Tip of the month – tiller extensions

Let’s talk about length and girth…and by that I of course mean…tiller extensions!
Modern carbon tiller extensions come in different diameters and lengths. As sailors, we are in contact with our tiller extensions all the time when sailing; it is important to get the feeling right if we want to sail the boat as well as possible!

Extension diameter

The larger diameter extensions, such as 22mm and 25mm, tend to be stronger. This makes them more resistant to breaking under load and less likely to break in use. For example, when a sailor lands it on it during a clumsy tack!

Some sailors also feel that a larger tiller extensions is easier to hold onto; with a better grip.

So why would anybody not want the largest diameter available?

Well, it is a personally preference thing. The reasons why I use the smallest diameter, 19mm, are:

  • I can much more comfortably trap the mainsheet and tiller extension with a single hand e.g. during those epic leeward roundings with 9m of the 13.5m mainsheet to pull in!
  • The feel is more sensitive; I find it easier to notice small changes in the helm; these tell me whether the boat is getting what it needs from me.

Please note that I have small hands for a chap; fellas and/or ladies with larger hands may prefer a larger diameter tiller extension.

I haven’t broken an extension of this diameter to date; but I did break a thicker extension a few years previously during a clumsy tack (so it can happen).

I use the Rooster 1.25m length and 19mm diameter carbon tiller extension.

Please see the below link for a more elegant explanation by Stephen Cockerill himself.

If you enjoy the science of how these fantastic tiller extensions are so strong for their relative diameter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjluYYi83mw

Extension length

Length is nearly always a trade between enough length to enable sitting well forward in light airs whilst being short enough to avoid the extension catching on the boom or elsewhere (such as through the mainsheet loops along the boom) during tacks.

Again, this is in part a personal preference thing. The length of my tiller extension is between 1185mm and 1190mm. Measured from one end of the carbon extension to the other (the carbon only, not including the adaptor onto the tiller). This is the maximum length that my technique allows me to have without it bothering me during tacks.

To achieve this length, I cut down the Rooster 1.25m extension. I do this with a hacksaw and simply dress the end with a file to remove any burrs. I find that once I have done this that the nice grip end cap on the top never goes back on securely; I wrap a load of tape around to make a grip end feature.