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Sailboat Rudder Types

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Full Keel Rudder
Sailboat Full Keel Rudder

Photo © Tom Lochhaas

On a sailboat, as the rudder is moved to one side by means of the tiller or steering wheel, the force of the water striking one edge of the rudder turns the stern in the other direction to turn the boat. Different types of rudders have different advantages and disadvantages. The type of rudder is often related to the boat’s type of keel.

Rudder on Full-Keel Sailboat

As shown in this photo, the rudder of a full-keel boat is usually hinged to the aft edge of the keel, making a continuous surface. The engine’s propellor is usually positioned in an aperture between the keel and rudder.

Advantages of Full Keel Rudder

The primary benefit of this rudder configuration is the strength and protection provided to the rudder. It is hinged at top and bottom, well distributing the forces on the rudder. Rope (such as lobster pot warps) or debris in the water cannot snag on the rudder.

Disadvantage of Full Keel Rudder

Because the sideways force of the water on the rudder is entirely behind the rudder’s pivoting point at its leading edge, putting all the force on one side of the rudder, it takes more energy to move the rudder. This is one reason why larger boats seldom have tillers—because it can require much force to “push” the rudder out against the water streaming past the keel.
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