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Question re: motoring in reverse

Aug 14, 2014
S2 9.2A Selby Bay, MD
Our 9.2 seems to exhibit poor performance when trying to back up under power. At first I thought it was just me, but I had an experienced sailor experiment with standing turns and trying to motor in reverse with little more success than I have had. I'm curious what experience other owners have had - I keep thinking it is operator error on my part, so would love any feedback on what you have found works well.

I am considering putting on one of these to help with motoring performance.
Feb 20, 2011
Island Packet 35 Tucson, AZ/San Carlos, MX
"...standing turns..."

Could you elaborate?

Is your performance issue insufficient thrust? Are you fighting prop walk?
Jun 11, 2015
S2 9.2A Muskegon
I had a max prop on mine, I was very happy with its performance. we never had an issue when in reverse.
Nov 26, 2012
Hunter 34 Berkeley
When you say "poor performance" what are you comparing it to? Generally, all sailboats perform poorly in reverse as compared to forward with regard to steer-ability. This is mainly because when you are going forward the rudder is directly in the prop wash and this makes it very effective even when the boat is not moving much. You can spin the boat on a dime. In reverse, you do not have that so the rudder is ineffective until you get some speed. If you want steerability in reverse you have to go fast. Take the boat out away from obstacles and practice steering in reverse with some speed.
May 24, 2004
CC 30 South Florida
Be more specific, what are you talking about, prop walk, rudder vibration, slow speed, etc? A prop is not necessarily the solution for every problem.
Sep 23, 2009
O'Day 34-At Last Rock Hall, Md
Be more specific, what are you talking about, prop walk, rudder vibration, slow speed, etc? A prop is not necessarily the solution for every problem.
Agree! The 9.2 is not a full keel so she should back like other similar keels once you pick up some speed to make the rudder more effective than the prop walk is.
Aug 14, 2014
S2 9.2A Selby Bay, MD
Sorry for not elaborating. By "standing turn", I am talking about the technique, where, when stopped, switching between forward and reverse throttle to effect a 360 deg turn without significant forward travel. This is done with the full right rudder. When doing this, going to reverse, the stern movement is inconsistent: sometimes the stern will move to port as expected, sometimes to starboard and sometimes not at all - during the same turning maneuver. (Believe me, I know this sounds crazy as I type this, the physics just seem wrong to me.). If I can get the boat to start to back down, it seems to pull to starboard, but then if I ease right rudder, it immediately swings the stern to port. The behavior is strange enough that I've even questioned whether I have a left-hand prop. I admittedly don't have tons of motoring experience but I have never experienced a boat that seems to behave as strangely as my S2. I was just curious what others have experienced to decide if it is:

1. User error (likely)
2. An issue with the prop setup (possible)
3. Just the way the S2 handles


Sep 23, 2009
O'Day 34-At Last Rock Hall, Md
The way I have always done a "standing turn" is with some forward motion. Also it takes bursts of power-1500 to 2000 rpm to pull and push the stern over.
Mar 20, 2012
Cal 34-III, MacGregor 25 Salem, Oregon
a sailboat is designed to slip forward thru the water with as little drag as possible. going backwards in them is not taken into account in the design.

there are several problems with backing up under power in a sailboat and in no particular order, here are a few...
the design of the rudder will be a big factor, and whether it balanced or non-balanced. also the "prop walk", which you can read about separately on google.
a big thing is when the boat is going backwards, the prop is effectively now, behind the rudder, so any side thrust that would be created on the rudder when going forward is lost completely...

until the boat gets some way on in reverse, the rudder will not do you any good, so what NEEDS to happen is, you need to get the boat out in the open and practice backing up and learning how to use the prop walk to its best advantage.... knowing what to expect from it and how to use it will allow you to back the boat up in the best manner that is possible.
Last edited:

Maine Sail

Feb 6, 1998
Canadian Sailcraft 36T Casco Bay, ME
In reverse, unless the vessel is moving fast enough, the rudder is doing nothing and only the prop is creating some "prop walk". You need to be moving in reverse in order for the rudder to actually work. In forward you can move water over the rudder and the rudder becomes effective even at 0.1 knot or less. Also if you have a folding prop it takes a good bit of juice to get it to open fully, and become effective, when backing down.
Feb 26, 2004
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
This is done with the full right rudder.
Try doing it with less rudder, which is only acting as a brake in some cases.

I just spent an enjoyable afternoon with a new dockmate, who has an electric motor on her Newport 30. The day was spent teaching her the three point turn and docking and leaving her slip. We had no issues at all, but full rudder in any case is usually the culprit. Try centering the rudder when the boat is stopped, slip into reverse to gain prop walk effect and only turn the rudder when you start moving. II noted that using only a half a turn on her wheel worked all the time. Anything more stalled the effort. She only has a turn and a half stop to stop. Other thoughts of using more throttle are also good. You have to keep experimenting.
Aug 14, 2014
S2 9.2A Selby Bay, MD
Thanks all for the feedback! I think I just need to find a nice calm day and as suggested just go out and practice to really learn the boat. Our "problem" is that when we get on the boat all we want to do is get sails up as quickly as possible and turn off the engine.

Stu, the comments on full rudder acting as a brake makes a lot of sense now that I think about it.
Feb 26, 2004
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
You're welcome. What we did that afternoon was NOTHING BUT practicing the turns and docking and laving the slip. Too few sailors PRACTICE that.
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Oct 9, 2008
Bristol 29.9 Dana Point
Maybe others said similar, but I'll just condense rearward motion in one paragraph, regarding how I back out of the slip - which may be useful for your turns:
Rudder straight, shift to reverse, loads of throttle (4/5ths, which in my case is about 12hp) for maybe 4 seconds, to get going about 1.5 knots before the prop starts any serious walking. Back to idle/shift to NEUTRAL. Then use the rudder.
Returning to forward with reasonable throttle puts the rudder awash in prop thrust, enabling turning without much forward motion.
I do have a large, skeg-hung rudder, so she turns on a dime in either direction, but it's the technique that takes advantage of what your boat also has in terms of physics.
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Oct 26, 2008
Starwind 27 Barnegat, NJ
I think the standing turn only works well in one direction because you have to take advantage of prop walk in reverse, for the reasons stated by others. If you are trying to work against the prop walk, the boat won't want to spin. That said, I can't do standing turns very well either. Keep in mind that when you aren't moving, windage is going to push your bow over anytime you have even a slight breeze. If you are trying to turn your bow against the wind, good luck with that ... it ain't happening if you aren't actually moving forward or reverse. When I used to back into my slip, windage and prop walk used to conspire to make it near impossible to stay aligned until I had significant movement in reverse.
Conversely, without windage on my ski boat, standing turns were a snap as long as I was taking advantage of prop walk. The opposite direction was a no-go trying to fight prop walk.
Sep 15, 2009
S2 9.2a Fairhope Al
i have found out in the past 3 weeks that when using reverse if i just put it in gear and goose it from time to time the boat does what i ask it to at the wheel/helm in reverse ....being new to sail boat maneuvers under power so far i have gotten away with a lot just by being deliberate and going methodical in my actions........now i may come back in the future with a major O s**t moment..but for now i am happy to have gotten away with what i am doing so far
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Mar 8, 2011
Ranger 33 Norfolk
I have a large spade rudder and with at least a slow walking pace, the boat drives backwards nearly as well as forward. . .only issues i've had backing down is if the prop is the least bit fouled. just my 2 cents
Mar 16, 2010
Beneteau 411 Oceanis Annapolis
You should be using 30-40 degree right rudder, not full right rudder. Figure out what that is on your wheel (or rudder indicator) and make a note. Putting a ring of colored tape on your wheel helps as the chaos of close-quarters docking consumes your attentions.
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Feb 26, 2004
Catalina 34 224 Maple Bay, BC, Canada
I think the standing turn only works well in one direction because you have to take advantage of prop walk in reverse
Absolutely, good point, Scott.

Do them so you're set up to move the stern to port first (on MOST boats). Since prop walk only works when the boat isn't moving fore or aft, you want to use it when the boat is stopped to start the turn.
Nov 8, 2007
Hunter 27_75-84 Sandusky Harbor Marina, Lake Erie
On Lady Lillie, with a low stern, any wind can really move the bow. The key is to learn how your boat handles - all of the issues are important: prop walk, speed of the water over the rudder, windage, current, keel+rudder design, and stalling the rudder.