Thursday 1 September 2011

Pathfinder rows backwards

Rowing for Pleasure has exclusive pictures of Colin Cumming's new Pathfinder 3, featuring a completely novel 'rowing backwards' arrangement.
Rowing a sailing boat involves compromises, because the masts, centreboard and fore and aft buoyancy/dry storage compartments mean that legroom and weight distribution are poor. In one of those lightbulb moments, Colin realised that a double-ender doesn't have to be rowed 'forwards' - it can rowed 'backwards' just as fast.
The new arrangement releases room for both crew to get the most out of the oars. A single-hander can row the boat conventionally, sitting on the forward thwart and using the aft pair of rowlocks.
The only drawback is the need to take the rudder out to row. Getting the rudder back in will involve squirming round the mizzen mast over the very small stern deck and no transom, which will not be an enticing prospect in a stiff breeze on exposed water.
Pathfinder 3 recently went through some proving trials and was found to sail fast in light airs but with plenty of reserve stability for when the wind picks up. The narrow beam at the waterline meant she rows "very smartly indeed" according to Colin, and the broad beam at the gunwale (6ft) means that full-size oars can be used. Interestingly the theoretical advantage of the underwater hull shape for rowing backwards was seen in practice. Colin, rowing single handed, tried both directions and found her to be easier and faster stern first. 
Pathfinder 3 gives a large volume boat for very low material outlay – she used 5 sheets of 6mm Robbins elite for the Hull and bulkheads, one sheet of 9mm for the CB case and thwarts with offcuts used for the rudder, one sheet of Robbins 4mm super elite for the side decks and tank decks. A couple of planks of utile were ripped up for the solid timber trims, mainly the wide (50mm) outwales and CB case framing . She can be lifted by two people – which isn’t bad for a boat of this size.She is already entered for SailCaledonia 2012 - her performance will be watched with interest.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Hi Chris, since reading this post I have tried rowing Gav's Light Trow backwards. I have quite often had to backrow this boat on spotting a sizable wave coming up behind when coming in towards the beach. It's a frantic backpedal really but I've noticed how well she goes stern first.
When actually set up to row backwards she still goes very well and creates less wake than when travelling forwards. However she has a significant skeg which is trying to turn the boat frontways and half my effort is taken up keeping the boat on a straight course. Still, an interesting experiment.