John Lister introduced Steve Killing who has spoken to the Club before about the high speed America's Cup boats and who is now working on 'rowboats'.  He was a PH fellow in 1992, is the President of Huronia Players, was the Express Yachts designer and designer of the True North effort.  Recently a consultant for the NZ team he is now working on rowing shells.
Steve said that records are always being broken but there's some debate about whether it's just the athlete's efforts or technology that should be credited.  So they put current contenders in older boats and found times were generally slower.  But not only are the new boats faster, designers now try to tailer the boat to the athlete.  For example a strong rower might need more stability than a rower who relies more on technique and so would get a wider boat.
Hudson is a manufacturer of shells in London for all levels of athlete and who sells  mostly to clubs but a good performance in international competition is good advertising.  So they dedicate their efforts to high tech solutions using carbon fibre to develop new shapes.  Even the smallest improvement, 1%, can be huge in close finishes.
They build boats for athletes ranging from 130 to 230 lbs and so the boats go from 24 ft 6 inches to 29ft 6.  Generally a narrower boat is faster but at some point stability becomes threatened.  In the big crew boats the boat needs to accommodate the rear of the front rower and the feet of the tail rower which means rounding it out a bit. 
Olympic funding is based on past performance and Canada's rowers have been doing well recently so there is some money for research and they have been doing comparison testing using computer simulations and tank testing.  The weight of the crew can alter the resting shape of the boat - bending it in the middle - so they have to pre-bend the boat so the water line levels when loaded.
Olympic racing is held in lanes but the Cambridge-Oxford race is on a river with bends and some shenanigans, including trying to knock the steering control off the back deck of the competing boat with an oar so Steve designed a mechanism that is covered.  But collisions can happen with other boats and docks so these carefully designed boats had what looked like a tennis ball duct taped onto the bow and Steve has incorporated and aerodynamic design into the build process.
An 8 can achieve 10 knots.  His son Jonathan is working on a canoe on hydrofoils to try for the muscle power speed record with is close to 15 knots.  His team got the boat up on the foils at about 5 knots but it's a phenomenal project.
George thanked Steve for his time and asked for hydrodynamically designed water skiis.