Posted by: Mike Randall | November 15, 2014

Look mum no hands!

Intro-pic I’ve got a new gadget to help with steering while sailing short-handed – Its called a TillerClutch.

Over the last few years sailing my Stirven I often sail solo. To manage this I’ve been using a rope wrapped a couple of times around the tiller and cleating this line to the spinnaker sheet cam cleats. This sort of worked, but wasn’t very easily adjusted and would often unravel or fall off.

Back in July I was reading WoodenBoat magazine* and there was an article on building a tiller clutch for self steering. This sounded interesting so I read the article and and studied the pics, but by the end I’d already decided it all sounded a bit hard and complicated to build. Then at the end of the article I noticed an advertisement for the TillerClutch from Wavefront Marine.

So I went to their website and checked it out. It’s a groovy gizmo that lets you make micro adjustments to self steering with the simply flick of a lever. It’s as simple to use as a bicycle hand brake. I guess WoodenBoat did their article to see if they could make a traditional looking version. The one by Wavefront Marine is very slick in black anodised aluminium. This didn’t bother me as I was after functionality and I wanted it now.

I ordered it online and finally got around to setting it up today and gave it a whirl – my first sail for summer.

The view fabric from upfront – No helmsman (He's taking the pic).

The view from upfront – No helmsman (He’s taking the pic).

It worked really well and made the trickiest job of the solo sailor really easy – hauling the jib up and setting the mainsail. This I managed with the tiller locked off and the boat tracking nicely while I wandered around the decks hauling sails and tidying ropes.

Once everything was ship shape I set a course with the clutch heading off on a shy reach. The wind was blowing about 12knots occasionally gusting to 15knots and I had a single reef in the main. Every now and then in the gusts the leeward rail would be awash and I noticed the TillerClutch would slip. Apparently this is a safety feature to prevent damage to the tiller! I found this a bit annoying as the conditions were not at all heavy, but even with it slipping it made holding the tiller fatigue free. It worked on all points of sail with beating to windward being the best.

Close up of the no hands set up

Close up of the no hands set up


Finger tip control

Finger tip control

When I got home I read the instructions again and there is a suggestion to wrap the clutch line once around the tiller to prevent the safety slip feature working, I’ll give this a go next sail. I’m definitely not going back to my old dodgy setups.

*WoodenBoat 239, July/August 2014


  1. that looks like a cool device. Unfortunately (!) I’m never short of enthusiastic helmsmen when we go out. Waiting for the crazy spring winds to die down before we start for the season again. Cheers

  2. very interesting – thank you

    (moreover, I’m planning to fit something working as lifeline for going ahead when sailing solo – I think I’ll try a trapeze wire for doing the job) best wishes errico orsi

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