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Drills for skills- rudderless sailing/tethered sailing 

Published Fri 22 Sep 2023

Drill/Game: rudderless sailing/tethered sailing 
A variation on rudderless sailing, using elastic to maintain a neutral helm. Tie the elastic from the tiller to a fixed point on the centre line and then try to sail a set course while becoming less reliant on the tiller for steerage. During the briefing introduce the theory behind the balance point in the rig and how it impacts steerage. Highlight the effects of sail trim and boat balance while heading up, bearing away, tacking, gybing, and when sailing in gusts and lulls. 

Course/ Skill level:  

Session training outcomes:   

  • Better understand the use of balance and trim to steer a boat. 

  • Sail a figure of eight course rudderless, that is with the rudder secured in the centre of the boat. The boat will be steered by adjusting the jib trim, the mainsail trim and moving the crew weight around the boat. 

Start with slow speed manoeuvring without holding the tiller begin with straight line sailing, then rounding up and bearing away, then taking, gybing and a simple course and finally put into a race situation. 

Equipment Requirements:   
Buoys as required. Mini whiteboard, magnetic boats and thick elastic for every boat in the group if doing the tethered sailing adaption. 

Risk-management considerations:   
To avoid loss of control of the boat and ensure quick release first try to hold tiller between knees if on a keelboat or holding lightly if in a dinghy instead of elastic. 

What is your back-up plan in case any of the above activities fail?   
If the weather isn’t conducive to the activity, explain on a whiteboard or use similar drills to optimize the learning effect. The activity of heave to will help with the understanding of what  happens to the bow of the boat when the head sail is backwinding (turns away from the wind) and how to counter the movement of the bow other measures can be put in place, in heave to its steering and no mainsail but in rudderless sailing it’s mainsail and balance 

Key Messages:  
What are the 3 key messages you want the audience to gain from the session?  

  1. The rudder does not steer the boat alone. Sail trim and weight distribution contribute to more efficient steering.   

  1. Tacking efficiency (push turn) is improved by easing the jib, trimming in the mainsail and moving crew weight to the leeward side of the boat. 

  1. Bearing away (pull turn) is more efficient when keeping the jib on, easing the mainsail and moving crew weight to the windward side of the boat.   

Coaching Point: 
Try to emphasis the set-up for the turn is critical to making small rudder movements effective. Video the boats performing the exercise well and assess their heel and sail trim on the entry to each manoeuvre. 

For an article on losing you rudder can be found here 
And a similar article on Emergency Steering can be found here