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Ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous search and res­cue au­thor­i­ties and fig­ures com­piled by the ARC and other off­shore ral­lies, more cruis­ing boats have been aban­doned in the last 30 years be­cause of rud­der fail­ure than for any other rea­son. A re­cent ex­am­ple is that of the yacht Dove II, which lost its rud­der 400 miles east of Bar­ba­dos while on pas­sage to the Caribbean in De­cem­ber 2016. The crew, a cou­ple with their chil­dren and another crewmem­ber, were un­able to im­pro­vise an emer­gency steer­ing sys­tem and had to be res­cued, aban­don­ing the boat.

Rud­ders are an es­sen­tial de­sign fea­ture that should dic­tate the choice of boat. Sus­pended rud­ders have grad­u­ally mi­grated from rac­ing to cruis­ing boats and, un­pro­tected by at least a par­tial skeg, are ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble. If you can­not avoid a boat with this kind of rud­der, at least in­sist that the lower half of the rud­der is sac­ri­fi­cial, as this is where it is most likely to be hit by de­bris. Re­gard­less of the type of rud­der, there must be an ad­e­quate emer­gency backup steer­ing sys­tem that is easy to set up and known to all mem­bers of the crew.

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