Features June 2017 Issue

Sailing Without a Rudder

Drogues offset helm to get you home again.

Loss of steering may well be the most common cause of rescue for boats sailing offshore, but the problem is even more common inshore where there is more debris to hit. An emergency rudder is always possible, but for most of us, extra gear to rig, cost, and strength concerns most often render the option impractical. Wrestling an emergency rudder into position will be physical and possibly dangerous in rough conditions. In the case of a catamaran it is simple to disconnect a rudder that is jammed straight, but what if it is jammed hard over, as in the loss of the Alpha 42 Catamaran Be Good Too in 2014? Tests have been published using drogues for steering with the rudder either removed or locked in position, showing that in moderate weather even sailing to windward is practical as long as sails were adjusted in concert and the drogue position was adjustable. Our questions go further. What if the rudder has jammed an angle? Are all drogues appropriate for this purpose? How do you choose the best size?

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