Long before sails and motors, boats moved across the sea using oars and rowers. A timeline of rowing provided by the Friends of Rowing History links the practice of rowing a boat to more than 2,000 years ago. Boat racing appears in classical text, according to the timeline, but it was not until 18th century Britain when the first regattas resembling today's rowing competitions occurred. What was once a sport of wooden shells and oars has grown into a competition of fiberglass and graphite composite construction. The list of the world's best oars is a short one because four companies produce oars for the competitive rowing market.
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The world's most commonly used oar is the Dreissigacker, manufactured by Concept2 Rowing. Nearly two-thirds of the rowers at the 2010 Olympics rowed with Dreissigacker oars, while more than three-quarters of the gold medalists at the 2010 World Championships used the brand. The Dreissigacker brothers have routinely changed the sport with their innovations. In 1977, they introduced the first carbon composite oar, moving the sport away from wood. In 1992, it changed the shape of the oar from the symmetrical Macon blade shape to the hatchet big blade and, as a result, set a new trend for the sport. Concept2 makes five blade shapes, including the traditional macon blade. Oar shafts come in three degrees of stiffness and three types of construction: the original composite-fiberglass blend, an ultralight composite and the low inertia composite.
According to its company history, Howard Croker was a boatbuilder who saw a need for a better quality oar. In 1982, his two-person workshop produced 400 oars a year. In 2011, its 25-person team makes more than 15,000 carbon composite oars each year. Croker West, based in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, distributes the oars in North America. Two types of Croker shafts are available in the U.S. The M4 Full Carbon is a low-inertia oar developed for elite-level racing, while the M2 Superlight is one of the lightest weight oars on the market, according to Croker. Both are available in three levels of stiffness, with hatchet-style blades.
WinTech Racing is an international endeavor. Its lead designer is Klaus Filter, the former longtime director of research for the East German rowing team. The company's boats and oars are made at the Flying Eagle Boat Company in China, and its managers are a Connecticut entrepreneur and former Canadian National Team coach. Wintech makes three models of its hatchet-bladed composite oar. Its standard heavyweight model is a 60/40 fiberglass-composite mix, while the ultralight and braided carbon models are each 90/10 carbon-fiberglass.
Dreher Carbon Oars
Produced by Durham Boat Company, Dreher Oars produces one type of sweep oar. The carbon-shafted oar is tipped with its APEX 2000 blade, providing what the company promotes as a "significant design improvement" over previous models. The smooth blade improves hydrodynamics, allowing the blade to enter and leave the water with the least amount of drag. The oar comes in two levels of stiffness and can be equipped with a moisture-wicking comfort grip.