my racing single was about 60 inches. Not many utilitarian or pleasure rowboats have gunwales that wide!
Wide outriggers and sliding seats, along with marked narrowing of the hulls, were the secrets of marked increases in racing speed of sculls and shells. That happened way back around the time of the civil war. There have been only relatively minor improvements since then. I'm not sure that I regard hatchet oar blades as an improvement, never having tried them.
Kayak & Canoe Outriggers
Gedi Convertible Helmet
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