As with the other elements of the rowing setup there is considerable variety in the length and type of oars that are used in ocean rowing. Macon or ‘tulip’ style oars are favoured by most crews as, if the oars are setup with zero pitch on the collar of a spare oar can fit into either side rowlock if one in use is broken.
Handles on ocean rowing oars tend to be larger diameter than normal help to prevent ‘rowing claw’. This affects ocean rowers after a hard day on the oars and is when the joints in a rower’s hand lock solid during a rest period into a claw requiring physical manipulation to start moving it again. Ocean rowers don’t ‘feather’ the oar (like flat water rowers do) and the spoon remains square to the water for the whole recovery. This means that thicker handles than normal can be used.
Unlike conventional sculling boats it isn’t recommended to have oars that cross over or can touch each other. This small gap in-between the end of the oar handles prevents thumbs being squashed together accidentally in choppy water. Total oar lengths again vary considerably depending on the size and weight of the crew but it is considered better to have a setup which is a little too light than one which is too hard to help prevent strain injuries. After all a fully laden ocean rowing boat weights quite a lot and with a long trip ahead of you having a back ache on day one is no fun.
It isn’t unknown for oars to snap or break when hit by a powerful wave or during a capsize. As oars are one of the few things that it is very difficult to mend during a trip it is certainly recommended that the strongest and most sturdy oars as possible are taken. This means that ocean rowing oars are generally based upon a rowing oar (rather than a sculling oar) from those used in flat water rowing. Also because oars are so indispensible most crews take several spare oars so they can carry on when some are broken mid-route.
PLEASE NOTE: Standard flat water sculling diameter oars are NOT suitable for ocean rowing – They will snap.