In 1998 to help support an inconsistant aviation market Diamond Aircraft’s investigated the potential in consumer products currently made of low-tech materials to see if they could benefit from being made from composites. Composites can ensure greater strength, durabllity and flexibllity with less weight. An association with an aircraft firm could be positive for some products, especialy those which are really expected to perform against competition.
Experimentation was done with numerous products including sailboat masts, violin bows, skateboards, and rowing shells. Diamond’s first move to diversification was the production of the one person racing shell. The company had formally approved production of a radical new rowing craft design, prototypes of which had already attracted rave reviews. The racing shell, or single scull, is the product of much engineering and marketing research. Diamond had become the fifth Canadian manufacturer of rowing craft.
London is a hotbed for rowing in Canada, having hosted the High Performance Racing Centre and the national women’s rowing programs at Fanshawe Lake. So, there has was lots of interest in the new, high-tech boat, with plenty of rowers anxious to try the Diamond product. With many makers slow to abandon wood as the material of choice in rowing craft, Diamond was taking a giant leap forward by using carbon flber composite construction, which is lighter and stronger than wood. But the most arresting feature of the racing shell is the smooth finished aerodynamic outrigger to which the oars fasten. The outrigger is located behind the rower (actually forward on the boat because the rower faces the rear). All other outriggers at this time were located in front of the athlete. And most out riggers are made of welded tubular aluminum. On the Diamond boat, the outrigger is actually like a wing, not surprising considering the aircraft origins of the boat. The dramatic carbon fiber outrigger produces three per cent less drag than conventional rigger. The 27-foot-long craft weighs 33 pounds in its second prototype, although by final production, a further two pounds will be shed through fibre manipulation to bring the boat down to the minimum permitted weight for competition.
The silky smooth finish.on the Diamond boat is aireraft-type quality. Knowledge of aerodynamics has been translated into slick hydrodynamics by Diamond engineers. In both instances, the enemy is drag.
But how does it perform?
“We’ve proven ti is better than anything else on the market,” boasts Gord Henry, a full-time consultant and researcher hired by Diamond earlier that year. When i t comes to rowing, Henry has credentials. He rowed for Canada in the 1998 Olympics in Seoul. For six years he was manager of the Canadian National Rowing Team.
One test rower was Fred Loek of Mississauga. Loek, a national team coach who coached Olympic medallist Silken Laumann from 1979 to 1988, came away impressed. “It’s a very nice boat, it was very enjoy. able to row.” he said after a run on the Thames. “It’s a very credible product. I think it will do well. It’s also encouraging a leading aircraft manufacturer would be interested in applying its expertise to building boats.” The connection with flying is strong. In early promotional material, Diamond advertising notes the boat was “aircraft-inspired” featuring “an improved hull shape and an aerodynamically bow-mounted carbon wing rigger that will really get you flying.” Loek says he is particularly happy another boat manufacturer has arrived on the scene to provide competition for existing boat builders and keep prices moderate.
Source : The London Free Press Nov 23 1998 – by Chip Martin
Gord Henry standing in a Fluidesign racing shell on stands at Lake Fanshawe (London On)
The Diamond engineers had determined that the fastest hull shapes were unrowable. From the outset, they stopped focusing on the shaping of the hull, and instead decided to accept a shape that was rowable. The focus was directed entirely on materials to make that shape as fast as possible.
Gord Henry was impressed with the result. “I got into the first prototype and within five strokes I knew that it was the best boat I had ever rowed.” Diamond decided to cancel the project before the prototype single ever went into production, but Gord Henry and one of the project engineers felt that what they had was to good ot ignore, so they decided to go into business producing and selling the new boat. GordHenry and his partner became the fourth player on the London boatbuilding scene when they began selling Fluidesign racing shells. Gord Henry bought out his business partner shorty thereafter and ran the company himself. In 2016 Fluidesign moved to their current location on Elias street.