We've had our first boat, a 1978 Islander 32, for almost 3 years now. We've noticed from the beginning that it has a significant amount of weather helm, but only on the starboard tack. On port tack, you could steer with one finger, but on starboard you constantly have to fight the helm, which gets exhausting very quickly, especially in a brisk breeze.
We originally searched for and purchased the Islander 32 because it was supposed to be a very balanced boat, so we were surprised. We don't believe it's the rig, we've had a rigger look at it and the mast is in column.
We know that the previous owner modified the leading edge of the rudder to help shed kelp (he sailed out of Dana Pt, and kelp is an issue in SoCal). We believe that might be the issue.
We took it into the boat yard this morning to have the bottom painted, and asked about removing the modification and restoring the rudder to its original shape, and fairing it. The rudder is not symmetrical side-to-side, and has a lot of noticeable hills and valleys, so to speak.
The yard manager seemed to think that the repair probably wouldn't improve the balance that much, and he doesn't recommend doing the work. He pointed out that the rudder and keel were aligned nicely, so that wasn't causing the imbalance.
Here's what our rudder looks like from the side:
Here's what an I32 is supposed to look like:
Here's a picture of the leading edge of the rudder:
Now our dilemma. We need to decide whether to have the yard go ahead and restore the rudder to the original shape, and try to fair it as much as possible, or leave it as is. Of course the manager could only give his hourly rate and a best guess of the time required (maybe a day minimum, at $85/hr).
If we go ahead with the work, it may not improve the weather helm at all. Or maybe it will.
How important is a symmetrical foil shape in balancing the boat?
Should we restore the rudder to the original shape?
Or would leaving the shape as is and having the rudder faired properly be enough?
We appreciate any input, we have to let the yard know our decision on Monday morning.