A Martian Approach to Sprint Racing

When I started taking a serious (from the science point of view) interest in sprint racing back in 2004/2005, there were a number of aspects of the sport which puzzled me as an ‘outside’ observer. It is obviously very important to embrace the ‘collective expertise’ of any sport you are competing in, but it is also important not to assume the collective expertise is always right.

This led me to write an article hopefully addressing some of these (to me) puzzling aspects, from a scientific viewpoint. I don’t remember experimenting with hallucinogens at the time (but equally I believe it’s suggested memory loss is a side effect of these substances). But the article ended up as ‘A Martian Approach to Sprint Racing’, (inspired by the ‘War of the World’s by HG Wells), where Martians planned to dominate the world of canoe sprint.

In the absence of any background knowledge of the sport, the Martians approach was to observe what the ‘earthlings’ were doing, analysis the individual processes using their superior scientific knowledge, and implement there own ‘improved’ approach (The organisation in charge of all this was of course called ‘Marsport’).

The potential performance gains identified in the article were :-

Cadence testing. To provide evidence based paddle selection for individuals, and ‘paddler matching’ for crew boats.

High Inertia boats. To reduce boat bobbing & skewing. (This has been implemented by ‘earthlings’ for K1’s at international level, but we’re still waiting to see a K2 with the cockpits moved further apart to achieve this in a crew boat).

‘Opposite side’ paddling for kayaks. Again to reduce boat bobbing, skewing, and in in this case also ‘rolling’. It is also possible this allows a more powerful paddling position (requires ergo testing to confirm this).

(Some years after this article was published, the ‘Ion-gas space sails’ team finally came up with the principles behind the Physic paddle……….)

A Martian Approach to Sprint Racing (full 2005 article)