Sunday, November 12, 2006

Boat Speed Increase at Worlds

The August issue of the Rowing Biomechanics Newsletter discussed the average annual growth in boat speed from 1993 to 2006. I was surprised to read that the speed of the lightweight women's 2x is increasing at the third slowest rate of the 14 Olympic boat classes. I'm surprised because some other statistics I've seen and discussed seemed to suggest that the LW2x should be increasing speed at a greater rate than other boats. This seemed to fit with the idea that as relative newcomers on the scene, lightweight women would be gaining speed faster than heavyweights who have been around a lot longer. It may have been that in the past I've looked at the LW2x's speed relative to the heavy W2x. In that case, because the speed of the W2x has actually been slowing over the period measured, the gap is closing quickly. The same thing is happening among the light men as the LM2x is increasing speed faster than the heavy M2x. In fact, the Newsletter projects that the 2008 speeds of the winning LM2x and M2x will be nearly identical. If this were to occur, it would no doubt be used to bolster the argument to do away with lightweights because if there is no difference in speed, why should there be a different category? I think this is a bit of a red herring though, because the LM2x contains 2 of the top 6 lightweights in the world, while the M2x contains 2 of the top 21 heavyweights in the world. Potentially, then, we could be comparing the top 2 lightweights to the number 20 and 21 heavyweights.

The Newsletter also shows graphs of times by boat. There are two distinct patterns among the graphs and the only explanation I can think of is that they are grouped by the day of the final so that conditions for each group are similar.

I'm not sure how useful this kind of statistic is given how conditions can affect times, but it will be interesting to see what the LW2x times look like in Beijing in 2008, particularly now that the Chinese are paying a lot of attention to rowing.

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