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Chris, I have done a non-scientific paddle comparison also. In the last two years I bought two used Greenland 2 piece paddles. One (Feathercraft) has a noticeable center line and relatively flat sides going from the center line to quite narrow edges-sort of a thin diamond cross section. The second paddler has a elongated oval cross section and fatter edges. Both are about 88" in length and 3 1/4 width.
About ten times I have gone out paddling with paddlers from my club and had them try the two paddles, changing paddles about ever 5-10 min, for about 45 min-60 min. I didn't give them any information before or during the "trial" or even say it was an informal trial. At the end of the "trial" I just asked them which they preferred? All preferred the Feathercraft paddle shape. To my surprise I did too, and I had been paddling another paddle of the rounded oval shape (by the same paddle maker) whenever I chose a GP over my cherished Aleut.
Ron, I agree there are numerous factors that go into paddle performance and any shape can be made move or less powerful by varying those factors. My Aleut has somewhat similar blade area as my GPs (a guess, not measured) but has a very wide loom, so it does have a longer lever arm. The one I'm making presently will have a narrower loom, so I will be interested to see what difference I feel between them when paddling. I choose not to attempt scientific comparisons as I would rather spend my time paddling.
but I can't quantify exact numbers.
BTW I use a kayak paddle. 230 works for me. I prefer to avoid longer paddles as they generate too much yaw with their longer lever arms. However my solo canoes are all less than 28 inches wide at the paddling station. The length and my stroke matches so that drippage is almost all outside the canoe. Sitting I can keep the blade entirely forward of mid thigh.. I cant do that on the bottom of the boat.
The length depends on a lot of variables. I use a kayak paddle because the mass produced double blades I could find for canoe were too long, klunky,heavy and too big a shaft diameter. What I don't need in long days on the Gulf of Mexico is extra weight to hold up.
Sit and switch is a reasonable alternative..but flying truly solo in big waters I just don't want to risk dropping my paddle during the switch.