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Item #: 2014
Steering Balance Tuner (Read whole description!)
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Product DescriptionTune your rig for effortless steering and reduced drag. This accessory lets you move the mast forward, farther from the leeboards, thereby reducing the tendency of the sailboat to turn into the wind. Result? Less effort required from the skipper to hold a straight course, and less drag from the rudder or steering oar so you go faster.
Suitable for use on our dinghy rigs and the kayak rigs with U-shaped front assemblies like the rigs for Saturns and Sea Eagles and on the Any Kayak and Kayakamaran rigs. (If it is unsuitable for your rig, we will warn you before shipping it and let you delete it from your order).
Physically, what is it? This device is a short (13-inch) "bowsprit" that clamps to the middle of your front crossbar and points straight forward. The mast step is then mounted to it, instead of to the front crossbar. You then tune your steering by experimenting with different locations for the mast, a bit farther forward than its normal location.
Background: Sailboats are always designed so that the steering "pulls" a little toward the upwind side. This is called "weather helm." This does a lot of good things for safety and control, but there's a tradeoff -- too much weather helm is a drag, literally and figuratively. Literally because the rudder or steering oar drags more when correcting against the weather helm to hold a straight course, and figuratively because your arm gets tired holding the tiller against the pull (or push) of the weather helm when the wind is strong. Many things affect the degree of weather helm, including the design of the hull, the strength of the wind, the weight distribution in the boat, etc. (That's why we can't make a rig with steering balance that is automatically perfect for any boat.) The biggest factor affecting steering balance is the distance between the leeboards and the the mast. More distance ==> less weather helm. Less distance ==>more weather helm. And if the distance between mast and leeboards is set too great, the steering balance flips over into "lee helm" which means the boat is always trying to turn downwind, and that's bad. Small changes in the position of the mast relative to the leeboards (a few inches) make a big difference.
How you use this: Start by moving the mast just 3 inches forward of the front crossbar, and take a test sail. If you like the steering balance, you are done. If you want even less weather helm, go back to shore and move the mast another 2 inches forward and take another test sail. And so forth. If an experiment results in lee helm, you of course return to shore and move the mast to the rear a bit. Do not attempt to adjust while on the water!
Don't try for neutral helm. If it is neutral under test conditions, it may become lee helm under different conditions, (different wind conditons, different weight distribution in the boat) making handling unpredictable. Your goal is a moderate amount of weather helm. Do your tests under moderate wind conditions, close to shore. Lee helm can make sailing pretty difficult, so you don't want to risk it under challenging conditions. Do your tests with the leeboards angled back, since this affects steering balance and they may swing back during a given excursion even if you prefer them vertical.
Free shipping applies only if ordered with a sail kit. If ordered later, shipping is $10 and will be manually put through as a separate charge on your card.
Why does the position of the mast relative to the leeboards affect steering balance? Put a pencil on a table. Push sideways on it at the middle with your left index finger and resist that push with your right index finger, also at the middle. Your left finger is the wind on the sail and your right is the leeboards in the water resisting the sideways force from the wind. Move your left finger forward a bit while holding the position of your right finger unchanged and see how the pencil (the boat) turns downwind. Do the opposite and see how it turns upwind. Your left finger position represents the "center of effort" of the sail, which means the point along the sail at which force ahead of that point and force behind that point are equal. When you move the mast, you are moving that center of effort relative to the "center of lateral resistance." The leeboard position is pretty close to the center of lateral resistance, though your hull shape and your rudder or steering oar will affect its location somewhat.
Aside from its usefulness, this accessory is interesting to experiment with, for those intrigued by sailing mechanics. Just be careful to avoid lee helm.
We also offer sliding leeboard mounts as an alternative way to get more distance between the leeboards and the mast to accomplish the same goal of reducing weather helm.
Note: Be sure to install washers (provided) under star knobs of u-bolts. Important!