H260 Rudder

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Overall assessment of the rudder: I'm pretty satisfied with the H260 rudder. Boat designers have to make many compromises and the H260 rudder is one of them. There are significant differences between the H26 and the H260 rudders. A review of comments in sailboatowners.com indicates although very stout, there was dissatisfaction with the H26 rudder because it is fairly heavy. Hunter designed the H260 rudder so that it was lighter and would float. Both rudders have a foam core and are subject to the same problems. Because the H260 rudder flexes, stress cracks appear on the aft edge. The fiberglass shell is thin and easily damaged. Water can infiltrate into the core due to the cracks or when you drag it on the ramp, drop it, or hit a rock.  This minor damage is easily repaired with a little glass fiber and epoxy. Don't take this rudder for granted -- inspect it frequently.


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When damage to the skin occurs, water infiltrates and weakens the foam core.

This rudder failed during an ugly jibe in very high winds. Other than a few skipped heart beats and flapping sails, we slowly motored home with no problem. 

The rudder flexes due to side stress; as a result, cracks develop along the aft edge of the rudder.  This is easy to repair.


Considering the abuse it gets, I think the rudder works well. Except in the case of a total failure, repairs are fairly easy. Hunter was very responsive to my warranty requests for replacement.  but since the boat is now out of production, you will pay about $600 or more for a replacement. Loss of a rudder can have a variety of impacts -- from inconvenient to catastrophic. all sailors should be able to sail with some degree of competence without a rudder. There is an excellent article at this link

Check out this alternative

idasailormarineblade.jpg (171210 bytes)shear_20pins.jpg (254544 bytes)Ida Sailor Marine makes a high density poly blade machined from a solid blank of material. The replacement requires no modification to your boat. Most buyers are enthusiastic about this blade, but it is not indestructible. One owner has broken  two; but he works his boat hard with two trips to the Bahamas and the 5800 mi Great Loop under his belt. Check this link for more on the catastrophic failure of the Ida Sailor rudder. That said, the company has many satisfied customers, the company provides a lifetime warranty, and will respond with a overnight replacement if necessary. There are at least two  lengths for the H260 - the standard 55" length and a shorter 48" length. You can talk to the company about the reasons why it offers these different sizes.  I personally see several advantages to this rudder. It is at least as strong as the Hunter/Foss Foam rudder, won't crack and allow water to get into the core, and when you drag it on the ramp or over a rock (and you will) it's a simple matter to sand the scratches off. 

A spare is a good idea with any boat with a kick-up rudder. I have a spare Hunter/Foss Foam rudder, and they are fairly easy to repair with a little fiberglass material and epoxy, so I don't plan on replacing it with the poly blade anytime soon, but would like to eventually. Ida Sailor Marine also sells rudder shear pins made of the poly material. They come two to a bag, and last I checked were $5.95 a bag. A bargain.

Doing the "One - Footed Flamingo Tango"

quicklaunch009.jpg (104791 bytes) Because Hunter designed the rudder with positive flotation, when you ground it, the pin shears and the rudder readily pops to the surface. That's a good thing. Because the stock rudder is very buoyant, getting it down takes practice and agility to pin it. My original method was to balance on the step with the left foot, pull down on the line with the left hand, dunk the rudder with the right foot and slip the shear pin in the hole with the right hand and hope you don't fall into the water (Click on the picture). 

However, the 2:1 purchase of the stock rudder downhaul is insufficient to counteract the buoyancy of the rudder when trying to get it down - thus the need for the "One - Footed Flamingo Tango". There are several approaches to counteracting the positive buoyancy of the stock rudder. One is to swap out the stock rudder with the less buoyant poly blade from Ida Sailor. Another is to increase the purchase of the downhaul line from 2:1 to 4:1 by installing two micro-blocks on the line as seen below. This really works well - just pull on the line with one hand and the rudder readily drops into position. 

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Left: Downhaul diagram
 from Hunter H260
4:1 Micro block Downhaul 
Harken  #226 & #227 West
 Marine #253294 & #253302

Another option is to add weight to the rudder tip. Since I have two rudders, I added one pound of lead to one rudder to see if additional weight helps help get it down easier. This spring I tested them both to see if there was a difference. The unweighted rudder goes down without any problem now because of the 4:1 purchase on the line. The weighted rudder still floats and goes down even easier. As a result, there is no need to add weight to the rudder.

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 Drilled holes, filled with resin/lead weight, glassed & painted



Shear Pin or No?

The H260 has a redesigned rudder and rudder housing that includes a shear pin. It serves to make sure the rudder stays down at the correct angle but releases when you hit something (and you will). The problem with the shear pin is that it requires some flexibility and balance to pin the rudder. See picture of me doing the "One - Footed Flamingo Tango" above.

Some owners have installed the CL257 Auto-Release Racing Mini cleat which provides a neat solution to the problem of how to lock-down a rudder yet allow it to flip-up if it hits the bottom or a solid obstacle in the water. The cleat holds ropes from 4mm to 6mm securely yet will release them immediately when the cleat is overloaded. The CL257 is fitted with an adjustable cam so that the release tension can be set to suit the boat and local conditions. The cam is adjusted until the rudder blade is held down reliably under maximum sailing conditions. The CL257 will then be set so that the least strain is put on the rudder if it hits something solid.


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Before CL257 After


Picture above shows installation of the CL257. For more info on the CL257 check the Camcleat website. I purchased my CL257 from Duckworks.com on-line store for $21.00. Also available at Fisheries Supply. At least one person has reported losing the screw that holds the cam in place and there is an upgrade to deal with this problem. I have not had a problem but I ordered the $5.00 upgrade as a precaution. 


Conclusion: After tweaking the rudder and downhaul and adding the CL257 clamcleat I'm very satisfied with the whole setup and seldom give it a thought. I always store the rudder out of the water and every winter I repair any damage such as cracks and scrapes. That way I improve my chances of having a trouble-free season.


Rudder Downhaul Line 

I always carry a spare rudder on trips. After a season of hard use it usually needs some repair and replacement. I once dropped it on the ramp and compromised the thin fiberglass shell. Another time I hit a log and had to do the swap while the boat was in the water. I found it a pain to swap rudders because rigging the downhaul line in the rudder was awkward -- it was almost impossible to undo the knot and the rope was just too large to fit in the hole easily.  Now it's a simple 15min. job. Slide out the pivot bolt, unsnap the line and replace in about 15 minutes. Cost $7.50 and no cussing. Note how I also swapped out the downhaul line and replaced it with a swaged cable. While you are doing this you might as well install the micro blocks and the CL257. All three of these elements work together well.


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The $10 Emergency Rudder


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Losing a rudder on the H260 is really not a big deal if you have a spare. It takes only a few minutes to slap a new one on. 

Without a spare, it spells the end of your sailing day or maybe a weekend cruise, but the real problem is the long trip home. Without a rudder you can only go about 2mph under power because the H260 yaws from side to side as soon as you try to go faster than that.  I wanted to see if I could make an emergency rudder out of cheap materials that was easy to install and would get me home in short order.  

I'm confident the result is plenty strong.  I made both a 48" and a 36" version. I'm confident you could sail with the longer version but not sure how the shorter one will perform. The advantage of the shorter version is that it is lighter and easier to stow. I could refine this design but for now I just want to see how well each version performs. As soon as the ice melts I'll try them both out and report back.


Other useful info on the rudder: The H26 rudder: http://www.ayesail.net/sailing/images/rudder1.jpg (An older version of the H26 rudder but I think the concepts are still valid)