The first time I used a windvane in anger was back in the early 1980s, aboard my newly purchased UFO 34 cruiser-racer whilst delivering her home from Scotland through the Irish Sea. Fitted with a then state-of-the-art Aries vane, we had strong tailwinds for much of the way, which the vane handled fairly well, impressive because the UFO was an early IOR design and a known handful downwind. But when the wind eased, the vane really began to struggle, failing to respond quickly enough to hold a course, and in the end we had to take over by hand.
A reliable autopilot comes right after radar as the most important piece of electronic gear for a northern shorthanded voyage. In this chapter we report on how our Robertson AP300X autopilot handled our 10,000-mile trip.