J/29 (and J/30) has an unbalanced transom-hung rudder.
I do like the feel of the stock rudder because there is a lot of feedback. Upwind and downwind, there is plenty of feedback, and the boat really talks to you.
J/29 Rudder Not For Wimps
When you get on a reach though, the feedback transforms into force. In fact, J/29 on a reach can require a lot of strength to steer in a fresh breeze.
This became a real issue for me when I started sailing solo. Sailing solo requires that you rely on the autopilot. J/29 on a breezy reach pushes the autopilot to its limits. This drains the battery quicker, not to mention the shortened life of these relatively poorly manufactured devices.
Sometimes the unbalanced rudder requires so much force that the autopilot just can’t handle. This results in the boat rounding up especially when the breeze is up. My autopilot is a wimp, but I don’t think I’m too far behind when it comes to being a wimp.
Balanced Rudder to the Rescue
The cure for this is the balanced rudder. Balanced rudder moves the rudder’s center of effort forward so you don’t have to struggle against its push.
There are many benefits to having a new balanced rudder on the boat that I won’t go into too much detail here. One drawback for a balanced rudder is that it often penalizes your rating in a racing fleet.
I am not going to worry about the rating since I don’t do those races anymore.
I went ahead and ordered a balanced rudder from Competition Composites. It should arrive in a few weeks. I’m quite excited about the new rudder and looking forward to driving my boat with it.