Windvane steering systems obtain their steering impulse from the apparent wind angle. The advantage of this is that a sailing boat likewise generates its drive from its position relative to the apparent wind. The advantage of this is that a sailing boat likewise generates its drive from its position relative to the apparent wind. Once the sails and windvane have been set at the appropriate angle to the wind, the boat will continue to steer this angle indefinitely and the sails will always be properly trimmed.
Wind direction is the key consideration when planning any voyage. If the wind blows from astern it is possible to set the rhumb-line course and enjoy a comfortable trip from A to B via the shortest route. When the wind is on the nose, however, tacking is unavoidable and a compass course is useless; the direct route is not the quickest if the sails are backing.
The three elements of a windvane steering system are the windvane, the linkage and the rudder. We cover each in turn below:
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