Rudder Poll

Do you agree that the rudder design of the Sunfish should remain as it is now?

  • YES

    Votes: 31 67.4%
  • NO

    Votes: 15 32.6%

  • Total voters
Thread starter #1
Do you agree with the decision of the Sunfish World Council NOT to approve a radical change to the design of the boat by allowing a completely new design of rudder?
Thread starter #2
Seems like the majority of voters in our poll are against a radical redesign for the rudder.

I'm still puzzled as to why the discussions on this issue at the Martinique Advisory Council and World Council meetings were never recorded or were perhaps censored from the official minutes published in the Windward Leg.


Staff member
I am going to reopen this poll so those who have not voted can make their thoughts heard. Feel free to elaborate on your decision via a reply.
If the Sunfish suffers from an inherent design flaw as William Mantis points out, and I'm in agreement with him, in that the rig/mast is placed too far aft, causing the boat to head up as soon as one removes his hands from the tiller, I fail to see that bringing the rudder forward, reducing the rudder/tillers mechanical advantage, would be desirable. In my mind this would aggravate the problem by requiring greater rudder deflection. Perhaps those with experience with the Super Sunfish (not me), with the sails center of pressure further forward could comment on what I would predict would be a "more in trim configuration".
A more vertical rudder as compared to the trailing current sunfish rudder does create a more reponsive boat. When I mounted a new style rudder to an old sunfish I mounted the rudder almost vertical in the mountings. The boat would tack easier and believe it or not had a lot less weather helm.
FYI: the fact that the Sunfish does come up on the wind when the tiller is released is an advantage for the novice sailer. More than once I didn't get a bath because of it.
Keep in mind that we do not have 100% of the membership taking part in this "poll."

The "proposed rudder design" being put forward by Tom Whitehurst, is still in the consideration phase and nothing more. It is in a testing mode. About 6 blades are supposed to be constructed to be tested in a number of locations by World champions and regular racers. Data is planned to be collected. People are STRONGLY encouraged to talk to their country's Sunfish Class Association leadership about their interest/disinterest in this proposed rudder design.

This design is a major change from what has been the stock rudder blade since the 1970's. Sailors need to decide if it is truly something that is desired, worth the effort, worth the cost, and worth the alienation that MAY come with such a change.

The daggerboard change drove some people away, but it also brought in new ones.

Talk about the issue at regattas you attend. Write to your Regional Representative, your NSCA leadership, and your Advisory Council representative (see ISCA list for that person(s)).

The change will take time. Testing. Communicating. Tweaking. Consideration. Advancing through Class voting procedures. Consideration by ISAF and possible approval or denial. And, there are many opportunities for it to be determined it is not appropriate for the Class. Participate, but do so respectfully and we will end up with a good decision!


Staff member
Gail said:
Keep in mind that we do not have 100% of the membership taking part in this "poll."
Of course, this is not an official poll and is not by any means scientific.
The results of this poll, like any other on The Sunfish Forum, are only intended for the private use of our audience and are not an actual representation of the Sunfish Class body.

I just wanted to clarify this to make sure there is no confusion on the issue.
Thread starter #8
Gail said:
Participate, but do so respectfully and we will end up with a good decision!
I agree Gail, let's hold this discussion respectfully. But let's also be open and truthful.

I know from Chip's post (and from another source) that the new rudder design was discussed at the Advisory Council and World Council meetings in Martinique, that strong views were expressed and that at least one vote was taken. So why is none of that mentioned in the extensive minutes published for both meetings? What are the powers-that-be trying to hide?

With Respect....

Old Geezer
I initially thought that a new rudder configuration would be a great idea. The boat does get loaded up with weather helm quickly and with a swept back rudder, this exaggerates the problem, so why not make it more vertical......So I thought. Then, at the NA's, Paul Jon made a very nice presentation at the member's meeting on the new rudder. The biggest point (to me) that was dished out was that the sunfish has an unblanaced rig, especially when we are moving the gooseneck all over the place. Anyone who races will find this out when trying to remain parked on the line for an extended period of time. When you sheet in to go, the boat rounds up. So to maintain control, we scull within the rules of sculling. A vertical rudder is way less effective at sculling than a sloped back one. Check out the opti for the ultimate sculler. I think the new rudder will have to perform in this respect to be a fair replacement. So far, the only comments have been on SAILING with the new rudder. How about parking and re-starting. How about getting out of irons for the newbies? These are critical issues as well, more-so now in my mind than getting rid of weatherhelm.
Tim, I found that coming up almost parellel to the line (well off close hauled) and luffing the sail works for stalling at the line. The luffed sail extends out to keep your opening and hauling in the sail with the boat effectively on a broad reach allows the boat to start quickly and give almost immediate headway to prevent rounding up and you can bring the boat up to close hauled in about a boat length.
The whole question always comes back to keeping with the "one design" concept of sailboat racing. Once you change the design of a boat to change performance, then you should change from a "one design" class to a "developement" class. To me, the only time a change in design should be considered is when it has been shown that the current design is dangerous. With over 50 years in the water, I do not think the Sunfish is dangerous in its current design. I will concede that the change from the old rudder to the new style in the early seventies resulted in a safer boat. The release of the old rudder under strongs winds did cause a dangerous situation. Will changing the design improve competition in racing? No, because, in the spirit of One Design Racing, it is the sailor, to a large extent, not the boat that makes the difference. Will changing the design bring more people to the Sunfish Class? I think not either. People that are into sailing "on the edge" will go to the Laser or Hobie Cat. With respect to Alex and Cortlandt, we should honor the One Design concept in sailing and keep the Sunfish the way it is. We have already split the class with changes in the past.
It's not that the aft rudder makes for more weather helm, it's that the same rudder in a more vertical position controls it better.
Under the same conditions the vertical position requires less rudder to keep the boat tracking.
Of course resetting the gooseneck and adjusting the cunningham and outhaul will also reduce weather helm. With the rudder vertical you have a wider range before you have to do any adjustments.

Not to mention the vertical position gives less drag and that translates to more speed.
The B-52 has been flying for 50 years and has been modified many times to improve it's performance. It's still a B-52 just better. I would like to know how many of the negitive people have actualy tried the new design rudder. I have spoke to many sailors that have used it (ALL) said it would improve the boats performance. Let's stop living in the past. And keep an open mind how to improve the future of our declining Class.
I believe everybody is for progress. So it is important to keep the Sunfish uptodate.

For those who race, the main issue is that everybody will have to spend money to stay competitive if a new rudder is approved. If the boat is to become faster and easier to sail, I don't see why racers would refuse to update their boat.

I know it would be to bad for tradition, but all classes have changed over time. The important thing is to make subtle changes. A major change in shape of the hull or of the sail would be much more difficult to swallow, even for those who don't race. The Sunfish is so elegant I would not want that kind of radical change. But the rudder is in the water, it has mainly a functional role like the centerboard. So I don't believe that the integrity of the boat would be affected if we change it, on the contrary.

But if it stay as is, it would be fine too. I sailed in 20 knots wind this summer and I had no trouble at all to steer the boat.

So, it is a debate between passion and reason. Let us take more time to discuss and decide.
The concept of "One Design" in sailing is so that when boats race, it is the skill of the skipper that is being tested, not the ability to modify (or afford to modify) the boat. I admit that I am not into aviation, but do the B-52s race often? And perhaps, if one owns one, money is not a consideration as far as keeping up with modifications, as the initial investment is probably quite large. As to all classes making changes that is not true. As a former Comet Sailor I can tell you that in the Comet Class, wooden boats over 30 years old often won regattas over the new Fiberglass boats. It has been pointed out that the Sunfish seems to be the only class that has made perfromancel changes that have split the fleet. In another thread on the board, Mike 4947 points this out. He indicated that the Sunfish's Portsmouth rating has decreased from over 113 (I believe) to 99. The Sunfish has to be one of the, if the not largest, production sailboats in history. Unfortunately, many of the boats sit behind garages, as the owners no longer sail and, because they have not been modified, they have little resale value. I am sure someone could come up with a figure to replace the old style rudder, purchase a racing sail and new board and do the other needed things to race an older boat, but that was already addressed in a previous thread about this same subject.
I very recently bought one of those old boats. So if I pay the "class approved" prices to upgrade to current standards, will I want to pay again soon for yet another rudder!? I don't care right this minute, but unless a new one is approved before I have a chance to upgrade (in which case I'd skip the in-between and go for the "new"), once I've bought, I'd like to avoid additional costs to "keep up". Cheers, Ed
Some points from above:

About the rudder :
"I have spoke to many sailors that have used it (ALL) said it would improve the boats performance. Let's stop living in the past. And keep an open mind how to improve the future of our declining Class." (The Cookie Pimp)

"The Sunfish is so elegant I would not want that kind of radical change. But the rudder is in the water, it has mainly a functional role like the centerboard. So I don't believe that the integrity of the boat would be affected if we change it, on the contrary.
But if it stay as is, it would be fine too. I sailed in 20 knots wind this summer and I had no trouble at all to steer the boat." (blueberry)

I do not believe modifying the performance of the Sunfish will improve the future of our "declining class", but will only serve to splinter it more. I do not see people buying a new Sunfish because of changes, I do see people buying Sunfish because they see them being acively sailed. It was pointed out in a previous thread that one club lost a good portion of it Sunfish fleet when changes accurred that made the older boats unable to compete with the updated boats. Taking boats off the water is not good for the class.
As (blueberry) points out, the Sunfish can be sailed in strong winds. The great part of "One Design Sailing" is that it is the skill of the skipper that is most important. Part of that skill is to know your boat, and how to get the most out of it. If the current rudder does not cause a dangerours situation, it should be kept. This does not mean that the rudder could not be upgraded materialwise, if the performance of the boat did not change. If there is a problem with wood rudders splitting, and a plastic one can be made that does not change the boat performance, then allow the sailor the choice, as boats with either rudder will be competitive, but if you change the rudder design and one boat can now point higher, or gain speed because the rudder does not have to be played to overcome "weather helm", then the boats are no longert competitive. Making boats obsolete is not good for the class. There are many "recreational sailor/racers" that like to race in a club setting, but do not care to race on a higher level and they usually do not care to spend the money to keep their boat up to date with the modifications. These are the sailors we are losing. They are the sailors that keep the boat in the public eye.(scap114)
As one who has been racing Sunfish for more than three decades, I find myself uninterested in making changes to the boat that will impact performance. As "enhancements" are introduced, you can't help but having boats with significantly different levels of performance. This eliminates the value of "one design" racing. While some, perhaps many, racers might opt to upgrade their boats, some will not. Please remember that many racers, especially those just starting out (which is how the fleet will grow), are using older boats while they learn the ropes. I know in my fleet there is only one "race" sail, and I own it. I purposely do not use it (nor do my kids) when racing locally, because it gives us an unfair advantage. So far this year I have had 33 kids in our club race Sunfish, and I don't hear a lot of complaints about one boat being better than another. I would prefer to keep it that way. Sure, change the sail colors and the deck every year just for fun, but let's not create two different classes within the class (those that are willing to spend a lot of money on their boats and those that are not).
From what I'm hearing it comes down to money.
No one has said the rudder will not improve the boats performance.
From my understanding this debate goes back to the time of the new center board. Both were introduced at the same time but the powers to be thought it would be to much of a change and would look at changeing the rudder in the future. Well it's the future.

pwbuell I think it's great your getting kids into the fish. But I've seen so many new sailors get locked in irons and become so fustrated they stick them behind the garage to rot never to sail again.

It's not about making one boat faster than the other. It's about having fun while learning to sail.