Vertical Rudder Version 2.0: Downhaul, Uphaul, No Springs


Well-Known Member
One of the coolest things about growing up in coastal Massachusetts was playing in the tides. We’d see tidal ranges of 10.5+ feet and even more during storms. One favorite tidal pastime as a kid was exploring with my buddies and seeing how close we could get to getting our boats stuck in remote places at low tide. So, we spent a lot of time motoring and sailing in very shallow water.

During that time, I bought a 470. It had the usual rudder downhaul. But it also came with a rudder uphaul as well. That was really handy. So, early in 2023 I started pondering ways to upgrade my vertical rudder so that I could do the things and explore the places I used to be able to in the tidal waters of Massachusetts.

After a fair amount of tinkering I came up with a design that I really liked, was easy to use and also included an interesting feature. No more springs. I spent this spring, summer and fall sailing my Sunfish extensively with this “Vertical Rudder: Version 2.0” in the Russian River. That included in conditions where the water was quite shallow, and in some places, a lot of weeds.

It was quite amazing how many new sailing experiences and locations this Version 2.0 opened up for me. Here’s a few of the things I was able to do with this new Frankenstein rudder. Photos included below.

  • Fully lower and raise my rudder for launching and landing without getting my hands wet (unlike my Laser)
  • Raising or lowering the rudder to whatever angle I wanted and then holding it in place at that angle.
  • Sailing through thick weeds and algae with a vertical rudder and then being able to shed all of them in just a few seconds.
  • Quickly shedding the weeds that catch on your rudder when you raise your dagger board to clear it of weeds.
  • Sailing and maneuvering through ridiculously shallow water.
  • Having the vertical rudder auto adjust its angle as you sail into temporarily shallower water just by uncleating the rudder downhaul.
By the way, is there a way to add notes to individual pictures in the "photo album" area?


- Andy


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Outstanding! I had a line-activated rudder on a nother boat but nothing as neat as this setup with the nice hardware, ropework, and tiller choices :)
You could always just copy the Super Porpoise rudder and just put a giant hunk of lead in the bottom of the rudder to weight it down. ;)
Question for the folks running vertical rudders:
-How deep are your blades past the low point on the transom?
Cool. Did you fiddle with a bungee downhaul at all?
Hello SC, hope all is well and you and Skipper are continuing to settle in to your new-ish locale. :)

No, I didn't fiddle with a bungee downhaul at all. But it might not be a bad idea. Here's the Salty Tale (well, brackish actually) as to why.

With the Navionics Boating App (NBA) on my phone I'm now able to sail the Russian River at lower levels than before because I've set waypoints along the river that allow me to stay in the deepest sections and link those deepest together when running up the river or pointing down the river.

So, there I was running in about 12 mph winds along a section that was just deep enough to have my rudder vertical and held in that position with my downhaul line locked in its brand new (ie, sharp teeth) aluminum Clam cleat.

Without any visual warning ahead, I hit something with my rudder. It was solid, either a rock or log because it was quite a jolt. I looked back at the rudder to see if it was alright, swerved back and forth to see if the rudder still functioned and it did. Hmmmm... that was interesting, I guess we are ok.

Then a few minutes later I started to notice a slight amount of weather helm that was building on the rudder, even though I was still just running. Investigation revealed that my rudder was beginning to move from straight vertical to a bit raked back. Further investigation showed that the new sharp teeth of the Clam cleat had cut completely through the braided polyester cover that protects the Dyneema core.

The Dyneema core was still fine but now the Clam cleat was having a hard time holding on to the smaller diameter, slippery Dyneema. For another 30 minutes I had to keep re-tightening the rudder downhaul until I finally pulled over and MacGyver-ed a more permanent solution.

So, having a section of bungee installed somewhere along my rudder downhaul would have let the rudder pop up a bit when I hit the object. Like the springs. Since "The Clam Incident", when I am passing through shallower water I just uncleat the downhaul and the rudder stays vertical but isn't held forcefully in that position. Then when I'm back in deeper or more familiar water, I cleat it and lock it down again.

Attached is a photo of the 4 mm Robline Dinghy Control Line where I spliced a transition from the black and white polyester cover with the blue Dyneema inside on the left to just the Dyneema. The severing of the polyester cover occurred just out of shot to the left. Astonishing, really, that the Clam cleat went through the cover so easily (maybe there was wear there already). But the cover did it's job... the Dyneema emerged from The Clam Incident unscathed without even so much as a scratch!


- Andy

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