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Old 13-03-2014, 05:14   #1
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Emergency steering with a drogue

I stopped into HATHAWAY, REISER & RAYMOND in Stamford CT yesterday, and was chatting with their rigger and others in their storefront. They make a drogue called the GALERIDER, and told me they had done some testing to use it for emergency steering.

It is very interesting to note that when using the drogue for steering, they found: The bridle legs should come aboard the boat as near to the boat’s pivot point as practical, not at the stern. They also pointed out that a drogue rigged to the stern is also useful for towing a boat that's lost its rudder, as it would otherwise yaw from side to side.

They emailed me a Word document with their write-up, which I'm posting with their permission. (Disclosure: I have no interest in Hathaways except as a customer. Other drogues or towed drag objects may also be effective. If this post violates forum policies I respectfully request the moderators to edit it so that it doesn't violate, because there's some good information here. However this information belongs to Hathaways and I do think they should be credited.)

The body of the document follows:
" January, 2014
The Galerider Storm Survival System drogue was patented in 1985 and has proven itself in harsh conditions in many parts of the world over the years. Over 2500 Galeriders have been sold in the past 30 years.

Recent discussions have focused on Bermuda Race safety requirements for an emergency steering method. Since the 2012 Bermuda Race, some informal testing has taken place using a J-133 with a Galerider deployed to steer the boat. There was some feeling that the standard Galerider properly sized to the boat for storm conditions caused the boat to slow more than desirable for emergency steering. There was also the question of whether steering a boat without a rudder would be different from the J-133 tests with the rudder locked amidships.

In 2013, with urging from the Storm Trysail Club Safety at Sea Committee, the rudder was removed from a modified Swan 44 to test the concept of the Galerider for emergency steering. The boat weighs 27,000 lbs. Prototype 12” and 18” Galerider drogues were tested and it was found that they did not offer sufficient drag for adequate control. A standard 30” Galerider was then deployed and provided significant improvement in control. The test yacht was able to sail to windward, tack and sail off the wind. Further tests were performed under power, with the boat able to maintain a course, to steer to port or starboard and to turn a complete circle. All this while achieving about 5 knots of boat speed.

In addition, the steering drogue was tested with the yacht under tow. Without the drogue deployed, the towed vessel without a rudder was impossible to control. She yawed from side to side until brought up short by the towline. With the Galerider deployed, control was immediate and effective.

It is important to point out that motoring, or being towed under power, requires less experimentation than is necessary to find the sailing “groove” for each boat. For example, reduced sail seems to be a key. Sailing to weather, the test boat used a reefed main and a partially rolled up or non-overlapping headsail. This combination was effective from 30–90 apparent wind angle. Sailing off the wind was difficult using even a double reefed mainsail. Control was effective from 100–150 apparent wind angle using only the jib.


It is recommended to shackle a 6’–10’ length of 3/8” chain to the swivel on the Galerider, to aid in keeping the drogue submerged, given the short deployment length. In addition, a second swivel may be attached between the chain and the deployment bridle, to slow rotation of the unit.

During sea testing for emergency steering, the Galerider was towed about -2/3 boat length behind the vessel. Two bridle legs were used, with both bridle legs tied to the swivel or shackle on the forward end of the chain. The bridle legs should come aboard the boat as near to the boat’s pivot point as practical, not at the stern. We think this makes operation and control of the Galerider most effective. The bridle legs should each run through a snatch block and back to cockpit winches. It is recommended to mark the bridles at intervals, for reference when steering.

On the test boat, spinnaker sheets were used for the bridles. The idea was to use equipment already available on the boat, without requiring additional equipment not usually carried aboard. The same is true for the length of chain. It is important to emphasize that each boat will have its own performance characteristics for emergency steering, so you must experiment until you find the best control “groove” for the given vessel and wind and sea conditions.

Please note: Deployment of the Galerider for emergency steering is different from deployment for running before storm conditions. For running off in storm conditions, when the rudder is intact, we recommend deployment beyond the second wave behind the boat. In this case, the deployment rode and bridle come aboard the boat at the transom and are led forward to the primary cockpit winches."
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Old 13-03-2014, 06:07   #2
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Re: Emergency steering with a drogue

I've steered with a drogue... It wasn't perfect, but it worked... I would suggest that leading the towlines forward to blocks and coming back to the primaries is more effective.... There's an extensive thread here with people's experiences trying... Try a search for more info!
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Old 13-03-2014, 12:47   #3
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Re: Emergency steering with a drogue

The full text is here:
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drogue, emergency, enc, steering

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