Frequently Asked Questions

What is the TillerClutch?
The TillerClutch is a highly-refined sailboat steering accessory that lets you “lash” your tiller with the simple click of a lever for moments of hands-free steering. Conveniently positioned beneath the tiller, the lever operates a specialized rope clutch that engages a small control line attached aft across the cockpit. With one hand on the tiller, you work the lever to grip or release the control line. This action securely holds or fully releases your tiller for quick steering corrections or for extended periods. Now patented with 12 unique claims, the TillerClutch is compact, solid, and highly refined, making it unlike anything else on the market.

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How does it work?
The TillerClutch puts a small control lever right where you need it—on the underside of your tiller within the grasp of your steering hand. A touch downward on the lever instantly engages the control line to hold your tiller still. You can gently squeeze the lever upward to momentarily free the control line and make course corrections.  Releasing the lever returns it to the engaged position. A firmer squeeze toggles the TillerClutch off for continual free steering. The action is intuitive and convenient—always ready with just a click.

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When would I use it?

  • While tacking
  • While at the dock or at anchor, to prevent “rudder knock”
  • While reefing, changing or dousing your sail
  • While motoring
  • While changing hands at the helm
  • When heaving to
  • When launching or landing
  • When you don't have time to engage and adjust your tiller pilot
  • To help you hold the tiller when the steering gets tough
  • When you need a momentary break from holding the tiller

Use with caution in rough conditions.  As always, steering should  take priority when necessary.

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Will it fit my boat?                 Tiller inverted for mounting

Mounting the TillerClutchThe TillerClutch is designed to fit most tiller-steered boats, from dinghies to smaller cruisers. Two screws mount it solidly to your square or round wooden tiller, or even to an aluminum one.  The concave mounting surface conforms to the shape of the tiller. If you ever remove it, the screw holes will be hidden on the underside of the tiller. It can also be used for steadying auxiliary outboards. The TillerClutch is not intended for wheel-steered boats, and is not recommended for super light small racing boats such as the Laser®.

Please e-mail us with any questions. 

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Won't I miss the drag adjustment of my old tiller taming knob?
Probably not. The old tiller taming knob is a passive friction brake that applies an adjustable drag setting to the tiller. The idea was to apply enough drag to the tiller to keep it from swinging wild if you let go for a moment. This is ok for light winds, but in heavier conditions, you must keep tightening the knob to increase the drag and prevent the tiller from slipping. When steering, you end up having to shove on the tiller to overcome the extra drag. This continuous drag also masks the feel of the rudder, which is important sailing feedback, but It can be distracting to frequently unscrew and re-tighten the knob to steer without the friction.

An easier, more intuitive and effective steering aid, the TillerClutch lets you instantly switch between a maximum-hold setting and free natural steering without having to adjust anything for changing conditions. The TillerClutch provides a small lever in your hand when you grab the helm. Just click it ON to firmly hold the tiller, or click it OFF to steer. No knob needed. 

Please e-mail us with any questions or comments.

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Can I mount it at the middle of my tiller?
No, this is strongly discouraged. As the name implies, the TillerClutch is a clutch not a friction brake. It is designed to hold the tiller firmly from its grip position, and is intended to be actively used while sailing. To function effectively, you need it near the end where you hold the tiller. This gives the TillerClutch the leverage it needs for holding power and enables you to click it on and off while steering without shifting your hold on the tiller. See photos page.

If mounted much further aft, the control line could wear excessively, and your response time would be diminished.

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What makes it so strong and corrosion resistant? Tire Test Photo
The TillerClutch is made of solid hard-anodized, sealed aluminum alloy with stainless steel internal parts. Inside, stainless steel and aluminum parts are insulated to prevent galvanic corrosion. With this specialized construction, the TillerClutch is built to withstand harsh marine conditions in every way imaginable. Testing and sea trials were exhaustive and thorough, giving us the confidence to offer a lifetime warranty.

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Can it automatically steer my boat?
No. The TillerClutch can help a boat self-steer, but it should not be confused with any type of automated tiller controller.  The TillerClutch is a mechanical device intended to hold the tiller in any desired position for momentary relief from steering.  Some boats can remain on course (usually close-hauled) with the tiller fixed for an extended time, while others for only a short period.  It is the sailor’s responsibility to decide when steering corrections are needed. Care must always be taken when leaving the tiller unattended while underway.

Why is it better than a bungee?
Many of us at some point have tied a rope or stretched a bungee across the cockpit to help hold the tiller. Both seem effective in light airs, but the bungee ends up being tricky to adjust, and its stretchy hold on the tiller invariably lets you down when you really need it.   A rope lashed to the tiller won’t stretch, but it can easily bind on the tiller in an anxious moment.  Both of these set-ups have a makeshift look that can detract from the neatness of your boat.  In contrast, the sleek TillerClutch, is always ready on your tiller hold it fast or to allow you to move it with just a click.

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Will the control line be in my way?
No. The TillerClutch must be mounted forward on the underside of the tiller to work effectively, but its control line can be neatly routed clear of the cockpit seating area. A pair of V cleats or cam cleats on the transom will keep the line aft and out of your way.  On larger boats, the V cleats or cam cleats can be mounted up on the coamings in a convenient location. Then, a pair of inexpensive eye straps can take the position on the transom to route the line aft and forward to the coamings. For rudderpost boats, position the eye straps in line with the tiller bolt.  See the "Positioning" section of the Owner’s Guide for more information.

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What if I already use a tiller pilot?
The TillerClutch nicely complements an electronic tiller controller. Tiller pilots typically can’t react to boat wakes, wind shifts, channel bends, etc.  The TillerClutch will stand by without adding any friction to the tiller for the tiller pilot to overcome. When a quick course change is needed, just detach your tiller pilot, click the TillerClutch on and trim to your new course. Then you will have time to readjust your tiller pilot. Just remember to click the TillerClutch off while the tiller pilot is operating. Also, to save battery power or for peace and quiet, on long close-hauled tacks, you can often use the TillerClutch and save the tiller pilot for other times.

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Does it have a good warranty?
Yes. The TillerClutch comes with a limited lifetime warranty. Also, we accept returns for a full refund within 60 days of purchase with a copy of your receipt.

Will it slip in heavy weather?
The TillerClutch is designed to hold the tiller fast on most sailboats in above average conditions. However, its clutch mechanism has a carefully-designed holding limit to help protect the rudder from excessive loading in severe situations, such as the jarring impact from a large broadside wave. This holding limit also allows the skipper to overpower the TillerClutch and make a steering correction in an emergency situation. Forcing the tiller with the TillerClutch engaged will not harm it, but it can cause excessive wear to the control line. It is best to use the release lever whenever possible.

There are two models of the TillerClutch. The standard TillerClutch is intended for all but the lightest trailerable sailboats and day sailors up to 26ft, and also for larger, light weight, well-balanced boats. The TillerClutchX provides extra holding power for heavier keel boats generally 27 ft. and up (the "X" is not meant for the lighter day sailors).

What about keel boats --TillerClutchX instead?
The standard TillerClutch is designed to hold the tiller fast for all but the lightest trailerable sailboats and day sailors sailing in above average conditions. By design, these boats tend to generate less than 15 lb of pull on your tiller hand due to weather helm. But if you have a stout keel boat who’s tiller frequently gives you a 20-plus lb. workout, we recommend the extra holding power of the TillerClutchX instead. The models are identical on the outside, but, the “X” offers double the holding power, has a slightly harsher clicking action in the lever, and requires more force on the tiller to override it. It is not recommended for trailerable-size boats. For more information, click the TillerClutchX link on the Buy page

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or write to: WaveFront, Inc., PO Box 1632, Pittsboro, NC 27312

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