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History & Understanding of NRC's Van Dusen Shells


Grey Matter was trained & trialed in the 1988 Olympics by a light weight women’s double crew.

RANrun was Austin Hack’s (6’8” stroke of the 2016 Olympic eight) personal double scull at Blood Street Sculls.

Seamus was Jim Dietz’s (one of USA’s most successful International scullers) racing single while coaching at USCGA. Each were built by MIT graduate in Naval Construction, Ted Van Dusen, of Boston MA. All of the Van Dusen shells were built to be particularly light weight for racing… Which means they are delicate, racing quality & must be handled by experienced scullers only as follows:

Grey Matter & Seamus each have composite riggers. Bumping these riggers as a crew comes into the dock or a crash into another shell or buoy will damage them. Snap. Seamus was out of commission, as the composite rigger stay (the rigger stay perpendicular from a rowers’ hip at the catch) was broken clean through!


The decking & v-splash of these Van Dusens are particularly delicate. The v-splash is only intended to defend water from entering the bucket. It can not take weight, or a bump of any kind. We purchased just one of these v-splashes … crazy expensive! As a result, the others V-Splashes are rebuilt.

The purpose of the vinyl decking is also to hold out water, but lends no structural strength nor protection to the aero shaft deck ‘ridge’ that runs bow to cockpit & cockpit to stern. This aero shaft is intentionally a free floating piece of carbon fiber / fiberglas fastened only at the ends. When these shells are carried, moved, stored or lifted, a shoulder, a shell rack nor hand can not be placed on the deck, lest the aero shaft is compromised or broken, decking stretched or released. It is key to employ the edge (wooden longitudinal structure) of the hull in a cradle of a sling, one’s shoulder or arm to protect this light weight construction aspect.

In RANrun, the foot stretcher rails are made out of (older) Lexan that is more brittle than the usual aluminum foot stretcher rails of other shells. When adjusting a foot stretcher, first turn the foot stretcher bolt into the foot stretcher rail. Then turn the ‘stabilizing’ wingnut down firmly to ensure the foot stretcher bolt(s) do not ‘work’ in the foot stretcher rail. Should the foot stretcher have a chance to ‘work’, it will damage the Lexan rail. If you see a rail becoming compromised, it will need to be replaced, prior to causing greater damage. Should a foot stretcher let’s fly during a rowing stroke, it causes great damage to the bucket area!

These hulls are like an egg shell … delicate. Again, their hulls should not be placed on one’s ‘hard’ shoulder, or bumped into a ‘hard’ surface. So carry them on a softened shoulder with arm draped fully over the hull (to rid the shoulder bone that pokes a hull causing gel coat crazing). Come into the dock with ease, to avoid bumping the bow against the dock. Possibly even back into the dock to not bump her hull. These hulls can not take a hard hit.

These shells are responsive, light weight & fast, when she is rowed with adroit care!


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