“We must be more scientific to get better” says GB Rower Constantine Louloudis
How much faster can the boat go? That was the question on everyone's minds when SAS, the Official Analytics Partner of British Rowing and the GB Rowing Team, welcomed past and present members of the GB Rowing Team to a special event at the historic London Rowing Club, Putney. The event looked at how the sport has evolved, and the role of data in making the boat go faster still.
Over the past 100 years of Olympic rowing, between 1912 (when the race length was standardised at 2,000m) and London 2012, the winning men's eight boat has become nearly 27 seconds faster - a 7.2 per cent improvement.
To help identify how the sport has developed over the past century, Michael Lapage, an Olympic rower who was part of the silver-medal-winning eight crew from the 1948 London 'Austerity' Games, spoke about the changes he's seen in his lifetime. Speaking at the SAS event, the 92-year-old, who was also part of the winning 1948 Cambridge Boat Race crew, said: "The biggest change is to the equipment. We had a wooden boat and hollow wooden oars, whereas now the equipment is largely made from carbon fibre, which is very much lighter."
While there have been significant enhancements made to the materials used, research by sports scientist Stephen Seiler PhD reveals improvements to athlete training and physiology are responsible for more than 40 per cent of the gains made.
Four-time Boat Race winner, and Olympic bronze medallist, Constantine Louloudis is an advocate of the use of data analytics and science to continue making the boat faster. The double world champion said: "Now that materials have improved and we've made a lot of positive steps in the past few decades, the new way to get better is to be more scientific, being more intelligent with our training and that means monitoring and using data.
"It's so helpful having the partnership with SAS because they can analyse the data in different ways than either the coaches or the athletes. Their feedback can be communicated to our coaches who ultimately ensure we implement the necessary changes."
Rowing has been part of the Olympic programme since the modern Games were introduced by Pierre de Coubertin in 1896 and the GB Rowing Team has established itself as a force to be reckoned with, picking up 63 medals - 28 gold, 22 silver and 13 bronze, putting them second overall for Olympic rowing medals won.
SAS is helping the GB Rowing Team maintain its tradition of first-class Olympic performances by analysing data from all aspects of the squad's preparations for Rio. This can identify where marginal gains might be made to help make the boats faster and give the team a competitive advantage.
Hugo D'Ulisse, Head of Analytical Platform, SAS UK & Ireland, added: "British Rowing has been very successful in a competitive world of very fine margins. And we know significant improvement is possible through the aggregation of marginal gains. Firstly, by using detailed data analysis it's possible to make decisions that aren't purely based on gut feel. Then there's the possibility to fine-tune what's already being done to make small improvements. And finally, there's the possibility of finding unexpected correlations – those relationships between things you would not have otherwise discovered.
"This is the journey we're now on with British Rowing and the GB Rowing Team and we're excited by what this also means for an up-and-coming generation of rowers and beyond. We believe we can help in a number of ways, including better identification of future champions among junior rowers on the way up."
For more information about SAS, visit www.sas.com/uk
Learn more about British Rowing and the GB Rowing Team by visiting: www.britishrowing.org