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Saturday, March 31, 2007

In Search Of A Rudder (Part 1)

The Original Westsail Rudder Design Well, I don't know how long it has been since I blogged about the rudder. I think the last time I did I was looking into what it would take to build one from the original drawings. I had taken a copy of the construction drawing for the original steel rudder frame over to my stainless fab guy. It calls for half inch steel plate.
He looked it over and initially said "yeah, it could be made".
Then he said, "Wait, how big is this thing?" (the drawing was not to scale and the dimensions were hard to read).
"It's about 5 feet tall" I said.
He comes back with "Do you know how much this will weigh? Just the steel? That is about 500 pounds! I can't build that. I don't have the equipment to move around something that heavy!"
To which I responded, "Yeah, you are right. Never mind what it takes to build it, but do *I* want to move something this heavy around when it is done?"
That pretty much ended the pursuit of a rudder along the original design. The two images you see here are the original Westsail designs. Pursuing A "Newer" Rudder Design So, I started thinking it over and did some research into rudder design, foil shapes and construction techniques. Most of what you find is targeted towards racing boats with spade rudders. I didn't find much on full keel skeg hung rudders. This was all very interesting, but I realized, a rudder is not something on which to take risks, and I don't have the time to do the engineering work. Besides, I thought, rudder design and construction MUST have progressed a way in the last 30 years since the original design. So, we decided it would be best contact someone who has experience in this area, instead of trying to hack it ourselves. So we rang up Bob Perry's office and set up a meeting. We brought a copy of the original sail plan and drawings of the original rudder design and build instructions. The first hour was almost comical as Bob was looking over the drawings, he started muttering things like
"What's THIS for?", "Why did they do THAT?", and "Why didn't they do THIS?"
So as we started talking rudders I asked,
"Can you improve on the original rudder design?"
"On this boat? Not by much!" he responded.
Judging by his tone I believe he was thinking "These two crazy people are expecting a redesign of this rudder is going to make this boat faster!"
Once I realized this I said, "Look, we are not expecting a new rudder will turn this into a racing boat!"
"But why do it?", he said.
"Because we don't have a rudder, AT ALL!"
At this point his tone changed and everything clicked. Obviously, we did not make clear that we have no rudder.
With that confusion cleared up I said, "This original design will weigh 500 pounds! If you think this is a good design, then say so. But I would rather not lug around a 500 pound rudder if we don't have to!"
He paused,
"...nah, we can do better."
So, that was pretty much that. We stayed and talked with him and his engineers about other things nautical. This was a few months ago, since then, his engineer Tristan has been working on the drawings. We picked up the final drawings last week. Tristan did great work. I will post more info about that in another entry.

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