I believe that a rower was seriously injured when impaled by the bow of
another boat during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I understand that during
that same decade a Cambridge UK student died when speared by a bow.
These events led to demands for some sort of bow protection.
What you have on your Phelps is typical of bow balls of that era. They
were actually rather better in many respects than today's all-rubber
jobs as they were rigidly held (unless the tip of the boat's stem broke
away), the metal strip was folded around to tip of the bow and firmly
embedded in the ball - they tended not to come off.
Modern bow balls are often held by a single screw, driven through the
rubber skirt, are either loose, or perished, & in any case easily
deflected, allowing the bow to stab through, straight into soft flesh.
One problem is that the balls are loose fitting & in no way integral
with the boat. Another is that they have sharp changes in section where
the skirt meets the ball & minimal penetration of the bow into the ball
itself. Hence they are so easily split or deflected.
My company makes its own bow balls, specifically to fit the shape of our
bows (so not suitable for other boats), they are quite hard (softness
gives no protection but does render the rubber more easily penetrated),
they are of a blended shape (no sudden, vulnerable notch where skirt
joins ball) & we always bond them directly onto the boat with a
polyurethane elastomeric adhesive, so that they become integral with the
Carl Douglas Racing Shells -
Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories
Write: Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK
& now on Facebook @ CarlDouglasRacingShells
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