Preview: How Sailboat Rudders Evolved: Current Designs Arrived Via Varied Routes, by Rob Mazza

This is an article from Good Old Boat (a magazine we like a lot), written by Rob Mazza. Good Old Boat and Rob have graciously allowed us to republish it for OCH members.

Sailboat Rudders - VEDETTE - 1892
VEDETTE – 1892

I enjoy tracking developmental paths in all aspects of yacht design, and the evolution of the rudder is no exception. I won’t go all the way back to the Viking and North Sea steering oar, or “steerboard,” although it supposedly gave us the term “starboard — because the steer-board was always mounted on the right side of the canoe stern. (The term “port” arose due to the vessel having to berth with her left side on the pier while in port to avoid damaging the steer-board.)

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7 Responses So Far to “How Sailboat Rudders Evolved: Current Designs Arrived Via Varied Routes, by Rob Mazza

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    Mike Wolter says:

    Prior to the term ‘Port’ for the left side of a vessel looking fore it would have been ‘Leeboard’. As the two had sounded very similar, ‘starboard’ and ‘leeboard’, confusion may be had over what side of the vessel was being referred to. This would have been particularly the case on military vessels equipped with cannons. Either the hearing protection or the loud percussive blasts made these words almost indistinguishable. In order to rectify that, the term ‘Port’ took the place of ‘Leeboard’. As ‘port’ is synonymous with ‘door’ for both supplies and personnel it would seem most appropriate.

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    Rick Pratt says:

    I echo the request for an article on shallow draft rudders. We are building a Gulf coast Scow Schooner as per Chapelle.

    Rick Pratt
    Farley Boat Works
    Port Aransas, Texas

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    Charles Zimmermann says:

    Great article. It would be interesting to read a similar article on the history of rudder design for boats that were designed for very shallow water. I think that in the Netherlands in the 18th century, boatbuilders were experimenting with shallow draft rudders and decided the best strategy was to have a lot of beam and a fair amount of ballast. A 20th century design along these lines would be the Beetle Cat. The main problem is the shallow draft of the keel, not the shallow draft of the rudder, hence the interest in centerboard designs.

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    Michael A Shriver says:

    Very interesting and an easy read considering it came from an engineer…I do not mean that as a bad thing…a really great read…I come from out of the aerospace world and this shows what logical thinking can produce.

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    Ross Emmans says:

    I have a C&C Redwing, a racer/cruiser built in 1970 to the CCA rule with an unusual scimitar shaped rudder….I wonder if anyone could comment on the thinking/purpose of that design/shape.
    Ross Emmans,
    Parry Sound,Ont.

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    Weaver Lilley says:

    Great article and pictures. Really love the half hulls.