Summary

Every windvane steering system has precisely defined limits imposed by the level of technology it enjoys. Some systems, depending on their power leverage and damping properties and the characteristics of the boat, will hold out for longer than others, but sooner or later all will eventually lose control. Conservative reefing helps to put this moment off by reducing the magnitude of the course corrections required. A system with well-matched steering force and damping and a good reserve of power will always give better results than one which requires continuous manual tweaking to keep up with changing sea and weather conditions. Although the rudder pressure required to keep a boat on course is normally quite low, every sailor knows how rapidly things change in heavy weather or tradewinds sailing.

The perfect windvane gear possesses the sensitivity to steer in light airs and the power to cope with serious weather. Auxiliary rudders, with little or no servo-assistance, run out of answers relatively quickly. The enormous power reserves of servo-pendulum and double rudder gears facilitate effective steering over a far greater range of conditions. Choose the wrong system and you either steer by hand or return to port!

The best system from the crew's point of view would be one which works as a closed system, providing optimum steering without demanding endless manual adjustment. The greater the scope and need for manual adjustment to optimise steering, the more chances there are of error (human or mechanical). Ideally the crew should be able to concentrate exclusively on sail trim and the boat and leave steering to the windvane gear.

With the steering handled by the windvane gear, there will be plenty of time to concentrate on sail trim on this Dutch 47ft Judel Frolic.

are of error (human or mechanical). Ideally the crew should be able to concentrate exclusively on sail trim and the boat and leave steering to the windvane gear.

With the steering handled by the windvane gear, there will be plenty of time to concentrate on sail trim on this Dutch 47ft Judel Frolic.

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