New rudder design


Upside down?
Staff member
Thread starter #1
According to the latest Windward Leg (Winter 2004/5), the new rudder design has been getting a good reception by the (very) few volunteers who have used it. To put the new design to a real test, could Vanguard be persuaded to provide these rudders for the upcoming Worlds in Martinique (~45 boats max)? It appears that the wooden version of the blade would only need one adjustment (the placement of one of the holes; not a big deal IMHO). The plastic version would require (much) more extensive tooling.

More in general, it seems that the new rudder design (whether plastic or wood), would be a real improvement when reaching in heavier winds. I hope that the USSCA will keep pushing.....

SF 51990
I Hope They Do Not Change. The Current Style Has Worked Well

For Over Fifty Years. And It's Draw Backs Are What Make The Boat So

Much Fun. We Would All Have To Buy A New One. And Have A $350 Pos In

The Garage. To Look At Or Make A Trophy Out Of. I Have To Buy Enough

Equp. Just To Replace What Gets Broken. Bring Vangard Into It And

Someone There Will See How To Make An Extra Buck. 1800 Active Racer's

Times Oh Let's Say The New And Improved One Has To Be Worth $500.

I Say K.i.s.s. Want To Point Higher Sail A Laser !!!!
JMHO, but over the years the "improvements" have actually shrunk the active racing class. Back in the 60's & early 70's any fish could go out and at least keep the fleet in sight. When the Fogh replaced the Ratsey, you had to get a new sail or be left so far behind it was embarresing. Then the "racing" sail totally seperated those poor folk that bought recreational fish. No to mention when the Plastic Fantastic board came out. Now the rudder.
Face it Vanguard has it's own interests at heart, and the true diehard active racers are willing to spend what ever it takes to keep up. If Vanguard changes something it'll be because it's cheaper to make or the fact they are having problems with the wood price escalating.
From the last time I checked what it would take to "upgrade" a recreational fish to a base "race" fish included
line kit
racing sail
dagger board
costing apx $500
not to mention things like adjustable goosenecks, new bridle with roller block, hiking strap, spar blocks for adjustable out haul and cuningham, etc
add the cost of a new rudder and you'll see less and less "racers" and more fish stuck behind garages.

If Vanguard really wanted a one design boat they wouldn't sell recreational versions.
Is it really the improvements or the upgrades that are causing the lower #'s or the fact that there are alot more singlehanded one designs coming out. It appears that everyone has there own prefect single hander no matter your size (or weight) these days. I think 50 years ago the fact the sunfish was there as a one design was a huge plus to the sailing world in general and the boats are still still cheap to own and race is an even bigger plus. If the boat was any more in vouge it would end up in the Olymics then the price would go thru the roof.


Upside down?
Staff member
Thread starter #5
My posting of a suggestion/proposal seems to have opened up the old question of whether we want to adhere to very strict one-design or allowing the design to slowly evolve. This was not really my topic, but I would like to point out

1. the current board has two problems: it does split (there are numerous postings about that problem and how to fix it) and reaching in winds above ~15 mph generates a lot of helm. The new concept blade might solve both problems (which are, in fact, interrelated) and save a substantial number of us the cost (or hassle) of repairing or replacing a split blade. With respect to the new concept blade, I would hope that the old blade could be modified cheaply (by drilling a new hole) to allow the 105 degree position. Obviously, if the class and Vanguard ultimately decide on a plastic blade, there would be additional expense for those wanting to modernize. Clearly, Sunfishers in the good time category won't need to go that route. And old blades wouldn' t necessarily end up as garage or garden ornaments, although they might make nice trophies with lots of room for names :)

2. I didn't state that the new blade would help pointing. I don't think it will, but I am not an expert sailor.

Finally, the class has seen some changes over its fifty years and another, relatively minor change is now being contemplated. Consider the change from wood to fiberglass; that was major.....
Although this is difficult for me to do I am about to DEFEND Vanguard, at least on this one. Any one who knows me will tell you that I am not a Vanguard fan, I worked for them and I have an opinion of that company that makes it very strange for me to be here standing up for them. However, it must be done in this case.

1. We, the class, are the ones pushing for the change. Vanguard has agreed to look into it with us but they are not the ones who are leading this charge. It is not just another money making scheme from the “Big Evil Empire”.

2. During Vanguards tenure as manufacturer they have not been responsible for any changes to the specifications of the Sunfish. The rolled edges, bigger cockpit, new race sail and the plastic Daggerboard were all changes made prior to Vanguard. The only thing I “Think” might be attributable to them would be the aluminum tiller extension, but that may have been done by Sunfish/Laser.

3. This is a recreational boat! I hate to say it because I want to believe “EVERYONE” wants to race their sunfish but the truth is that we the racers only make up a small percentage of all sunfish owners. Keep in mind that for every 100 Sunfish sold only 8-15 will be raced. Why exactly would the manufacturer want to change all of the boats to meet the desires of such a small cross section of the buyers? With that being said, they have actually made improvements to the base package, now when you buy a new boat you get the plastic daggerboard and a ratchet block as well as race ready mainsheet and halyard. To upgrade a new boat to a race boat is about $150. You can swap out the Rec. sail for a race sail ($100) add two cleats, the line for the Cunningham and outhaul and a quick adjust lever ($50) and that’s it!

4. And this is just as a point of reference….you can get a new wood rudder blade for $140! Of course if you really want to be competitive you will have to spend 20-40 hours of tedious labor to maximize it!!!!

I just wanted to throw my $.02 in on this because I don’t think we need to create new reasons to dislike the manufacturer, we seem to have enough already.

Whether or not we, as a class, should or should not approve a change in the rudder is a much bigger issue, and for now I will reserve my opinion on that. But one thing is for sure, it is not just a get rich quick scheme from Vanguard.
One of the joys offered by racing sailboats is dis-assembling a
port-tacker's rudder whose crossing falls just a little short.
From what I understand, the proposed rudder presents less of
an above water profile. As it is, the thing is already a small target
that requires considerable skill to hit. Let's not make the target any smaller....
wavtdancer please excusue my rant about vangard. I am not an expert although I've
had the pleasuer of being around what I consider the best fleet in sailing for a few year's and have formed some strong feeling's about the boat,the fleet's,'the great people from all over the world that sail and love the SUNFISH. I know no other fleet that you can see a young kid and a 70 year old sitting with a soda and beer talking
after a race about all that went on that day.

I have been around youth sailing program's for the past 8 or 10 year's and have watched the marketing of sailing and it's equipment to the parent's of young sailor's.

And the lack of support the Sunfish Fleet has had to encourage kid's into it. It was only 2 or 3 year's ago that thay even reconised The Sunfish as a raceing boat. for the past 15 year's thay have pushed the Laser a tippy flippy expensive $5500 +- New boat
The stongest sailor usualy win's. You sould be 120 lbs to right it. most little girls won't be 120lbs till after their first child.

I have been to Regata's and seen fleet's of 350 kids.And 50% were girl's. look at a Laser ragata you my only see 5 or 10. They get tired of getting beat up and quit.
If the sunfish fleet's were promoted more kid's would still be sailing.The problem is you can easly find a used sunfish for $500 to $1.000 and hit the water raceing. Where is the profit for them in that.

I know I strayed off the subject the subject of the new rudder just had to vent and thank the forum for giving me the platform to do so.Next time you go Sailing invite a kid
with out new blood our fleet's will contine to die as it;s members do.
Question for those in the know about the new rudder.....

Would I be able to hack the bottom off my woodie and re-drill a hole and make it into a new style rudder within class rules or is this a "old wood one" or "new plastic one" only type of thing?

Seems like Tom Whitehurst (thanks for the effort BTW) is playing with wood ones for the time being and trying to find one that doesn't load up on a reach but doesn't offer any other significant advantage over the old style. I have no problem with either way we go on this as I feel the existing rudder can be controlled just fine with experience and a new one wouldn't break my bank either.

In the long run a rudder that doesn't want to load up, break, or cause a potential safety issue due to loss of control may improve the way people receive the boat. I don't think we are talking about $300 here, probably half that at best (especially if there is an upgrade special to existing boat owners).

And to pimp, as far as bringing kids into the class, jsdeimel and I are doing our part with 3 sunfish kiddies each! How 'bout you???
I Hope They Do Not Change. The Current Style Has Worked Well

For Over Fifty Years. And It's Draw Backs Are What Make The Boat So

Much Fun. We Would All Have To Buy A New One. And Have A $350 Pos In

The Garage. To Look At Or Make A Trophy Out Of. I Have To Buy Enough

Equp. Just To Replace What Gets Broken. Bring Vangard Into It And

Someone There Will See How To Make An Extra Buck. 1800 Active Racer's

Times Oh Let's Say The New And Improved One Has To Be Worth $500.

I Say K.i.s.s. Want To Point Higher Sail A Laser !!!!

I Agree Cookie Pimp. If God Had Meant The Sunfish To Be Perfect She Would Have Made It A Laser.

All The Draw Backs Are What Makes It Different And Interesting And Fun. We Should Keep It As The Designers Intended. Ban These New Sails And New Daggerboards And New Rudders And Silly Bits Of String To Adjust The Sails. Let's Restore All Racing Sunfish To The 1950's Specs And Then See Who Is The Best Sailor. Elvis Lives.
NE Sunfish said:

4.And this is just as a point of reference….you can get a new wood rudder blade for $140! Of course if you really want to be competitive you will have to spend 20-40 hours of tedious labor to maximize it!!!!
What????? I Need To Spend 40 Hours On A New Blade To Be Competitive???? Doing What To It May I Ask? I Shell Out All Those Bucks For A New Boat In A Supposed One Design Class And Then Find That I'm Not Competitive Because The Top Guys Know Some Secret Way To Make The Boat Faster BY Modifying It????????

No Wonder The Laser Is More Popular!
Geezer, I hate to tell you this, but there are just as many "secrets" in the Laser class.
As for the reworking the rudder, Glassing it, was never the "upgrade" that doing it to the old wooden board was. With the rudder spending most of it's time in turbulent water compared to the dagger board it didn't have as much effect.
The true speed secret for the rudder was to"optimize" the angle. I remember one race when about 1/2 the "pros" got slapped by the measurer for having dropped the blade a few degrees down from the regulation angle.
On one rec sailer boat with the old paddle style rudder, I broke the blade and replaced it with a new style wooden one and mounted it so it was vertical. Even with the old bronze mounting the boat would handle SOOOO much better.
Well I Just Had To Go Out And See The New Rudder For My Self.i Listened To It's Supporter's .they Make Some Good Points. I've Kept An Open Mind And Talked With As Many Sailors As I Could At The Masters And The Ones Still Here Preping For Mid Winters This Weekend. Out Of All Who Sailed With It
Most Responces Were Very Positive To My Negitive Responces
And Just A Few Wanted To Hold Judgement Till Thay Could Try It In 20++
Winds. Ps These Were The Best Of The Best Sunfish Sailors In The World.
I'm Still So Sore From My 1st Attempt At An 82 Boat Fleet. But I Am Going To Try This Rudder My Self If I Can Get Back Out There.
Since I am heading up this project, I’ll give some everyone my input.

Currently, we’re looking at different prototypes. Of the four tested so far, we are making 6 blades of the original prototype I to be distrusted to a testing team for their input and comments and present our facts to the World Advisory Council after our testing has concluded.

This is not a speed issue but rather a boat handling issue. From our test results, we have accomplished this already. We also identify some known problems and solved how to fix them too to prevent rudder breakage and or damage.

1) Improved handling: Over the years, I’ve seen so many struggle with the boat in heaver conditions. In wind over 15, it is very hard to steer with the current blade. This improvement from our testing will eliminate that problem.
2) Less breakage & maintenance: The current blade does require a lot of maintenance. It splits because of how the wood grain, rudder, tiller bolts and spring post align. Also, when the rudder is kicked up it hits the rudder head casting which allows further damage and water getting into the wood in an area that is not good.

It is our intent that the final blade be much like the composite daggerboard that cannot be modified except to repair and or resurface. This will minimize the hours that most races do to their existing blade.

The 105 degree of angle materialized because this is as far downward as the rudder can go and still kick-up out of the water for beaching. As for modifying the existing blade to the 105 degree angle, I’ve looked at that too and it is not doable without adding material to the rudder head area. The spring post would be aft of the blade. Vanguard has made one ( which I’ve not seen yet ) but it cannot be the same shaped head as the existing stock blade and still work. It can be retooled but that would not help with those that want to just modify their existing blades.

As for the cost and or constructions, that will be done between the Class and Vanguard. We are concerned with any additional expense but this is not a big expense. The Laser composite blade is only $130.00 retail.

Tom Whitehurst
No one actually raced with any of the prototypes.

We did get a chance to test both of Larry Cochran's prototypes I & II in 25+ and both were execelent. Sailing upwind there was little to no helm with Proto I. Prototype II had a little since it is a shorter blade. The tiller was centerline! Reaching was out of site with no cavitation problems and very little tiller movement to stear the boat.

Both Todd Edwards and I had so much fun in 25+ it was hard to go back out that afternoon and sail with our old blade. I did notice that sailing upwind with the old blade my tiller was above the cotpit to keep the boat sailing straight.

Tom Whitehurst
Thanks for dispelling some rumor and innuendo, Tom!

It sounds to me like the improvements would not only make the boat more fun and safer for recreational purposes, but less troublesome for racing (with maintenance and upkeep).

I would think that the pricing for the new rudder would probably be lower than the laser blade at least initially since Vanguard could crank out a few hundred for immediate distribution to those wanting to upgrade. When JY 15 went to a 1 piece mast from a 2 piece mast, the upgrade price was cheaper than the new mast cost. I don't think there was any upgrade deals with the laser vang though :mad:

I wonder how long this initiative will take to realize on the racecourse?
Hopefully after NA's. I don't want that regatta to get any more expensive :D
Ok, the existing rudder has some structural shortcomings. When my original showed signs of splitting, perhaps the mid 70's, I reinforced it with dowel pins. I got another 20 yrs. out of it. This past summer I cut the top off of it, redrilled it, and used it on my MiniFish which I'm sure deserves a smaller rudder. The wooden parts back in the 70's were made of Phillipine Mahogany. Don't know what they're using today and don't particularly care! The ones I'm making now are either African, or Central American Mahogany. I'm unaware of how the splitting characteristics of these woods compare with Phillipine Mahogany and doubt it matters much. The bottom line is, anybody can reinforce their rudder as I did and put the splitting issue to bed. By the way, the cast rudder head is rather soft and it's an easy task to round the corner of the casting where it impacts the rudder (this is only something I did this past summer). Now, this issue of weather helm intrigues me. Perhaps I'll try a modified rudder design and perhaps I won't get around to it! I don't race and I'm wondering why changing rudder design is such an issue. Isn't having a racing sail just as much, or a bigger issue to the one design concept?

Read the article and comments. This project accomplishes two goals. The first is a boat that handles better and easier to sail for everyone. The second goal is to eliminate the know problems so that there is no breakage or the need to spend hours modifying the blade so it fits correctly and is stronger. Thus, eliminating having to put additional pins as you say and re-fair, reshape and or reinforce the blade.

I too modify my stock blade when they’re new. I plain the varnish off and re-fair the front and leading edges. In additions, I also reshape the head and glass ( reinforce ) it to eliminate problems..... “IT’S A LOT OF WORK” Our goal with a this new blade is its ready to sail and like the daggerboard, you’ll only be able to repair and or resurface it if needed.

If you don't race.... than you can still use the old blade and even buy a new ( old ) style but if you try one of these blade.... you'll be sold on how well the boat handles.

From our testing so far, speed has not been even noticeable between new and old style rudders. However, the boat handling is snificant and make the boat so much more fun. Not to mention, will make it safer and keep our younger sailor interesting in sailing this boat.

Tom Whitehurst