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Ocean Planet Update
August 3 , 2001 

Rudder Work 


Refining an ocean racing boat is a long process, especially for bigger boats. Note how long the process is for Volvo 60’s and Americas cup boats–the top programs go at if for years and spend millions even before the real racing starts.

In a way I think that’s why the search of speed in sailboats is so addicting. There is always SOMETHING to improve upon, so if you are a perfectionist (which I am often accused of…..) the quest never ends.

Since Ocean Planet is very new, my initial list of refinements is rather long. Some items are piddly things for convenience or comfort that don’t affect speed. Or in the case of our rudder (Ocean Planet is one of the few Open 60’s that uses just ONE rudder), I decided to add more “balance” to the shape, to reduce autopilot power consumption. 

Rudder “balance” is the ratio of the rudder areas that are in front of or behind the rotational axis of the rudder shaft. The more area that is in front of the shaft, the less energy it takes to hold the rudder against the water flow. But if you have to much “balance” (area in front of the shaft), it will feel funny or even try to turn the boat by itself. In other words, if you get it just right, it doesn’t directly make the boat faster, but you burn less juice with the autopilot. If you burn less power, you can carry less diesel for charging, which saves weight and that can make a speed difference over the long haul.

In any case, modifying the rudder has been my project the past couple weeks. I used to build rudders a long time ago (some of those Olson 30 rudders are still out there!) so I did it myself. I had the helpful advice of our rudder builder, Larry Tuttle, and he supplied some templates made to a shape designed by our ace hydrodynamicist, Paul Bogataj. Basically adding balance is just building up the front edge of the rudder, but the shape must blend in perfectly or you’ll certainly feel any errors at 20+ knots. That’s why having the templates to shape to is really important.

My alma mater, Svendsens Marine, allowed me to use some space in their yard. I think that watching me get dirty is entertaining for them.

I started by gluing on a piece to the upper nose of the rudder that extended to the new profile. Then I started filling. For most of the filling I used a great product by MAS epoxies, called “Rapid Cure” mixed with microballoons. I’ve been a fan of this stuff for years, it gives you much better strength that other “quick cure” epoxies. But you have to work fast or you’ll glue yourself to what you are working on! Then it’s time to sand and measure, sand and measure, fill some more, sand and measure, repeated over and over until the templates fit perfect and it’s time to glass it over.

After the rudder is glassed and sanded, I had Chuck Wiltens of Svendsens paint shop spray epoxy primer and bottom paint on the rudder. He’s the best spray painter I know, and not a bad bicyclist either (we used to ride a lot…). Then she was ready to go back in the boat. I got my friends Greg and Joakim to carry the rudder down the dock (my back was killing me after a week of sanding), and then our team diver Matt Peterson of FastBottoms diving did a great job of sinking the rudder down. Modern rudders usually float, so it’s tricky to get them lined up in the water. But it went in smooth as silk. I hooked up our autopilot, rudder angle sensor, and we put on the (newly varnished) tiller. I can’t to try it out!

Today we are installing our awesome Doyle D4 mainsail after some refinements, and so we will be doing test sails soon.  Next Friday we are taking some of the top Junior sailors from the Encinal Yacht Club for a ride on Ocean Planet. I’m really looking forward to that, and will send out a report afterwards.

August 14, 2001 Bruce takes top EYC Junior sailors out the Golden Gate on
Ocean Planet.

“There is nothing I like more than sharing the experience of sailing Ocean Planet with kids”, says Bruce Schwab. “Especially the impressive young sailors from the Encinal Yacht Club Junior Sailing program. Last Friday we went for real sail, including flying the spinnaker all the way from Mile Rock outside the Golden Gate Bridge back to the Encinal Yacht Club in Alameda.”

“I was amazed by the talent in the group. Already experienced on small boats, these hotshots had no problem trimming the kite or anything else. Our young regular Ocean Planet crew, Campbell Rivers, had better look out for his spot!

“Although my plans are to race Ocean Planet around the world, whenever I can it is my goal to promote shorthanded ocean sailing with young American sailors. This is a primary goal of the Made in America Foundation, donations to which have made Ocean Planet possible. After I race the Vendee Globe in 2004/2005, I want to continue the program to develop young shorthanded sailors, and if possible, give them the opportunity to compete. Possibly even aboard Ocean Planet. Someday it would be great to have more Americans racing with our European friends in the great races like the Figaro, the mini-transat, the Route du Rhum, the Transat Jacque Vabre, and of course the Vendee Globe. 

“I believe having our talented young sailors become more known in this great sport will help raise American awareness of our vast and beautiful oceans. Good things can come from that.  “As far as our current schedule, Ocean Planet and I will not be able to do the record run to Hawaii, as we still need to raise support and awareness of our program. After being written up in nearly every top U.S. sailing magazine, you would think that finding sponsorship wouldn’t be so hard! But it will happen. We have a lot to offer.

“Here are some pics from last Friday just to let you know its not ALL sweat and hard work we’re doing.”


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