In 1954 Alcort, Inc patented the rudder releasing mechanism used on their different models of Sailfish and Sunfish sailboats. The bronze assembly allowed the rudder to automatically swing up if an obstruction was struck and then be easily restored to operating position. It was also designed to be "simple in construction, inexpensive to manufacture, easy to install and manipulate, compact, ornamental in appearance, and very efficient and durable in use."
From the patent: "The invention provides the following advantages: '
1. It affords a simple means of lowering the rudder into operating position from a boat after launching it from a beach, or in shallow water.
2. It permits a small craft to be driven or sailed upon a beach without injury, as the rudder will disengage itself automatically upon contact with the beach or submerged obstruction.
3. The rudder can be easily restored to operating position manually by swinging it downwardly to cause the lower end of the vertical hinge plate to engage against the rear beveled surface of the latch plate, without replacement of a shear pin or any other part.
4. The release mechanism may be adjusted to release the rudder more or less readily, as conditions demand, by varying the compression of the leaf spring, by means of the thumb nut.
5.The rudder may be locked positively in its operating down position, if desired, merely by tightening the thumb nut as far as it will go.
6.The rudder may be used to steer a boat even when it is in the unlatched or raised position in shallow water, and will afford a fair amount of maneuverability under such conditions, as contrasted to conventional detachable rudders, which had to be fully attached in order to operate."
This is a Standard Sailfish named Winnie, with the first generation rudder blade known as the "elephant ear." The 1940s and 50s wooden Standard Sailfish and Super Sailfish, along with the early wooden Sunfish, would have come with this tiny rudder. Note the short transom, the early wooden boats and fiberglass Super Sailfish MKII rudder systems have a short transom, so a 4 inch carriage bolt was used vs the 7 inch bolt used on the 1960s fiberglass Sunfish.
Here we are installing the rudder deck plate on our 1953 Sunfish Zip. Note that there are screw eyes molded into the bronze plate, so that the aft end of plate can be screwed into the top of the transom. Also note that the carriage bolt goes through the transom, not outside like the fiberglass Sunfish.
Here is Zip sporting an upgraded Generation 2 rudder, also know as the spoon tip. That blade provides much more helm control and is essential if you choose to use a newer design race cut sail on the older boat. The rudder pin has a keeper chain, normally secured to the hull. Since the boat is usually stored outside and it gets trailered around, there is more opportunity to lose that pin, held on only by its 60 year old chain. We changed this up later and secured the keeper to the rudder, which is stored indoors and rides in the car. Note the short transom again.
Ready for launch, just push the rudder down to latch it. Adjust tension as desired.
Rudder down and latched on the 1953 Alcort Sunfish Zip. Skipper was Master and Commander that day. And as always, how about that coaming?!
This is the transom of a fiberglass Sunfish. That transom is taller than the transom on the Sailfish series of boats and the wooden Sunfish. The carriage bolt measures just over 7 inches compared to the 4 inch carriage bolt on the earlier boats. The carriage bolt has also been moved to outside the transom, and a notch has been molded into the transom to provide clearance for the bolt.
This is the top deck plate for the fiberglass Sunfish, note how the rudder pin has the keeper chain eyelet screwed to the deck. We bet that there are a lot of Sunfish rudder pins strewn along the side of America's highways. And also there are no screw eye holes on the deck plate because the end of the plate extends past the transom. The last bit of trivia is that the patent number 2,675,775 is cast into the plate, many folks mistake that for a serial number. Oh, the last last bit of trivia, some early fiberglass Sunfish deck plates DO have a serial number embossed on the side of the plate, usually a low 4 digit number.
US Patent 2,675,775 RUDDER RELEASING MECHANISM FOR SMALL BOATS
Alexander Bryan and Cortlandt Heyniger, Waterbury, Conn., assignors to Alcort, Inc., Water bury, Conn., a corporation of Connecticut
Application December 9, 1952, Serial No. 324,896
Patent Granted April 20, 1954