Journal of Failure Analysis and Prevention

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 716–729 | Cite as

An Investigation of the Failure Mechanisms of a Polymer Matrix Composite Crew Oar

  • Fabian ErazoEmail author
  • Jeremy Laliberte
  • Xiao Huang
  • Charles-Li Benard
Technical Article---Peer-Reviewed


Rowing, or crew, is a constantly evolving sport with an impressive history of equipment advancements, including the use of advanced polymer matrix composites as construction materials for boats and oars. While the use of composites undoubtedly improves the performance of the equipment, the complexity of such a material makes it difficult to establish the cause of failures observed during practice and competition. In particular, composite oars, which are ubiquitous in competitive rowing, have the potential for catastrophic failure. The present effort at investigating the failure mechanisms of a composite oar involved metallographic examinations of the fracture surface using a scanning electron microscope (SEM)/energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS), as well as finite element stress analyses using ANSYS software. From a cross section analysis, the fiber volume percentage of the oar was measured to be 58.2%. Finite element modelling results suggested that oar failure was not the result of a discrete load, which implies that cyclic loading and structural defects were likely the primary contributing factors. A visual fracture analysis revealed surface defects introduced due to improper handling. No chemical degradation was found in the vicinity of the fracture site; however, degradation in the form of congelifraction (freeze–thaw of trapped water) was found to be a possibility. Based on the aggregate results of this investigation, recommendations for suppliers are provided in terms of manufacturing process and for sporting organizations at large with respect to improved storage and transportation of oars to reduce the likelihood of fatigue failures during training and competitions.


Composite materials Failure analysis Fractography SEM 



  1. 1.
    K. Affeld, K. Schichl, A. Ziemann, Assessment of rowing efficiency. J. Sports Med. 14, 39–41 (1993)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    A. Coppel, T.N. Gardner, N. Caplan et al., Simulating the fluid dynamic behvaiour of oar paddles in competition rowing. J. Sports Eng. Technol. 224, 25–35 (2010)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    M. Hofmijster, E. Landman, R. Smith, Effect of Stroke Rate on the Distribution of Mechanical Power in Rowing. J. Sports Sci. 25, 403–411 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    D. Hawkins, A new instrumentation system for training rowers. J. Biomech. 33, 241–245 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    N. Secher, Physiological and biomechanical aspects of rowing. J. Sports Med. 15, 24–42 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    P. Pudlo, F. Barbier, J.C. Angue, Instrumentation of the concept II ergometer for optimization of the gesture of the rower, in The Engineering of Sport, 1st edn., ed. by S. Haake (A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, 1996), pp. 137–146Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    K. Pilgeram, M.J. Delwiche, Device for on-the-water measurement of rowing ouput. J. Sports Eng. Technol. 9, 165–174 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    A. Millward, A study of the forces exerted by an oarsman and the effect on boat speed. J. Sports Sci. 5, 90–103 (1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    F. Breitschadel, Vibration analyses of single scull oars. Procedia Engineering 2, 3011–3016 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Concept2. Quality Control and Testing. Accessed Augt 2014
  11. 11.
    M. Masuelli, Introduction of fibre-reinforced polymers—polymers and composites: concepts, properties and processes., in Fibre Reinforced PolymersThe Technology Applied for Concrete Repair. Epub ahead of print 23 January 2013.
  12. 12.
    D. Roylance, Laminated Composite Plates. Report, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge USA 2000Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    J. Rouchon, in Fatigue and Damage Tolerance Evaluation of Structures: The Composite Materials Response. Report for the National Aerospace Laboratory. Report no. NLR-TP-2009-221, May 2009Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Concept2. Checking and Setting Oar Length. Accessed Aug 2014
  15. 15.
    Creaform. Technical Specifications: Handyscan 3D Handheld 3D Scanner. Accessed Aug 2014
  16. 16.
    Tescan. Vega3 XM. Accessed Aug 2014
  17. 17.
    Seal Laboratories. How SEM-EDS Works. Accessed Aug 2014
  18. 18.
    AcpComposites. Product Specification Reference Sheet: Mechanical Properties of Carbon Fibre Composite Materials, Fibre/Epoxy resin (120 degree C cure). Accessed Aug 2014

Copyright information

© ASM International 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fabian Erazo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jeremy Laliberte
    • 1
  • Xiao Huang
    • 1
  • Charles-Li Benard
    • 1
  1. 1.Carleton UniversityOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations