The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Are Auxiliary Rudder Self-Steering Gears Strong Enough?

I was really saddened to hear that Golden Globe Race leader Simon Curwen is probably out of the race due to a catastrophic failure of his auxiliary rudder self-steering gear in a broach.

I have long wondered if these gears that actually steer the boat with a separate rudder, rather than control the main rudder as servo pendulum gears like the Windpilot and Cape Horn do, are a good idea.

After all, the rudder and its attachment are one of the most strongly engineered parts of a good offshore boat. So does it really make sense to try and steer the boat with a comparatively flimsy rudder bolted onto the transom?

The other worry is that, even if the gear is up to the job, huge loads are being transferred to the transom, which was probably not engineered by the original naval architect, or builder, to take them.

There is even a suggestion, albeit by a source with an axe to grind, that it was exactly this problem that caused a sudden break up and sinking of another boat in the same race.

And, finally, auxiliary steering gears can’t pivot out of the water and thereby unload in a knock down the way some servo pendulum gears can.

Nothing definitive in all of the above, but definitely something to think about when selecting a vane gear.

Thanks to AAC European Correspondent Colin Speedie for the head’s up and some of the above thoughts.

Much more on self-steering, both vane gear and autopilots.

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