Did rudder alignment cause handling problem?

I was delighted with the story by John Kettewell about his successful deployment of a drogue during a Force 9 gale ("Learn by doing," Issue No. 92, Sept./Oct.). I read all I can about situations like this, because one day it will be my turn, too. I am especially interested in the fact that the crew originally tried to deploy the chute off the bow of the vessel.

My personal summary of all I have read, tempered with my moderate experience at sea in a catamaran, is that lying a-hull is an invitation for a rollover in a monohull, or in a multihull with too much lateral resistance. A big parachute deployed from the bow, as the crew of Echo tried to do, makes sense when you are trapped and you know it. Yes, it isn’t easy or lots of fun, but it sure is safe.

I have a suggestion as to why Echo’s bows were being blown off the wind. I don’t think it was the windage of the roller-furling jib. I think it was that the rudders were not positioned right on the centerline. With just two or three knots of sternway, my Prout 37 would just as well turn as under two or three knots of forward speed. If this ever happens to me, thanks to John’s article, I’ll check the steering first!

Robert Cannon, an electrical engineer who lives in Jupiter, Fla., recently sold his Prout Snowgoose 37 catamaran.John Kettlewell responds,

Mr. Cannon’s idea is interesting, but in our situation the rudders didn’t make any difference because they were both raised out of the water. Prior to our deployment of the chute, our steering cables had parted and we raised the daggerboard-like rudders to prevent their slamming from side to side.

We finally repaired the steering after setting up the chute as a drogue off the stern. I hand-steered for several hours in the belief I could avoid the worst of the breaking crests. But we eventually realized the drogue was handling the steering pretty wellkeeping us pointed nearly dead downwind. So, once again, we raised the rudders and let the drogue do the work through the night.

My conclusion is that each boat reacts differently, and therefore it’s worth experimenting when the situation isn’t critical. I also recommend going big on your chute if you plan on using it off the bow. There is no operational disadvantage to having a chute that is larger than necessary, once it’s in the water.

Categories: Short Tacks