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Stabilisers: How to prevent rock and

roll
Written by Michael Henson
A stabilised yacht significantly enhances comfort and rest for both crew and guests, which means individuals are a lot
more rested making better decisions and more enjoyable experiences. The marine industry has a number of stabilisation
systems available to eliminate ‘boat roll’. However with a large number of options all demonstrating different advantages and
disadvantages knowing which is best for the yacht can be difficult.

What stabilisation systems are available?
Stabilisation made its way into the marine industry when it was realised that stability at sea and seasickness needed to be
minimised to essentially continue to attract new customers.
There are three main types of stabiliser systems available and all have their pros and cons and all vary on what boats they work
best on.

Fixed fin stabilisers
The fixed-fin stabiliser is suitable for hull shapes where the fin will not protrude beyond the rectangle of the ship’s frame. Fixedfins are commonly used where space within the hull is limited.

Retractable stabilisers
Fins can be retracted to inside the hull as to combat some of the disadvantages of a fixed fin. Control of fin movement is
automatic and is usually derived from gyroscopic sensing gears.

Gyro stabilisers
Mounted low in a boat’s hull, gyroscopes will reduce a boat’s roll significantly. Today’s control–movement gyros are spun up
inside a vacuum to eliminate air resistance and lower power requirements.

Gyro stabilisers vs fins stabilisers
Much has been discussed about which stabiliser is better at reducing boat roll. Here are advantages and disadvantages of
each system.



Because of their drag at speed, fin systems are not suitable for planing hulls. Fin systems are speed dependent, always
balancing fin size with projected cruising speed, so as to create minimum drag for desired performance. The result is that
at zero speed they have no effect (except on very large yachts with long roll periods), and at less than cruising speed,
performance drops off sharply.
Fins can correct small steady/static heels or listing due to beam winds, off center weight or long period rolls running
downwind due to their inherent ability to apply a steady lift force under the hull while the vessel is in motion. In contrast,
gyros cannot supply constant forces and as a result cannot correct a heel or list angle.
Because gyro stabilisers require no protrusions from the hull, it is not subject to damage from grounding, or impact from
floating debris.
Fin stabilisers work immediately whereas gyro systems have to ‘warm up’ to be fully effective, usually around 12 minutes.
External zero-speed fins are considerably larger than standard underway fins as they must actively move large volumes
of water to stabilise a vessel. These oversized external appendages result in significantly more drag and must be
compensated by increasing engine horsepower or acceptance of a slower top speed. In addition, external fins negatively
affect fuel efficiency due to the additional drag.
As fins are submerged this makes them more difficult to repair, which generally means repair costs increase. Gyros are
always located safely inside the hull where there is no risk of damage.

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QC091013

www.yachtingpages.com info@yachtingpages.com
515-517 Stockwood Road, Bristol BS4 5LR +44 (0)11 73 16 05 60

com With thanks to Sleipner Motors AS 2 QC091013 www. Search stabiliser companies on Yachtingpages. These are expensive and will put a dent in your wallet but it is value for money especially for long–distance cruising. which can also be used at speed.com 515-517 Stockwood Road. If your full displacement or semi– displacement hull is not currently stabilised. Some good stabilisation systems available include an enhancement to your existing fin–stabilisation system to enable at–anchor control. Boats at anchor To reduce roll at anchor. Many companies can offer warranties and guaranties along with their products so research would definitely be worth the time. a gyro system. Having no fins reduces drag in the water resulting in a higher speed. or a flopperstopper. yachts would require a form of zero-speed stabilisation. Trawler type boats These will most likely suit active fin stabilisers as their first line of stabilisation technology.• Gyros have a certain amount of noise pollution in comparison to fins and may be heard when in full operation.com info@yachtingpages. It is essential to talk to as many people and manufacturers as possible before making a decision. The gyro systems are good because they don’t require mounting external fins and generally need only electrical power and room to mount.yachtingpages. which might be adequate enough for smaller boats in quieter anchorages. Bristol BS4 5LR +44 (0)11 73 16 05 60 . Which suits you High speed sport yachts These would benefit most from a gyro system. the improvement in ride and the way you feel after a long day in heavy seas will amaze you.