Setting the wheel adaptor

Most wheel adaptors conform to the same basic design. The various models do, however, differ substantially in their technical features, as we shall now explain:

1. The fixed drum - no adjustment possible (Sailomat Cap Horn). Both steering lines have to be disconnected from the adaptor and shortened/lengthened in order to fine-trim the course. This is not a straightforward procedure and fine trim is often ignored, resulting in less efficient sailing. Providing sufficient scope for such adjustments also means that the lines have to be longer and additional turning blocks may be needed.

2. Adjustable track adaptor (Monitor). A spring-loaded pin engages in a hole in the track to hold the drum in the desired position. Fine trim involves pulling out the pin and rotating the drum until the pin aligns with a hole in the new desired position.

3. Gearwheel adaptor (ARIES). The adaptor is mounted via a finely-toothed gearwheel and is engaged/disengaged using a clutch. It must first be disengaged for fine-trimming.

4. Disc brake style infinitely adjustable adaptor (Windpilot Pacific). The adaptor is mounted via a disc on which it can be rotated and then fixed in place with a locking brake. The locking brake should be tightened no more than necessary to hold the adaptor in place. The adaptor is then able to slip on the disc when overloaded, for example in a sudden squall, preventing damage to the transmission components. This type of adaptor is very simple to adjust, a little slack in the locking brake while the wheel is repositioned being all that is required.

5. The fixed drum - no adjustment possible (Sailomat Cap Horn). Both steering lines have to be disconnected from the adaptor and shortened/lengthened in order to fine-trim the course. This is not a straightforward procedure and fine trim is often ignored, resulting in less efficient sailing. Providing sufficient scope for such adjustments also means that the lines have to be longer and additional turning blocks may be needed.

6. Adjustable track adaptor (Monitor). A spring-loaded pin engages in a hole in the

track to hold the drum in the desired position. Fine trim involves pulling out the pin and rotating the drum until the pin aligns with a hole in the new desired position.

Gearwheel adaptor (ARIES). The adaptor is mounted via a finely-toothed gearwheel and is engaged/disengaged using a clutch. It must first be disengaged for fine-trimming. Disc brake style infinitely adjustable adaptor (Windpilot Pacific). The adaptor is mounted via a disc on which it can be rotated and then fixed in place with a locking brake. The locking brake should be tightened no more than necessary to hold the adaptor in place. The adaptor is then able to slip on the disc when overloaded, for example in a sudden squall, preventing damage to the transmission components. This type of adaptor is very simple to adjust, a little slack in the locking brake while the wheel is repositioned being all that is required.

The mounting diameter of a wheel adaptor may be a problem if it clashes with the mounting diameter of an autopilot already present.

Three wheel adaptors (top to bottom):

Monitor, Aries and Windpilot.

Three wheel adaptors (left to right): Aries, Monitor and Windpilot.

Transmission to an emergency tiller

It is possible with almost all wheel steering boats to fit an emergency tiller to ensure steering if the wheel system should fail. Do not be tempted to try and improve the transmission efficiency of your system by simply connecting it to the emergency tiller! It will not work because the tiller will also be trying to turn the whole steering mechanism from the wrong end. The effect resembles trying to turn the steering wheel of a car by sitting in the road tugging on the front wheels.

The benefits of tiller steering can only be had by completely disconnecting the wheel steering mechanism from the rudder quadrant. While impractical for weekend and holiday sailing, this is a perfectly realistic proposition for blue water yachts. The windvane gear handles most of the helming duties on a longer trip anyway, so losing the use of the wheel may be a small price to pay for the advantages of direct transmission to the tiller. This solution is only expedient if the following conditions are met:

1. The emergency tiller must be long enough for manual steering.

2. The emergency tiller must be within easy reach of the helmsperson; under no circumstances may it be outside the cockpit on the afterdeck.

3. The emergency tiller must be tightly clamped to the rudder post and there should be no play in the connection.

If you are planning a new boat, good emergency rudder transmission can be built into the design (see Building a new boat).,

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