Designer Rob Humphreys’ defends Twin Rudders for ocean cruising

An Ocean Sailor reader has responded to the article, Twin Rudders on a Blue Water Yacht ‘The Ultimate Crime’, writes Dick Beaumont.

Ian Bellis pointed out that naval architect Rob Humphreys had written an article which contradicted my vehemently held position that twin rudders have no place on a blue water cruising yacht.

I have read the article and find that other than the caption ‘Twin Rudders For Blue Water Cruising’, I do not disagree with any of the issues he raised.

I agree twin rudders will give you more speed

I agree twin rudders will reduce leeway

I agree twin rudders will give you a lighter touch steering experience.

I also agree that by having twin rudders one can accommodate a superwide Volvo Ocean yacht-style transom.

The point is we all know you can go faster in a Formula 1 race car than a truck, but anyone with any sense wouldn’t try to go off-road across a desert in one. For that, you need a Land Rover or a vehicle purpose-built.

The difference between a Land Rover crossing a desert and a blue water cruising yacht sailing across an ocean is, if there’s an elephant in the way of the Land Rover you can steer around it. On the ocean you don’t know that a semi-submerged obstacle or a whale is there until you hit it.  

What Rob Humphreys’ article fails to address is, what happens when those totally unprotected rudders collide with an underwater object while sailing at speed? THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT. For a blue water yacht, the first consideration must be safety. If you want to get there in a hurry take a plane.

In the near 250,000 nautical miles I’ve sailed:

I hit a 15 mtr  x 1 mtr long log at night doing 8 knots. It was one of three floating just on the surface in the same area. We were 500nm from the Philippines.

Ran aground on an uncharted coral reef doing 6 knots at night 20nm from land in Northern Indonesia. We spent 2 hours getting off the bommie strewn reef.

Ran into an unmarked and unlit fishing station at night, the equivalent of 4 pallets with a shed on it, which was festooned with mooring lines, tree branches and coconut palm fronds underwater, 40 nm off the coast of Bali.

Hit and was stopped dead by a suspected large whale ( we never saw it ) whilst sailing at 9 knots in 30kts of wind in a 4-5mt sea 600nm from St Helena in the South Atlantic. 

On this occasion when we got to St Helena we discovered that we had taken the whole weight of the hit on the rudder skeg, which, despite having a 12mm stainless steel beam that runs down inside the skeg, bent the huge bronze pintle shoe over by 20 degrees!

Another factor that should be considered, is that there are a lot more whales in our oceans these days: on my last trip across the Indian and Atlantic Oceans we saw more than 200, as well as several in the Med.

There is no question in my mind that had any of these collisions occurred in a yacht without a full rudder skeg or a keel-hung rudder we would have been taking to the life raft. To have twin spade rudders out of line of the keel is just asking for trouble.

You have to choose: A light-helmed fast yacht that makes two or three degrees better to wind or a fully protected skeg-hung rudder that will stay there whatever you hit? You can’t have it all, whatever the salesman tells you. For me, safety at sea is the first criteria.

Thanks for raising this issue Ian, I hope I’ve answered the points you raised?

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