Friday, October 30, 2009

Look Ma, No Rudder; the ACA Cruising Canoe

In the midst of the Tillerman's "Less is More" writing assignment, it occurred to me that there are some people that race sailboats without parts that most of us consider essential to sailing; like a rudder. This isn't "Less is More", this is "Less is Different", and to point to another one of Tillerman's most recent themes, "Less" that makes sailboat racing very much a more challenging sport.

Classes without rudders are not popular; in most cases they reside in only one place in the world. But sailors still race them.

First up is the ACA Cruising class canoe. This is a sailing canoe that is steered with a paddle, not a rudder. This class was popular post World War II but is now found only at Lake Sebago, just outside New York City.

To steer a canoe with a paddle, the paddle must be leveraged against the leeward side. For the skipper to hold the paddle he must be sitting in the canoe and not hiking, which makes breezy racing somewhat tricky. Since the paddle, leveraged against the leeward gunwhale, is best used in steering the canoe downwind, the canoe must be set up with weather helm (rig moved aft). When pressure on the paddle is released, the canoe naturally turns to weather. You are allowed to take a paddling stroke or two when tacking to get the canoe around. The tricky part seems to be downwind in a breeze, when the paddle can load or unload unexpectedly, resulting in some spectacular broaches.

A picture by Laurie Ford from the 2008 ACA Cruising Canoe Championships at Lake Sebago. In light air, steering with a paddle looks very relaxing.

Laurie Ford's full report (with pictures) of the 2008 Cruising Class Championship can be found here.

1 comment:

Paul Mullings said...

On the basis that there is nothing new under the sun -