Re: why so long?
2 things. I saw 26 ft sailboat with an axe handle for a tiller that I didn't notice till it was pointed out (it was used for years). Wheel. There are other configurations for a wheel like a wheel connected to the tiller connection (horizontal ). And other wheels with gears connected to the tiller connection. If I find pics i'll sent them to you.
--Just some ideas. I like a wood wheel for lightening purposes. With a wheel you can get a big "Captain hat",sip whisky and Bark orders at anybody who will listen !