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Old 28-08-2011, 23:54   #1
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Why Is the Helm Wheel So Large ?

Hi all

I'm unfortunately not a sailor,(yet) but I am very interested in the subject.

One question that I've pondered before is why is the wheel at the helm traditionally so large on sailing vessels. Is this just a throwback to sailing ships of old, or is there a practical, logical reason for it?

I have seen some pictures of the new Dean 5000 catamaran and the wheel appears to be not much bigger than your average car's steering wheel. Why would they be different to the majority of other yacht builders?

Hayden

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Old 29-08-2011, 00:05   #2
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Re: Why is the helm wheel so large?

A big rudder, particularly one that is not balanced (turns around it's centre of effort), generates a lot of pressure and force which necessitates using a big wheel in order to make steering less work. In addition, a big wheel lets the helmsman get further outboard in order look around or under the sails. A lot of modern boats have 2 wheels in order to make this easier.
I wonder if the new Dean catamaran has the boating equivalent of "power steering"?
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Old 29-08-2011, 00:06   #3
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Re: Why is the helm wheel so large?

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Originally Posted by Still Hopefull View Post
Hi all

I'm unfortunately not a sailor,(yet) but I am very interested in the subject.

One question that I've pondered before is why is the wheel at the helm traditionally so large on sailing vessels. Is this just a throwback to sailing ships of old, or is there a practical, logical reason for it?

I have seen some pictures of the new Dean 5000 catamaran and the wheel appears to be not much bigger than your average car's steering wheel. Why would they be different to the majority of other yacht builders?

Hayden

Life is like a poker game. If you don't win, you lose.
The bigger the helms wheel , the easier to turn......

So, the bigger the forces, the bigger the helms wheel .....

(unless one is using hydraulics, then the wheel size is irrelevant...)
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Old 29-08-2011, 00:12   #4
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Re: Why is the helm wheel so large?

We like/want a large wheel. A tiny wheel looks rediculous and makes it difficult to make precise steering adjustments.



I presume racing sailboats, some having extremely large (five-foot-diameter or so) wheels (sometimes a pair) for precise steering adjustments.

So, does your car have a six-inch-diameter steering wheel such as I've seen but eschew?
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Old 29-08-2011, 00:14   #5
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Re: Why is the helm wheel so large?

Thanks for the informative replies. Knowing space limitations on a yacht I didn't really think the designers would put something so big on it "just for fun and nostalgia". Now I understand the reasoning.
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Old 29-08-2011, 00:18   #6
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Re: Why is the helm wheel so large?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zanshin View Post
A big rudder, particularly one that is not balanced (turns around it's centre of effort), generates a lot of pressure and force which necessitates using a big wheel in order to make steering less work. In addition, a big wheel lets the helmsman get further outboard in order look around or under the sails. A lot of modern boats have 2 wheels in order to make this easier.
I wonder if the new Dean catamaran has the boating equivalent of "power steering"?
Ahh.. if I had seen your post I would not have bothered repeating what you said...

+1.
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Old 29-08-2011, 00:19   #7
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Re: Why is the helm wheel so large?

The owner's ego might also have a little to do with it. No one wants to be known as the second biggest wheel in town.

You know how it is - big wheel big . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ego
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Old 29-08-2011, 00:28   #8
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Re: Why is the helm wheel so large?

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The owner's ego might also have a little to do with it. No one wants to be known as the second biggest wheel in town.

You know how it is - big wheel big . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ego
Unfortunately in my case I'm currently still landlocked. The only 'wheel' I have is in my car. A yacht's helm won't do much for my ego but probably will raise the odd eyebrow If I'm ever lucky enough to buy my own yacht I'll tell the vendor I want the BIGGEST D**N wheel they've got
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Old 29-08-2011, 00:38   #9
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Re: Why is the helm wheel so large?

You can get the same effect on land. Buy yourself a pickup and jack up the suspension a foot or so. Then you'll need four big wheels.
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Old 29-08-2011, 00:58   #10
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Re: Why is the helm wheel so large?

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The owner's ego might also have a little to do with it. No one wants to be known as the second biggest wheel in town.

You know how it is - big wheel big . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ego
I highly doubt when someone purchases a vessel that the size of the wheel is a significant factor in its purchase. Get real.
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Old 29-08-2011, 01:06   #11
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Re: Why is the helm wheel so large?

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I highly doubt when someone purchases a vessel that the size of the wheel is a significant factor in its purchase. Get real.
Hi Mark

That was meant as a joke. Very tongue in cheek.
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Old 29-08-2011, 01:16   #12
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Re: Why is the helm wheel so large?

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Hi Mark

That was meant as a joke. Very tongue in cheek.
OK! Don't know you yet. An emoticon would have helped.
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Old 29-08-2011, 01:32   #13
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Re: Why Is the Helm Wheel So Large ?

The forces at work on the rudder are also tremendously variable. The helmsperson may be using a very delicate touch to steer precisely with fine adjustments and minimum drag in light conditions, yet also need to have lots of leverage in heavy conditions. And, at the same time, the steering mechanisms can potentially exposed to harsh conditions and need to be as simple and rugged as possible.
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Old 29-08-2011, 04:28   #14
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Re: Why Is the Helm Wheel So Large ?

And here I always thought the wheel was big to help stop someone from gaining too much speed as they were being throw from the front of the cockpit back so they wouldn't fly over the stern rails.

But it is funny how offen non-sailors have asked me the question.
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Old 29-08-2011, 05:40   #15
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Re: Why Is the Helm Wheel So Large ?

Yes, simple ease of use is a factor but on sailing boats specifically, the wheel size is also determined by the cockpit size. The wheel needs to be reachable and useable from both sides so there are two options, A. a big wheel that spans the width of the cockpit, or B, two wheels, one either side. This is because the helmsman will generaly steer from the higher side of the cockpit so he can see clearly when the boat is healed over.

The reason that the wheel on most Cat's is much smaller is because they don't heal over and therefore, the helm does not need to be accessable from either side.

Look at the size of the helm on the Beneteau First 40.7 for example,
http://imagenes.cosasdebarcos.com/ba...765484557g.jpg
Simply that big so it spans the width of the cockpit.
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