Upgrade Your Boat - Part 3 - Planning and Underwater

By Simon Boyde


Beneteau First 42

In the last article I went through our thoughts on weight (too heavy) and sail plan (old fashioned, IOR orientated and IRC penalised). These covered the two fundamental issues with the boat (a Benteau First 42) as designed, which were not the fault of the designer by any means. He created a fast easily driven hull out of it which was successful for the rating rule in vogue at the time.

Time has moved on and, with it, newer designs have got faster, and older boats have got heavier, and are less advantaged by the rule. The getting older bit of course never helps. over time things wear out and things go out of alignment.


Cave Canem has fairly flat hull forward sections (compared with many other boats of her generation), a spade as opposed to fin keel, and a fully balanced rudder under her narrow stern. The keel was bolted to the hull back in 1984 and as far as I can determine has never come off for realignment. Pretty obviously, over the last 25 years there has been the odd bang (ahem - two of them mine) and it is time for the keel to be dropped off and re-faired.

And then put on straight - now this is important as I am sure everyone knows. Cave Canem's keel is not straight: it is not straight fore and aft on its keel bolts, it is not straight side to side on its keel bolts, and it is not straight in itself. None of this is too surprising after a quarter of a century of course, but now is the time to do something about it. We have speed differences of a knot tack to tack! The estimate on this is around HKD50,000 which is somewhat less than I expected. I will report back once it is done.


Cave Canem heeledRudder-wise there are also age issues. The boat was built as a production boat and even back then it meant that it was built to a price. No roller bearings in the rudder or wheel, just plastic sleeve bearings. Nothing much wrong with that but when the rudder loads up on a breeze it makes the wheel very hard to turn. Coupled with a wire/chain steering system and the incumbent issues with adjustment and wire failure this is not a perfect world especially as these old bearings are worn out and replacements are no longer available.

The rudder is also relatively shallow and has a relatively long cord. This means that on a power reach there is less rudder in the water than is perhaps ideal, and it also gets very heavy quite early on. The plan: a deeper rudder so more of it is in the water on the heel, but with a shorter cord (the fore and aft length of a rudder) such that the wheel is lighter when the boat loads up.

With a new rudder come proper roller bearings to make the steering as light as possible. It is also good timing to replace the binnacle with one which can actually house the instruments we want on deck, which means we can replace the steering system itself with a direct link system.

Germá.n Frers by Simone ZaffiriNow - where do you go to get a rudder? You can make one (or have one made) to your own design. This is a bit chancy, though. Rudders are highly engineered bits of kit and have huge loads on them. Better of course to go to the original boat designer and ask him - but alas Germá.n Frers have not replied to me. And of course there is the issue of: new rudder, will the steering system handle it?

Jefa RP 300 Steering Pedestal by Storm Force Marine in Hong Kong

There is one company I know of in the world which makes rudders (complete) and steering systems. Called Jefa and based in Denmark, they have pre-built jigs to make strong rudders to standard designs, they make the stocks, the steering tubes and the steering systems and binnacles to go with it, all built to appropriate CE and ISO standards. We have ordered from them one of their RP300 steering pedestals together with the RUD40 rudder which is all the right size for a 42 ft boat. Together with ancillary things (like bearings, rudder tube etc) the cost here is around HKD75,000 before fitting. Cost estimate for fitting is HKD10,000 but again I will report back.

Jefa have an impressive pedigree, making steering and/or rudder systems for the likes of X-Yachts, Hanse, Halberg Rassy amongst others. I think I am in good company.


Jefa Steering DiagramDirect link steering is the option we have gone for. This diagram shows the mechanics of how it gets put together.

Missing from this picture is what you normally see if you look at a boat's steering - heavy quadrants to transmit the wire's force to the rudder stock, heavy turning blocks to carry the wire to the correct angle to feed up into the binnacle. Why are they not there? Because it is not a wire steering system! Direct link, no stretch in wire, no slack to jolt you, no wire to break, no heavy quadrants etc.

Next article we will get on to the boat's interior.

Simon Boyde is a Director of Storm Force Marine and regularly races Cave Canem