Pitch Perfect

By Volker Nolte

Photo by Peter Spurrier.

Returning to the water after a long layoff reveals a lot. This includes subtle variances of rigging that you may have grow accustomed to in the prior season. Wear and tear on the oarlock and sleeve are common culprits for pitch changes, but even the oar shaft undergoes small changes over time. All typical oar shafts are built by rolling carbon fiber strings around plugs. Although the manufacturers apply the carbon in several layers and different directions, it is conceivable that the outer layers are more affected by incident solar radiation and further curing over time, which may lead to some tensions in the materials. This is why it is important to check the pitch regularly. The most accurate way to do so is to independently measure the pitch on the oarlock and the blade. This procedure is not only more accurate than measuring the blade while it is in the oarlock, it will also identity which part of the equipment is responsible for the faulty pitch. In most cases, this is the oar. Scraping or sanding some material down on one side of the sleeve can usually fix small changes in pitch, but sometimes it is necessary to replace the sleeve entirely. Once corrected, however, you will notice immediately how much better your rowing feels.