Paddle/blade testing for canoes and kayaks: Feasibility of an innovative methodology

  • Day, Alexander (Principal Investigator)
  • Clelland, David, (Co-investigator)

Project: Research

Description

One way to improve the performance of UK competitors in canoeing/kayaking events is to improve the performance of their equipment; in particular the canoe hulls and the paddle blades. Currently UK Sport are working to improve the design and construction of paddle blades; however, at the moment, the blades are evaluated by testing on-the-water testing using athletes. This is inevitably a somewhat subjective process, and the lack of repeatability introduced by the human intervention in the process leads to an undesirable level of uncertainty into the conclusions. Some researchers have tested oar and paddle blades in laboratories, but in most cases the motions of the blade through the water has been much simpler than the realistic stroke, so the results cannot be regarded as reliable indicators of all aspects of performance in the real situation. Thus the on-the-water data is not repeatable enough, and the laboratory data is not realistic enough. The lack of realistic and repeatable quantitative data means that it is difficult to develop new designs, and also it is hard to determine whether computer predictions are accurate. This proposal is aimed at examining the feasibility of developing techniques for realistically, repeatably, accurately, and reliably testing and analysing paddle blades for canoes and kayaks in laboratory conditions, to allow quantitative comparisons between different designs. If successful, the techniques developed can be used in the context of a testing and analysis procedure to evaluate and assess new blade designs and so deliver performance improvements to UK competitors for the 2012 Olympic Games. At the same time further fundamental studies using the techniques will improve scientific understanding of the highly complex and dynamic flow around paddle blades. The long-term goal is the prediction and optimisation of blade performance at the design stage for different athletes in different events. The research will start by measuring the path of the blades in three dimensional space relative to the water for canoes and kayaks using motion capture techniques commonly employed in the film animation industry. A test rig will then be designed which can exactly replicate these paths of the blade through the water in a test tank. The output from the rig will be a knowledge of the forces acting on the blade at each moment through the paddling cycle. These time-histories will be analysed to find out the key features exhibited by blades which give high efficiency. This will in turn allow the definition of a measure which can be used to characterise the performance of a given blade / and thus allow different designs to be compared directly in terms of performance. In order to demonstrate the techniques developed, a small series of paddles will be tested in the rig, with different measured paddling styles. This will allow an understanding to be gained of how sensitive the results are to small changes in the paddling style, which will give an indication of how different the best designs would be for different athletes and different events. Results will be correlated with existing data based on testing on-the-water with athletes and coaches to refine the process. Finally, in addition to testing the paddle technology the use of the test rig to analyse the performance of different paddling styles will be investigated, to see if it can usefully be used as a training aid for athletes.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/09/0731/08/08

Funding

  • EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council): £99,994.00

Fingerprint

Testing
Water
Sports
Animation
Industry