually have been tried out on the Thames by Imperial College. The trial was organised by the New Scientist magazine.

Read Dr. Barrow’s interesting article about the different rigs here, and watch the YouTube video below:

Dr. Barrow has also written other interesting articles about math and other sports here.

One comment

  1. The basic assumption for the altered rigging is that all the rowers have the same force profile while rowing. Then the altered rigging produces no net outside lateral force.

    A pair is different. Dr. Valery Kleshnev in an early Biorow (2002/04, 2008/01-02) published force curves for the bow seat and stroke seat in a pair that produced no “wiggle”. In general terms, stroke requires slightly greater average force than bow, with slightly greater force at the start of the stroke. Bow requires slightly greater force in the middle of the stroke. So, “magic pairs” are actually two different types of rowers that have that magical confluence of force profiles that has no net sideways force at any time during the stroke.

    If you could find two “magic pairs”, they could row a four with any rigging setup, because their forces are balanced in a pairwise sense. They would also be faster than an equivalently erging four with the same force profiles for all rowers but with altered rigging that produced no net outside lateral force.

    This effect is easiest to see when rowing a pair. Look at the wake behind the boat. A “magic pair” will have an arrow straight wake. Pairs that are not so well matched will have a wake that will vary from a slight foam to a pronounced “S” shape during the stroke.

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