A few quick checks could prevent rudder failure and save the day


The rumpus about rudder failures is well deserved; along with boom breakages they are one of the most serious bluewater failures. So how do you make a diagnosis when you’re fitting out?

According to Andrew Roberts, author of YW’s recent ‘Practicalities’ series, the danger signs are:

? Wear or sheering in the keyway (the most frequent problem)
? Play or movement between the quadrant or rudder head and the stock
? Chatter in the bearings from a misalignment or unfair loading
? Local discolouration or rusting at the rudder
? Signs of movement between the rudder stock and the blade, normally visible where the stock emerges

Where a rudder drops out completely the usual culprits are quadrant clamps that have come off. Again, check for play here.

Commenting on aluminium rudder stocks, Andrew says: “You wouldn’t necessarily see anything until it fails, but it might get smaller in diameter where there was twisting or flexing and there might be some surface change.” He adds: “I’d never, ever want to own a boat with an aluminium rudder stock because the risks of corrosion are so great.”

By the way, in case you missed it, Andrew has compiled an excellent and comprehensive fitting out safety checklist here