Rudder Kicked Up

Recently my wife and I got caught in unexpected high winds (?25-30 Knots). This is more than we like. We did our usual drill: she used the jib to keep the boat going forward; I used a combination of easing the main and pinching up to avoid too much heeling. With all our sail controls tight to flatten the main, we were making good (and we thought safe) progress homeward. Suddenly I was unable to steer and was blown over. After recovering from the blow-down/capsize/swamping, I found the rudder had kicked up.

Previously I have just used the wing nut on the rudder pivot to keep the rudder down. Flying Scot sells a shear pin which can be inserted into a hole drilled through the rudder and rudder head. The dis-advantage of this is that it makes it hard to raise the rudder in shallow water or when the boat is docked.

I know there is a rudder lift kit which uses shock cord to lower the rudder. Is there enough downward force in this rig to keep the rudder down in high-wind conditions (including when the the boat is on plane?)

Comments from high-wind sailors would be terrific.

Frank K.


I have a shock cord hold hold-down on my rudder (my design) which uses about 30 inches of shock cord per side. It uses elastomer cord because it has a much higher tension when stretched. The reason for the long cord length is so the tension is very consistent over the throw of the rudder swing. No problems with kick up even on screaming planes on Lake St. Clair.

I have the rudder lift kit from At the Mid-winters this year, the first day of racing was right in the range you stated. The rudder stayed down completely.

You also mention lifting the rudder in shallow waters. The kit allows me to sail into a beach very nicely without risking bending the rudder. Too, it is great to have an easy way to clear the rudder of weeds and such.

Just be sure to ease the bungee cord when not sailing, as it prolongs the life of the bungee's tension.

FSSA Forum editor

Thanks so much for your advice. I do like to keep the rudder blade up when the boat is on the dock so that there is less stress on the whole tiller-to-rudder mechanism. When you are not sailing, how do you go about de-tensioning the bungee? How tight do you keep the wing nut on the rudder pivot bolt? Does all the resistance to kick-up come from the shock cord or does friction from the wing nut still help to keep the blade down and working?

Thanks again.


The force is all dynamic--i.e. the shockcord tension is holding it down. No resistance from tightening the cheeks through the wing nut is needed. I believe you do not want to have resistance there since the design intent of the rudder lift system is to allow you to quickly clear weeds or obstructions.

On my rudder, we just leave it alone when not in use. If I need to remove tension, I just slip it off one of the sheaves that the shockcord goes around.

Thanks to you both for advice. It sounds like the this kit is the way to go.

Frank K.