In sailing terms, the steering wheel is the governing body of the boat. There are many types of steering wheels that differ depending on their shape and how they are mounted. Let us see more in detail the differences.

The differences between the tiller and the wheel

When a sailing boat has a steering wheel, the rudder blade rotation command is transmitted through a series of pulleys and cables that enable the bow movement to be aligned with the action. The rotation of the wheel to the right causes the bow to turn to starboard and vice versa to the left. On the other hand, when there is a tiller, the rudder blade rotation comes together with the tiller rotation, leading to a controlled reversal. The movement of the tiller to the right enables the bow to go left and vice versa.

The steering wheels’ materials

The sailing boat steering wheel can be made of many materials. Those that you can get through Sail Service and are therefore made by the Danish company Jefa Steering are made of stainless steel, aluminum, GRP, carbon, wood-rimmed, custom made teak.

The standard Jefa steering wheels are produced in stainless steel 316 and cover a range from 600 mm to 1200 mm overall diameter in steps of 100 mm. The standard wheels up to 1000 mm contain 5 tapered spokes, above 1000 mm diameter the wheels contain 7 tapered spokes. The hub is made in one part and constructed in an ingenious way, so no welding of the spokes is visible on the outside. Jefa steering has chosen to use as standard a thicker diameter rim of 25 mm instead of the industry standard of 22 mm.

The Jefa aluminum 6082 steering wheels are unique in the world as the wheels are produced without any welding at all. The hollow spokes are threaded at the hub side and screwed into the hub. At the tapered end, the spokes are threaded inside and a through bolt from the outside of the rim is screwed into the threaded spoke. The lack of welding (which dramatically decreases the strength of aluminum) and the unique construction results in an ultra-lightweight and extremely strong steering wheel with a weight of nearly half on an equivalent stainless-steel wheel.

The JEFA GRP wheels are strong and light. A modern alternative for metal and more affordable than carbon. Jefa GRP wheels are produced in a one-piece aluminum mold with vacuum technology and a foam core resulting in a very stiff light construction. The wheel is painted with a 2-component black or white finish. The 1000 mm version is the first wheel in this range and weighs 3,1 kgs. The rim is oval-shaped, 32 x 26 mm. (They are already available on our website!)

Normally carbon wheels are produced in bits (separate spokes and rim parts) and glued together to make the complete wheel. Jefa carbon wheels are produced in a very big molding in one go using vacuum technology. The big advantage is a much lighter, stiffer, and stronger construction as the carbon fibers overlap in the complete wheel without any joints.

Finally, the teak rimmed Jefa steering wheels are equipped with stainless steel 316 spokes and hub and cover a range from 700 mm to 1200 mm overall diameter in steps of 100 mm. The teak trim is painted with 2-component polyurethane paint. The hub is made in one part and constructed in an ingenious way, so no welding of the spokes is visible on the outside.

What about you? Do you prefer the wheel or the tiller? If the answer is wheel, on you can even find the leather cover kit: it is ideal for those who love the do-it-yourself!