PEI

Former Olympic rower from P.E.I. now leading boat builder for sport

A three-time member of Canada's Olympic team, P.E.I.- born Gord Henry has turned his rowing experience into a successful business, a company that designs and builds racing shells.

Gord Henry's Fluidesign changed rowing with innovative designs

Gord Henry of Fluidesign says his company became an industry leader thanks to innovative designs. (fluidesign.com)

A three-time member of Canada's Olympic team, P.E.I.- born Gord Henry has turned his rowing experience into a successful business — a company that designs and builds racing shells.

Henry rowed for Canada in the 80s, and was the national rowing team coordinator for two more games, before moving into the building side of the sport in London, Ontario.

That's where Island Morning spoke to him about Fluidesign, and how he switched careers.

"When I was rowing, I never thought much about the equipment," said Henry. "It wasn't until this other boat builder here encouraged me to come work for him that whetted my appetite of the equipment side of the sport."

Fluidesign's single rowers weigh less than 31 pounds. (Fluidesign.com)
Before long, Henry formed his own company, one that raced ahead of the competition thanks to an important innovation in the sport.

"We've developed a really unique product that the industry has been copying," he explained. "In singles, we have over 50 per cent of the North American market. It's been an incredible journey for me.

"We placed our rigger, the part on the boat that holds the oars, behind the rower, which had never been done before, and made that the unique part of our product. After about 10 years, every other serious boat builder really in the world decided to adapt that configuration."

In order to stay ahead of the pack, Fluidesign has had to keep coming up with new concepts.

New innovations

"Now what we've done to make our boats unique is we've eliminated paint from our finishes, so all of our boats are completely clear, you can see all the fabric that they're made with," Henry said. "It makes them lighter, it makes them more attractive, and it allows the customer to see the technology that they're purchasing."

The equipment has changed dramatically over the years.

In order to get the most speed, racers want the lightest-possible boat. "In the case of a single, less than 31 pounds completely ready to row," said Henry of his carbon fibre-made craft.

While his business competition is mainly the North American market, he does have one Caribbean country (he wouldn't say which) using his boats at the Rio Olympics, and of course, he's been watching too, as a former team member in the glory years.

"We're not bringing home the medal haul we did in the 90s, 1992 and 1996, between the two of them we brought home 11 medals. This Olympics we will probably only get one."

He's not worried for the future though; Henry says internationally the team is simply a couple of seconds off right now, and he feels they will rebound in future games.

With files from Island Morning