Taking SmartTrack toe steering system off

As an experiment, I installed the SmartTrack toe steering system (with trim tab) on my Triak about a month ago. I’ve been wanting to be able to brace my feet for paddling and wanted to give this a try. The only question mark was how well it would perform for sailing in high winds. I’ve been very pleased with it for paddling and for sailing in light winds. I had mixed results, though, last month for moderate winds while sailing. Today I took it out in high winds and was pretty frustrated with the steering performance. I finally decided I’d be better off with the original sliding foot peddles for steering for being able to sail in all conditions so I spent the afternoon putting the original sliding system back in. Sometime you just have to keep things simple. I will sacrifice some paddling efficiency but I need to be able to sail in all conditions including high wind.

On the plus side, I tried out my new claw anchor when out in a blow with white-caps and it worked well. I was able to deploy it from the cockpit, it set well, and with the line tied to the bow the boat was at a good orientation to the wind. I was able to retrieve the anchor with a second line spliced into the primary line from the cockpit. The only negative was the anchor line ended up looping around the bottom of my bow before coming back to where I cleat it off by the cockpit. If I had to sail a long distance like that, it might slow me down a tiny bit.

All in all a good learning experience today. I didn’t get many derby points, though, because I was just trying stuff out and then back to the workshop.

January practice runs

This video shows some experimenting with paddling while flying the spinnaker.

It also shows how the SmartTrack toe levers and supporting guides move a bit when the system is under strain. I fond that this movement restricted the full range of moving the rudder while beating to weather. To relieve this motion, I tried removing the little flexible spacers between the guide and the hull. I’ll report back once I’ve had a chance to try the boat out in the water since this change.

The end of the video below shows the movement before I took the spacers out.

SmartTrack toe control Rudder System

If you need to paddle the Triak long distances (like we had to for the North Carolina Challenge) you can’t utilize the most efficient paddle stroke because you can’t brace your feet for each stroke. Since I want to be able to do this, I’m trying out the SmartTrack toe steering system (with trim tab). In theory this system will allow you to brace your feet for efficient paddling and use your toes (or top part of foot) to control the rudder. A “cool rudder wedge” is used to hold the wire rope at the rudder so there is no need for a crimp there. This means it can be adjusted without any tools. There is also a Trim tab accessory which allows you to hold the rudder in place for long periods without having to maintain the pressure on the toe lever. In theory this all sounds neat so I’m going to try it out. I just installed it and will report back after I try it out in the water. I’m hoping to participate in the 300 mile Everglades Challenge in March and if this works, it should help in the very long tacks down on the Florida coast. And if the wind dies, I will be able to paddle more efficiently…

Original Foot brace

New Foot brace with toe control (left side)

New Foot brace with toe control (right side)

Trim tab tension control

Trim Tab Lever

Cool Rudder Wedgie

[Edit 12/31/2012]

I had an opportunity to try out the SmartTrack toe steering foot braces last Thursday and Friday and was very pleased with the ability to brace my feet while paddling. I successfully did some sailing in fairly light wind conditions and the toe steering performed well in those conditions. I also did some paddling in a narrow creek during some high winds and they also performed well. I’ll report back again once I have had a chance to try them out sailing in heavier wind.

It is possible to get full rudder deflection by pressing the toe lever far enough. With using the trim tab, though, it is also possible to get the full rudder deflection without needing to press the toe lever so far. Using these two (trim tab and toe pressing) works well in combination. The Trim tab lets you keep your feet in the neutral stance where some rudder deflection is necessary. If you get the SmartTrack toe steering system, I would recommend also getting the trim tab accessory. They work well together.

The Trim tab system utilizes a continuous wire for the rudder control. The two ends of the single wire terminate at each end of the rudder. The trim tab lever adjusts an offset for the midpoint of the wire. By adjusting the lever, one can make a neutral foot position cause the rudder to be deflected slightly one way or the other. For sailing, this allows you to keep your feet in the neutral position (not actively pressing on one of the toe levers) while having the rudder slightly deflected. For paddling with a cross-wind, this allows you to brace your feet without needing to keep one of the toe levers slightly depressed. The cross wind can be adjusted for with the trim tab lever. The following link is to the installation guide for the Trim tab. It will give you a better idea of what it is. http://www.paddlerssupply.com/PDF/TTInst.pdf

I needed to install the trim tab lever off to one side because the dagger board trunk prevented a central installation location. Offsetting it to one side was fine. There was plenty of tubing and wire for this slight change. It doesn’t make any difference for how the system works.

With being able to brace my feet, I was able to assume the proper paddle stroke utilizing the core muscle groups in the lower body and back. Without being able to brace your feet, the muscle groups in the arms and shoulders must carry a much larger share of the work.

The only big question mark is tryign it out in high wind coditions while sailing. I’ll report back after I have had a chance to do so.

[Edit: 1/13/2013] I took the Triak out today and tried some close-hauled sailing. The Smart-track system (with trim tab) seemed to have some difficulty with all the pressure on the rudder for close-hauled sailing. I think the tubes going from the trim-tab to the foot braces might have been deflected a bit resulting in not as much effective trim adjustment. I was needing to put the trim tab all the way to one extreme and still press fairly far with the tops of my feet. I will have to experiment with this a bit at home. Perhaps if I anchor the tube in a couple of places, it might solve that problem. The trim tab worked find for down-wind sailing. I’ll also take it out a couple more times before the EC so I can device whether to leave the smart-track in there or switch back to the stock system.