Volans² is a new concept in rowing boat design – a new rowing experience – designed to make the sport more accessible without sacrificing performance.
Volans Rowing is a company owned by Cees van Bladel and Lenneke de Voogd in collaboration with their production partner in Estonia. Cees van Bladel is former Olympic sailor and enthusiastic endurance athlete. Lenneke de Voogd is also an active all-round athlete. Both have vast experience in innovation in sports.
I spoke to Cees at the company’s base, in historic city of Delft in the Netherlands.
Cess, tell me about the ethos of Volans.
I am passionate about rowing, it is a fun and healthy water sport, and wanted to make it more accessible; to make it easy to enjoy the freedom of the water, wherever, whenever and as often as you like! That is the experience with the Volans². This new, innovative rowing boat gives you the opportunity to combine exercise with fun in the open air.
So you are to trying to increase the appeal of the sport as a whole?
Yes, The Volans² is more than just a boat. Volans Rowing aims to help make rowing a more popular sport by developing innovative products such as the Volans².
The rowing sport can and will benefit, and when the sport becomes accessible to a wider public, the elite level of the sport will eventually grow too.
How does it differ from the single sculls I see on the Trent and Thames?
Small boat, high speed…
Volans² is not much larger than a kayak but still has the feel of a slim and slender racing skiff. There’s one difference: the seat doesn’t slide, but the rigger does – that is the part with the oars. Due to its stability on the water, rowing with the Volans² is easy to learn. The boat can be transported on a car roof and can easily be stored at home in a garage or in the garden. The sliding rigger can be quickly mounted. You’re in the water in no time. Ready, steady, row!
“Volans² is the boat for people of all ages, to experience the fun of rowing”.
two-time Olympic gold medallist in rowing for The Netherlands
I am guessing the accessibility comes at the cost of performance?
No, not at all. Volans² is fast, light and compact, making it suitable for the recreational athlete, for upcoming rowing talents and for the (elite) athletes who like to do their training in the open air; for young and old, for students and veterans.
The materials used in the boat also play an important role. As Partner in Sport of the Dutch Olympic Committee, DSM was closely involved in the building of the 470-class sailing yacht with which the Dutch women’s team won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The same technology was used to build a fast 2-man bobsleigh for the 2010 Winter Games. In both cases special resins ensured a lightweight construction that was both strong and stiff. It’s the same combination that now makes the Volans² a unique rowing boat.
Tell me a bit more about the sliding rigger.
A prominent feature of the Volans² is its sliding rigger. The rower’s seat doesn’t slide, but the part in which the oars are mounted does. The idea dates back to 1883, and in the early 1980s it brought the German rower Peter Michael Kolbe success in the world sculling championship. However, the innovation has since been banned from competitive rowing. For the Volans² the sliding rigger has been further developed in combination with the hull shape. This enables extra speed, in spite of the relatively short length of the boat.
What was the research process; how was it developed?
The Volans² is the result of a broad and open collaboration with various parties. In the development process, state of the art knowledge, technology and materials were combined with the craftsmanship and practical know-how of manufacturers such as Tahe Marin (Estonia). The boat is both innovative and high tech.
Delft is well known for the University of Technology (TU Delft), what was the University’s involvement in the development?
A group of students of Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) made the initial analyses and designs for the Volans². They also constructed a working prototype and conducted user tests, based on the most recent insights in the field of hydrodynamics, materials, construction and industrial design. Human movement scientists from Amsterdam University (VU Amsterdam) contributed with knowledge on the biomechanics of rowing.
As well as TU Delft, in the development of the Volans², Volans Rowing collaborated with DSM, infinious, Concept 2, VU Amsterdam, The Royal Dutch Rowing Federation (KNRB), Tahe Marine (Estonia), InnoSportNL, DiDiD, KvD and Rovinox.
“The rowing federation thinks this is a really great development. The boat offers all sorts of people, both members and non-members of rowing clubs, the opportunity to enjoy the healthy sport of rowing in the open air.”
Former director Royal Dutch Rowing Federation