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Which sub 37 ft yacht to cross the North Atlantic in?

Carib

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There are thousands of spade rudders in use like my friends Dufour that was lost in the Atlantic when the rudder was bent backwards and jammed hard against the hull. Major manufacturers are still constructing rudders in the same way as far as I know. Whilst in the Azores this summer on my way back across the Atlantic two Jeaneau yachts were lifted out in Horta due to spade rudder failure. Fortunately nobody lost their life in the incidents and compared to the many yachts crossing the Atlantic the proportion of failure is small.
Small, but I suspect significant (in contrast to, say, the vanishingly small number of keel failures). On our year transat sailing we knew of two or three steering or rudder failures (that is, boats in the vicinity at the time, or people who knew people we knew..) - including a family who arrived in Madeira while we were there who had a failure a long way offshore and endured a long-distance tow at high speed behind a container ship.. not fun. I don't recall if this was a spade rudder, but given that steering failure (i) is really not that rare and (ii) has a very high chance of ruining your day if you sail out of reach of assistance, I would say prioritising a design with inherent strength in that area is not a bad move.
 

Bajansailor

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including a family who arrived in Madeira while we were there who had a failure a long way offshore and endured a long-distance tow at high speed behind a container ship.. not fun.
Carib, can you supply any more details about this tow?
I am interested in what strong points they used to attach the tow line (maybe the mast if it was keel stepped?) and what sort of speed they were towed at?
 

dom

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There are thousands of spade rudders in use like my friends Dufour that was lost in the Atlantic when the rudder was bent backwards and jammed hard against the hull. Major manufacturers are still constructing rudders in the same way as far as I know. Whilst in the Azores this summer on my way back across the Atlantic two Jeaneau yachts were lifted out in Horta due to spade rudder failure. Fortunately nobody lost their life in the incidents and compared to the many yachts crossing the Atlantic the proportion of failure is small. Is this move to spade rudders progress or a cost saving measure by manufacturers? There is no doubt that spade rudders need more maintenance that a skeg hung rudders. Is this progress? Most car manufacturers manage to increase the mileage between services. It appears this isnt the case with spade rudder design.

Chilling personal anecdotes aside, while the number of boats I have known to be lost via holing remains vanishingly small, the oceans are unquestionable filling with detritus. Which takes us to arguably the most important aspect of passive safety - watertight bulkheads. The old IMOCA 60s were for example required to be separated by 5 fully coded watertight compartments! Modern offshore vessels sometimes reduce this to 2-watertight bulkheads and a fully watertight and fireproof engine/generator room. For fire is another small but not insignificant risk offshore - and that practically means modern 60 minute fire retardation.

Incidentally, you mentioned [incorrectly] that Morganscloud would not go to sea with a spade rudder. Yet I understand they specified a watertight bulkhead in their aluminium Ovni which would in any event be less susceptible to holing. I wonder why.

As ever, it's ultimately a matter of personal choice and financial means. Modern offshore yacht are unquestionably safer in terms of active safety being faster on every point of sailing and consequently able to weather route more effectively Add to the equation passive measures such as better fire protection, watertight compartments, modern materials, etc. and it becomes a no contest.

It's no different with cars, I might love to whip an old F40 around the track on a dry day and it's just beautiful for 'what it is'! But what it certainly is not is not ready to take on modern vehicles. Else it would end up in the ditch :oops:
 
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Carib

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Carib, can you supply any more details about this tow?
I am interested in what strong points they used to attach the tow line (maybe the mast if it was keel stepped?) and what sort of speed they were towed at?
I'm afraid I don't know, except I remember hearing that the speed - while probably slow for a big ship - was well above the yacht's hull speed! Something like 10 knots +.. Unfortunately I admit this falls into the 'unverifiable anecdote' category! It was a young family and they were very shaken up apparently. I've had a look online and can't find details - this was in November 2012 and they came into Quinta da Lorde.
 

Achosenman

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Reference please. I’ve never heard of such an incident and im very interested to learn about the boat etc.

(I suspect the aft end of our boat would be ripped off before the trailing edge of the rudder pierced our hull.)
The crew on Delos posted on YT about this. They were involved in helping secure a sinking cat that struck a mooring (I think) and the edge of the blade pierced the hull. Have a look at their channel.
 

Carib

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Modern offshore yacht are unquestionably safer in terms of active safety being faster on every point of sailing and consequently able to weather route more effectively
You hear this a lot but the average modern cruising boat, heavily laden, will not be hugely faster than an older design. Slightly, yes, but not enough to just casually skate around weather systems. This point I think has been exaggerated substantially. We're not talking IMOCAs here.

Add to the equation passive measures such as better fire protection, watertight compartments, modern materials, etc. and it becomes a no contest.
How many modern designs have watertight compartments? A great feature I agree, and one you should see more of, but it's very rare. These points relate to specialised expedition-type yachts which I would agree are probably the ultimate in safety. But they don't apply to the average modern yacht when compared to a well-fitted out older design with updated systems.

As for modern materials, I don't see any step change - still largely GRP and aluminium spars - except that (the old argument) your new GRP is likely to be thinner.

Here's another chilling anecdote (guess what kind of rudder they had?) - they certainly ended up in the ditch. One story proves nothing I realise, but there are plenty others out there. Sail Magazine reckons a 1% incidence of ocean rudder failures.
 

geem

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It's no different with cars, I might love to whip an old F40 around the track on a dry day and it's just beautiful for 'what it is'! But what it certainly is not is not ready to take on modern vehicles. Else it would end up in the ditch :oops:
My 13 year old Subaru legacy is getting a little long in the tooth. 147,000 miles. I was getting it MOTed in July, it having been parked in my garage for 10 months. I mentioned to the mechanic that I probably aught to change it for a later model with lower mileage. His response was a surprise. He said the model I have is the best one made. He said Subaru had lost their way on later models and they were not as reliable as mine! Anyway, it passed the MOT but he said three tyres were getting near their limit.
I took the car to another local garage that also did tyres. Chatting the mechanic there are mentioned the comment with regard to Subaru having lost their way on latest models. His reply was that ‘all manufacturers had lost their way! Modern cars were crap’ read in to that what you like😂
 

dom

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My 13 year old Subaru legacy is getting a little long in the tooth. 147,000 miles. I was getting it MOTed in July, it having been parked in my garage for 10 months. I mentioned to the mechanic that I probably aught to change it for a later model with lower mileage. His response was a surprise. He said the model I have is the best one made. He said Subaru had lost their way on later models and they were not as reliable as mine! Anyway, it passed the MOT but he said three tyres were getting near their limit.
I took the car to another local garage that also did tyres. Chatting the mechanic there are mentioned the comment with regard to Subaru having lost their way on latest models. His reply was that ‘all manufacturers had lost their way! Modern cars were crap’ read in to that what you like😂

So that's a 45-year old boat and a 13-year old car that beat the pants off the best today ...and counting!!

You're funny (y) :)
 

geem

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So that's a 45-year old boat and a 13-year old car that beat the pants off the best today ...and counting!!

You're funny (y) :)
We actually have a 40 year old but that splitting hairs! When you do more annual mileage in your boat than your car, whats the point in having an expensive car sat in the garage for 10 months of the year! I guess when you cant convincingly win an argument you get nasty
 

dom

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You hear this a lot but the average modern cruising boat, heavily laden, will not be hugely faster than an older design. Slightly, yes, but not enough to just casually skate around weather systems. This point I think has been exaggerated substantially. We're not talking IMOCAs here.


How many modern designs have watertight compartments? A great feature I agree, and one you should see more of, but it's very rare. These points relate to specialised expedition-type yachts which I would agree are probably the ultimate in safety. But they don't apply to the average modern yacht when compared to a well-fitted out older design with updated systems.

As for modern materials, I don't see any step change - still largely GRP and aluminium spars - except that (the old argument) your new GRP is likely to be thinner.

Here's another chilling anecdote (guess what kind of rudder they had?) - they certainly ended up in the ditch. One story proves nothing I realise, but there are plenty others out there. Sail Magazine reckons a 1% incidence of ocean rudder failures.

100% agree with your overladen point albeit compensated by the fact that cruising boats are getting steadily larger. As for weather routing, no exaggeration, faster boats with better weather routing can often get out out of the way of the worst winds of a big blow or at least the areas where the worst seas are to be found. The Golden Globe organisers incidentally now accepts this and is working on a solution.

As for watertight bulkheads and sometimes fireproof/watertight engine rooms in yachts, it's a surprisingly broad church: Elan Yachts, Pogos, high-end fast cruisers like the Finot FC53, Mini Transats, Amel, and JPK all being examples.

And bear in mind, almost all offshore racers are now required to fit them notwithstanding the fact that they are expensive, heavy, and a PITA to run wires ducting, etc. through.

Got to sign off this thread now as it's going to be a fab w/e in the UK, possibly the last :)
 

flaming

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I do sincerely like the discussions we have.
When I am talking about imbalance in a design, I am referring to the longitudinal shift of buoyancy that occurs when a boat heels; unless a hull were absolutely symmetrical fore and aft that is of course simply unavoidable. A symmetrical hull is for hydrodynamic reasons not optimal. That said, the shapes we have today are quite extreme and it is easy to see in the current cheese wedge variant that are not only shallow and beamy, but have a high buoyancy gradient fore and aft.
I think you are over-egging the cheese wedge analogy. Most modern hull designs actually have an awful lot of buoyancy forward. By using chines they also don't have huge amounts of buoyancy aft when heeled. Again, have a look at that pic above, there's not a huge amount of boat in the water at the back end once it's heeled, which is kind of the point of the design, goes upwind like a narrow hull, goes downwind on a planing surface.

There is no doubt to my mind that these hulls are, within the parametres as I describe them, imbalanced. How can they not be.
If you've ever sailed one, you'd know that in the important factor, tracking, they are very far from unbalanced. Given that a lot of them are designed to spend most of their time under autopilot they have to be. I know that coming from a more "traditional" C/R with a big central rudder, the difference is night and day. The new boat is so, so much easier to drive. I can let go of the tiller and it just tracks on.

Now before I sailed it my expectations were similar to your descriptions here. I'm pleased to say I was very wrong. They're actually quite clever these modern designers you know...
 

TernVI

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Talking about rudders piercing the hull as a result of impact, a lot of cruisers have a partial bulkhead in the stern, so the yacht should not flood. It's probably got the exhaust going through it, so you might have to do some pumping.
Likewise, at the bow, many yachts have enough internal structure to prevent sinking from a small hole.
 

john_morris_uk

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Here's another chilling anecdote (guess what kind of rudder they had?) - they certainly ended up in the ditch. One story proves nothing I realise, but there are plenty others out there. Sail Magazine reckons a 1% incidence of ocean rudder failures.
Opinions differ as to whether that account is 'chilling'.

Where in the account does it even hint at the loss of the rudder being due to it being a spade or the lack of a skeg? All we know is that the rudder suddenly disintegrated and they were left with no steering.

I don't want to belittle the fear and anxiety of the wife in the account in any way, but the story (which seems to have been written by her alone) says a lot more about her character and her (natural) fear for the safety of the children than the problems they were facing. In connection with this, I completely understand her meltdown when offered a dry warm fluffy towel. When living on the edge of fear and reason, simple things trigger huge emotional responses.

On a practical note, I'm also confused as to why he tried a 'scrap of jib and a bit of main'. It doesn't make any sense with the balance of the boat and the lack of a rudder at the back end.... But who am I to question? I've been in those exact same waters and I can imagine that with a very worried wife and screaming children it's not easy to make decisions sensibly.

I'm not too keen on the idea that "The boat was telling us to get off" or whatever was said. Seems a bizarre thing to say and I'm not happy with the hippyesque way of thinking - but perhaps that's just me.

I agree that there are accounts of boats with spade rudders having problems, but I can find lots of accounts of all sorts of boats having all sorts of problems at sea. Rigging and mast failure and strakes opening up and leaking and all sorts of things. Now, as mentioned before, compare the number of boats with spade rudders sailing about the oceans with the number of problems encountered. I absolutely challenge the 1% suggested. My gut feeling is that it's nowhere near that figure. I'd like to see the research that backs up their claim.

The compromise one makes is that Spade rudders are a more open to being damaged than a rudder mounted on the back of a long keel, but long keels and full length rudders bring their own drawbacks. Rudders on skegs can't be balanced and aren't as efficient as a spade. Part skegs can offer some balance, but you've compromised the strength. Everything on a boat is a compromise and you pay your money and take your choice. If I had loads of money I'd probably buy a boat with a partial skeg, but I'll happily live with the boat I've got confident in it's design and capabilities. One of the reasons I don't worry about having a spade rudder our boat is that if all the grp fell off or got knocked off our spade rudder we would still be left with a large stainless plate nearly the size of the original rudder to act as a slightly less efficient rudder and to steer with. We've also got a Hydrovane with it's own rudder that can act as a spare for the whole boat hanging off the back end.
 

Carib

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The 'chilling' bit was just echoing back the language by Dom above. The point was simply that this was another steering failure on a boat with a spade rudder (although as you say the precise cause is unknown). A search brings up many examples of rudder failures on ocean crossings, the point being that it can and does happen and seems far from a theoretical risk. I'll readily admit that the vast majority of spade rudder boats cruise without problems, but for long distance cruising the protection of at least a skeg seems to me to outweigh the disadvantages given the extra protection it provides and the rudder's quite fundamental importance. Or of course fit a Hydrovane as you have done!
 

john_morris_uk

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The 'chilling' bit was just echoing back the language by Dom above. The point was simply that this was another steering failure on a boat with a spade rudder (although as you say the precise cause is unknown). A search brings up many examples of rudder failures on ocean crossings, the point being that it can and does happen and seems far from a theoretical risk. I'll readily admit that the vast majority of spade rudder boats cruise without problems, but for long distance cruising the protection of at least a skeg seems to me to outweigh the disadvantages given the extra protection it provides and the rudder's quite fundamental importance. Or of course fit a Hydrovane as you have done!
As I said, the language and description said more about her character than the actual danger of the situation. I know that it was extremely uncomfortable for them and I don't want to go into speculating about the psychology of the situation and the people involved and what she did and why they reacted in the way they did.

I completely agree that it's not just a theoretical risk (I'm not sure what that means actually). What I do know is that all boat design and build is a compromise. Some people don't like the compromise over potential rudder failure you take when you opt for the more efficient spade rudder, others accept the risk as they prefer the more efficient sailing hull that they are getting. You say you prefer a skeg and that's your choice. Our boat doesn't have one, but we're not insane if we go long distance sailing on her...
 

Laminar Flow

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I absolutely challenge the 1% suggested.
To be sure, this is the same number quoted by the Vic-Maui race advisory on their site in regards to rudder loss mitigation. In view of the actual frequency of rudder failures during the race's 55 year history that number would appear optimistic. One year, five boats lost their rudders, all spades on production type vessels.
Boats wanting to participate have to demonstrate how they intend to set up emergency steering. Depending on where the Pacific high happens to be located in a particular year, the race is between 3500-3700 miles long.

Even though my present boat has a long keel and my previous one had skeged twins I, have no particular attachment to any particular type of rudder as long as the boat suits my needs.
 

john_morris_uk

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To be sure, this is the same number quoted by the Vic-Maui race advisory on their site in regards to rudder loss mitigation. In view of the actual frequency of rudder failures during the race's 55 year history that number would appear optimistic. One year, five boats lost their rudders, all spades on production type vessels.
Boats wanting to participate have to demonstrate how they intend to set up emergency steering. Depending on where the Pacific high happens to be located in a particular year, the race is between 3500-3700 miles long.

Even though my present boat has a long keel and my previous one had skeged twins I, have no particular attachment to any particular type of rudder as long as the boat suits my needs.
Instead of looking at (if you'll forgive me) a slightly obscure ocean race, have look at the figures for the boats crossing the Atlantic in the ARC. How many boats lost their rudders last year or in the last few years compared to how many boats took part? Now look at how many cruising boats lose their rudders compared to how many cruising boats cross oceans generally. How many Volvo Ocean racing boats lose their rudders?

The real difference is we are talking about cruising boats. Not ocean racing boats that are notoriously designed down to a weight (and strength)

With respect you seem to be a little selective in your sources.
 
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Incidentally, twin rudders allows them to be shorter, so less leverage than a single long spade.

Full skegs have rudders which are not balanced, this makes the forces on the steering system higher than a balanced spade.

A solid skeg behind a fin keel is a lever attached to, or part of, the hull which when subjected to enough force may breach the integrity of the hull, rather than snap off at the main bearing like a spade.

A balanced skeg rudder creates a scissor action on its leading edge where the forward part of the rudder blade swings to port and starboard of the bottom of the skeg, warps, branches and other debris can get trapped and sieze the rudder or break the steering gear.

Balanced spades are applied extensively to single and twin-screw vessels, including small powercraft, yachts, ferries, warships and some large merchant ships, they are also employed as control surfaces on submarines and other underwater vehicles.

Spade rudders are not some modern work of the devil designed to kill unfortunate sailors, they simply have different failure modes to skeg hung rudders.

I used to be a bit concerned about spades as I come from a family brought up sailing in the 70s - every time my dad goes aboard a Moody he points out how Angus Primrose died on one, it got a bit tedious after a while - but such prejudices live on. Remember in the good old days where it wasn't just rudders or keels, it was entire boats falling apart? Chainplates failing, bulkheads de-laminating, interior doors that would sieze in their apertures when the boat was under sail? The veritable Centaur needed its keels beefing up, Contessa 32s often had chain plates strengthened and spreader plates fitted.

A boat is a combination of all its strengths and weaknesses and this obsession with one small aspect of design does get a bit tedious.

What changed my mind about spade rudders was a charter holiday in Greece where I watched an errant German skipper slam his chartered Bavaria 50 into the rocky bottom of Sivota harbour.

The skipper was a nutcase and his crew not much better because the "space" he was heading for was between two small open fishing boats and it was obvious from the sloping beach to the right of the "space" that it wasn't going to be deep enough.

Sure enough the boat came to a very loud and sudden stop, the bow lifted about 50cm out of the water - the bow thruster was visible - and all the crew standing on deck fell over. He'd taken the full force of impact against the rocky bottom on the aft tip of the rudder. The boat with equipment and crew must have weighed around 13 metric tons, and it was doing 2-3 knots. Once they had composed themselves he sheepishly motored off further into the harbour and found a deeper berth. I walked past later to have a look at the damage, and apart from a large chunk of anti-fouling and gel coat missing from the rudder, the boat was still floating and it left the following morning to continue its charter. Don't know what actual damage was done but the boat still functioned.

Would that impact of punched a fixed skeg up into the hull causing structural damage? Like grounding a moder fin keeler does? Who knows.
Good post. I think our fears are prejudicial. A look at statistics would show it is safe to cross the Atlantic in a boat with a mast keel and rudder. I know what i prefer to be in and have owned 2 yachts of similar design.
 

capnsensible

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Well after all these pages I can reveal that I've crossed the Atlantic four times on my Moody 33. Twice on a Jenneau 45 and twice on a Warrior 40. Once each on a Bavaria 44, Fontaine Pajot 42, Etap 39 and awesomely on a Sunreef 74 catamaran.

Really, the subject of keels, rudder, whatever, was never mentioned. I loved doing it on my own boat, but hey, forget Skeg. Which one had a freezer full of ice cream? 😎
 

john_morris_uk

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Well after all these pages I can reveal that I've crossed the Atlantic four times on my Moody 33. Twice on a Jenneau 45 and twice on a Warrior 40. Once each on a Bavaria 44, Fontaine Pajot 42, Etap 39 and awesomely on a Sunreef 74 catamaran.

Really, the subject of keels, rudder, whatever, was never mentioned. I loved doing it on my own boat, but hey, forget Skeg. Which one had a freezer full of ice cream? 😎
Some these armchair sailors forget about priorities.
 
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