The world of rowing is constantly flowing and evolving with HUDSON™ and its team at the heart of the action. Stay in the current with articles and events straight from the SHARK's mouth, or explore more about HUDSON and our history in the industry.
History-- The evolution of HUDSON. How we went from wooden singles to becoming a world leading composite boat builder.
Success-- The proof is in the results. See how HUDSON boats have performed at the highest level of the sport.
Experience - Performance partners share their experiences with HUDSON
Events -- HUDSON is present at most of the world's top rowing events. Explore a calendar of upcoming events.
This article originally appeared in row360 - issue 10
Row360 is invited behind the scenes of one of the most advanced boat building companies in the world
Hudson Boat Works, Ontario, Canada
At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, the USA heavyweight men’s eight, raced the fastest 2k ever seen (5:19.85). The boat which they propelled to victory was built by HUDSON, a Canadian company working at the very cutting edge of our sport. Since Athens their presence has grown rapidly, not only at an elite level, but across the board, at universities, clubs and schools as more and more crews invest in the HUDSON vision.
In a sport already well-served with long-established brands and where old habits frequently die hard, it’s an impressive feat. Or in their own words, simply “doing the work required to set the pace.”
It’s clear from the moment you walk into HUDSON Boat Works in Ontario, Canada that this is a company whose people are proud of what they do. As Commercial Manager Craig McAllister and Operations Manager Glen Burston escort me onto the factory floor, the Canadian women’s eight is being loaded into a 45 foot shipping container bound for Antwerp, en-route to Rio and the 2016 Olympic Games. Hidden within the hull, I learn, are the signatures of the men and women who built it. Experts in their craft, the factory workers clearly take great satisfaction in their work. “It’s a tradition here that the Olympic boats end up with a series of hidden signatures in them - doesn’t weigh anything, doesn’t hurt anybody and nobody can see it”, Glen tells me, “but it shows these guys care about that boat every bit as much as the customer it is going to.”
The company has gone through several incarnations over the years. HUDSON Boat Works was founded in 1981 by Jack Coughlan and his brother-in-law Hugh Hudson. Previously Jack made wooden oars, but saw sales evaporate almost overnight after composite carbon oars came on the scene in the late ‘70s. Resolving never to be caught out again, Jack changed direction, and in the early ‘90s HUDSON Boat Works became one of the first to produce ‘pre-preg’ carbon composite racing shells.
By ’84 they already had their first medal in an Olympic games and a flurry of medals came in Atlanta in ’96. In fact, to date HUDSON boats have collected over 80 medals from Olympic and Senior World Championship races. The real change of pace however, wasn’t until 2005. “The company wasn’t just making racing shells back then,” explains Glen, “we were building all kinds of other products, some for the rowing industry, some for elsewhere. That was where we felt the fundamental change had to come - if we didn't focus on one product and endeavor to make that one thing better than anyone else, then there was no long term viability - so we shed everything else.” Stripping it all back, they left themselves one clear objective – make the world’s best rowing boats - a decisive and indeed brave move that was to prove wildly successful.
“It took about four years, from around ’05 to ’09, to build the foundations for what we are seeing now” according to Glen. “The first step was to get the right people on board - from the customer’s perspective it wouldn’t have looked like an awful lot was happening in those years. We were building the infrastructure necessary to be who we are today. It was all happening behind the scenes.”
As we continue through the state-of-the-art factory, technology and innovation are everywhere. “We’re using similar materials, construction methods, processes and technologies as the aerospace, Formula 1 or America’s Cup sailing industries” explain’s Craig. “We do it on a budget that is a fraction of what those industries have access to. But our customers expect us to manufacture and develop at a comparable level to those guys and we have to meet that expectation. I think that is where creativity comes in. We don’t have the deep pockets of the aerospace industry, but we do have a wealth of creative and critical thinking combined with a clear vision.”
One way it appears they have been very clever is the investment they have made in their engineering staff. “We spent a long time building our team and we are at a point where we have the talent to construct things like our iPad-controlled laser projection system. We did it in-house for ten percent of what it would have cost to buy-in. It does exactly what we need and is perfectly integrated with our data management engineering systems.”
The ‘iPad’ tablet system is one of many technological advances implemented by HUDSON over the last decade that stands out in an industry historically more ‘spit and dust’ than lasers and touch screens. As we continue I am struck time and again by the level of technology at HUDSON – It’s easy to forget that this is a rowing company. Now almost entirely paperless, the factory manages its production schedule through a cloud-based tablet app. “Staff log in and immediately have access to exactly what’s happening at that moment with each boat in process, so they can make sure everything is happening as it should.” explains Glen. “This approach also facilitates monitoring of critical processes – for example, every cure cycle in the ovens (in which the carbon is cured in the mold) has its own pre-set program.” If at any point the temperature falls more than a few degrees outside the set parameters, it sends a text message and email to the on-call engineer. “So we’re using technology that means we can login at any time, from anywhere in the world and see exactly what’s happening with our manufacturing processes.” From real time data collection on every process to lasers in the ceiling that project where to bond parts, the facility is fully wireless with a digital infrastructure to rival the auto industry.
Continuing on we arrive at the ‘bend test’ machine. Comprising around $150,000 worth of materials, controls and actuators - a machine of this type would typically be beyond the scope of what a regular boat builder would be able to afford. As I’m learning though, this is certainly no ordinary boat builder. “If we were to outsource this technology, it would cost around $500,000 just to have someone come in and build it. It’s a mammoth thing, we built it ourselves and it’s incredibly accurate.” As its name suggests, the bend test machine slightly flexes every hull as it comes off the production line, validating both torsional and longitudinal stiffness. “If something is off in our process, we will see it well before the customer could ever detect it.” Not only does it ensure each individual boat meets the required standard, it means they are continually keeping a very close eye on their manufacturing processes. It allows them to detect and address any quality control issues that may arise early. As they drive down that variation from boat to boat, the effects of any changes to the manufacturing process become increasingly clear.
A Datron high-speed milling machine is another recent addition to HUDSON’s technology arsenal. Their fourth and newest CNC machining centre in the factory, it cuts the amount of time required to create their own rigger and parts molds significantly. Costing $250,000, it is evidence of the constant re-investment in their technology and a desire to ultimately move all parts of the manufacturing process ‘in-house’ to ensure the highest level of quality control.
Constantly testing, researching and advancing their hull shapes, through collaboration with renowned naval architect Britt Chance, the new era of HUDSON shells were the first to market using ‘unsteady flow’ computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analyses. Now working with expert architect Steve Killing, the SHARK hulls are designed for increased stability whilst maintaining their outstanding performance characteristics. In conjunction with the most technologically advanced hull design, HUDSON have also worked with composite material suppliers, adapting aerospace technology to create the new proprietary SHARK carbon.
HUDSON use entirely ‘pre-preg’ carbon in every hull and carbon rigger they produce. The same material found in F1 racing cars, it’s by far the most laborious and time consuming way of building boats but ensures the highest integrity and quality is achieved in the finished product. It is also safer for their workers’ health, avoiding wet resin exposure and sensitivity. “It adds much more work for us in the finishing stages, not to mention cost, but if there is a choice between traditional and advanced, there is only one way HUDSON will ever go.”
HUDSON were the first boat builder in the world to convert it's fleet entirely to composite construction and aluminium wing rigger technology. Today, it’s the industry standard.
Following a lengthy development process, the strength and resilience of the carbon wings HUDSON brought to market defies belief. They have developed a carbon rigger which, they tell me, can withstand most catastrophic impacts. Eager to prove it, in what I imagine is a favourite party trick, I am handed a lump hammer and encouraged to hit one of the carbon riggers, “as hard as you can!” From what we have seen so far it’s hardly a surprise the rigger prevails. I barely crack the clear coat.
There are three key parts to manufacturing world class rowing shells, according to Craig. “Performance is key of course - it’s a performance sport and that ultimately will determine which boat is considered the best. The second critical factor is the function, the ergonomics, and the fit to the athlete; how the athlete feels in the boat is absolutely critical. It’s about how we can collaborate better with the athlete or coach to improve that.” HUDSON has built a network of coaching ‘allies’ around the world. From ex US Olympic and current University of California Berkeley Head Coach Mike Teti, to legendary bio-mechanist, rowing author and Western University head coach Volker Nolte - a select group of some of the sport’s most knowledgeable coaches provide HUDSON real world testing and expert feedback before anything is released onto market. The third part according to Craig, is the aesthetics or the cosmetics of the boat. “Anything that has a luxury price tag - people want it to look the part. So we’re pushing the innovation, working with coaches and athletes at a level that we believe nobody else is, and we’re also ensuring it looks fast too.”
The HUDSON ‘USP’ (Ultimate SHARK Predator) looks fast. The pinnacle of boat design and manufacturing, it sits at the top of their product line. True to their mission of focusing only on producing the best, HUDSON doesn’t make a budget option. The ‘SP’ (SHARK Predator) line was built to win Olympic finals, but the ‘USP’ is another level up. A ‘concept’ boat if you will. Conceived during a conversation on the banks of Dorney Lake at the Olympics in London, the principal was simple - Jack, Glen and Craig, simply asked themselves “What could we build if money and imagination were no object?” The ideas they came up with that day, still saved on Glen’s phone, became the blueprint for what would ultimately be the ‘USP’ boats. “Ruling out the completely non-viable, we boiled the list down to some of the things you see in those boats today. A lot of it is not a leap in anything other than people’s preconceptions.” The jewel in HUDSON’s crown, it defines what is possible from a racing shell. “It came at a point in our history where we were able to move incredibly fast”, reflects Glen. “That boat would normally be a five-year development project and we killed it in 18 months. It took everything we had in terms of human and monetary capital, but the end product is amazing.”
As the tour concludes, I can’t help but think, with their ethos of relentless improvement, impeccable customer service and a staff made up of competitive rowers, master engineers and skilled craftsmen, does it get better than this? “We don’t want to be the biggest, we don’t want to build the most boats (they currently produce around 600 per year), we just want to do what we do, better than anyone one in the world.” And having seen it for myself, I would say they do. With a purpose-built workshop about to open in the UK, a new website about to launch with its ‘Shark Tank’’ feature, which will allow customers to chart their boat through every step of the build process and another busy Olympics for HUDSON around the corner, where do they go from here? “We can’t reveal too much, but I can say that in five years’ time, where we are going will make what we do now appear standard. We are already working on the boats for the Tokyo 2020 cycle and there are some exciting things in the pipeline”. With our tour through the factory over and time to reflect, it occurs to me - if anyone can eclipse the HUDSON operation I’d seen that day, it will be the HUDSON of tomorrow.
AN INNOVATIVE STROKE
HUDSON partners with Fanshawe College to build a Boat Test Stand that is capable to measuring torsional and longitudinal stiffness.
This article originally appeared on Row2k.com as a part of their Ask the Boatbuilder series.
Ask the Boatbuilder:
"What is Hydrodynamic Lift, and how does it affect my rowing?"
by Steve Killing, Designer for HUDSON
The term hydrodynamic lift is not something I hear in casual conversation around the boathouse and consequently I thought we should rephrase the question before tackling the answer. Hydro is water, Dynamic refers to motion, and Lift is a force, perpendicular to the direction of motion, in our case vertical. So the question could be further interpreted as “When I am rowing at race pace, what forces are acting on the hull, and how can that knowledge be used to maximize speed?”.
When a boat is moving through water two things will change - the trim (bow up or down) and the sink (an unfortunate term, but it refers to whether the boat’s center of gravity rises or sinks vertically). These changes to the boat’s attitude in the water are a result of the varying pressure on the underwater surface of the hull, combined with the wave form developed along the side of the boat (you can see the waveform in the towing tank photo above). The faster you go, the more the bow will rise and the stern drop while overall the boat “sinks” in the water.
If you want to relate that directly to the term “hydrodynamic lift”, the boat is subject to an upward force (positive lift) near the bow and a downward force (negative lift) near the stern due to the motion of the water past the hull.
There are various computer programs that calculate how trim varies with speed, and we have made use of both the simple and the complex in our assessment of rowing shells. The simpler programs use empirical formulae or wave and drag theories to calculate both drag and trim changes, while the more complex use unsteady CFD (computational fluid dynamics) that calculate from basic principles the motion of the shell as it varies speed and trim with each stroke. Each has its merits, cost, and time requirements and we choose the software to best meet the task at hand.
In order to gain faith in the computer software, we have confirmed the sink and trim of some or our shells in the towing tank. The plot shown here is the towing tank output on a full size shell and has a few interesting points. Whether you are racing at 4.5 or 5.5 metres per second, the trim for this particular shell is fairly constant at about 12 mm bow up (and the stern would be about 12 mm stern down). And that value is something you, the rower, and we, the designers, can make use of.
Although the boat changes its pitch due to your cyclical stroke, on average, for maximum speed, we want the boat to run level. So before you leave the dock, the boat should be 12 mm bow down, so that at speed the hydrodynamic effects will trim the boat level.
We, and we presume other manufacturers, have already located the cockpit to give you that bow down trim at the dock and you can influence it further with crew placement. The crew’s location can easily be varied by moving the riggers, and foot stops fore or aft depending on the desired trim outcome.
The sink which shows on this plot to be about 5 mm for the shell analyzed, is something you won’t be able to discern on the water and it is also something you can’t influence. There are two separate effects that cause the shell to sink lower as it is rowed. The first is the waveform along the side of the boat which has a trough near the mid length of the hull. With the surface of the water lowered where the shell has the majority of its beam and buoyancy, the boat sinks correspondingly. The second reason comes back to the discussion of lift. If water passes with some speed over a curved surface there will be a force created in the direction of positive curvature. In our case the accelerated water flow under the hull creates a downward force (Bernoulli’s Principle) and the faster the shell goes the larger the downward force.
Hydrodynamic forces, due to the motion of the boat through the water will lift the bow and drop the stern and since the goal is to have the boat nominally level at race pace, you will want some bow down trim at the dock for maximum performance. Your foot stretchers and riggers should be adjusted so that the boat is slightly bow down at the dock and at training pace, but level at race pace.
Designer for HUDSON
CRI - THE BAT/HUDSON SOLUTION
Largest rowing club in the world finds the right fit to reduce injury, increase performance & enhance ease of use
BAT LOGIC APPLIES ENGINEERING AND MANUFACTURING PRINCIPALS THAT ARE HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE THE REST. BRUCE SMITH, DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY ROWING INC., BOSTON
Throughout the world’s rowing clubs it is not unusual for the best and newest equipment to be used by elite rowers – with those competing at a lower level subscribing to the mentality of “if it floats, it will do!”
Recently, the largest rowing club in the world, Boston based Community Rowing, Inc. (CRI), decided they wanted to change this.
CRI’s firm belief around equal access for all, regardless of ability, inspired them on their quest to give each of their 5000+ rowers access to the very best performance enhancing equipment.
Being home to a diverse range of athletes – some with physical disabilities, some juniors, some carrying injuries and some competing at national and international level – CRI’s boats also needed to be completely adaptive.
After a comprehensive tender process, HUDSON Boat Works won the contract to replace CRI’s entire fleet of 74 boats and they fitted them with the latest in BAT Logic technology.
HUDSON and BAT Logic worked together to custom design a fleet of boats tailored to:
Enhance stability and connection
Increase comfort and ease-of-use
Deliver better hygiene.
Key to delivering on these benefits is the installation of BAT Logic’s ShoePlate Pro QuickRelease performance foot plate and Nike Omada rowing shoes as standard across all boats.
The ShoePlate Pro’s click-in click-out technology allows shoes and ShoePlates to be moved easily and quickly between boats.
THE BENEFITS OF BAT LOGIC
Traditionally, rowers have been expected to adapt to each boat and share shoes, regardless of size, fit and potential hygiene issues. With the BAT Logic system, they can take their own shoes and click them into and out of any boat or the ergometer. The increased connection and greater feeling of stability reduces the risk of injury and increases performance.
Hygiene is also improved and the risk of infection from bacteria is reduced. Medical statistics put the proliferation of foot fungus which can cause Athlete’s Foot at around 13-20% in the general population. That’s almost 2 athletes in every 8 with an Athlete’s Foot type fungus – a statistic that can’t be ignored.
The CRI project has been a resounding success, with the new high quality fleet resulting in a rise in standards throughout the club.
Dave Snowdon, Boatman at CRI, says the members immediately felt the benefit of the new fleet:
“Athletes tell me they get more feedback from the boat, they can feel more and the fact that the shoes fit means the angles are better – and they look cool!”
According to Bruce Smith, Director at CRI, HUDSON and BAT Logic were well positioned to deliver on CRI’s vision.
“HUDSON and BAT Logic have full control over their production process which makes them a strong partner for us,” said Bruce.
According to HUDSON Boat Work’s CEO, Glen Burston: “The BAT Logic team really understand the sport and there is true depth and innovation in what they do. To continuously evolve the sport in this way is the right thing to do for the athletes and it helps to advance the sport of rowing
The new fleet is now on the water, enabling rowers from all walks of life to perform at their best and raising standards for all through comfort, fewer injuries and increased performance.
Are you ready to Be a SHARK™? Interested in learning how HUDSON innovation can help you reach your personal best? Contact us today!
COVID-19 Response - To our customers and fellow rowing enthusiasts, we are operational and Open for business.
During these uncertain times, protecting the health and safety of our employees and customers is our priority. As a result, HUDSON is continuing to follow all recommended protocols and guidelines for Social Distancing in the Manufacturing Workplace and the HUDSON factory is temporarily unable to welcome any visitors.
Our front line and office team are working and available by phone and e-mail. For Sales and Service, please contact one of our Sales Team whose contact details are listed here.
Parts orders can still be placed online here with delays expected due to courier service limitations.