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A help­ing hand

I heartily rec­om­mend wind self-steer­ing gear as crew on board – they never com­plain or sleep on their watch, and they are very easy to pro­vi­sion for! Yes, they have their quirks. I sym­pa­thised with the au­thor of your ar­ti­cle ‘Vane at­tempts’ (Novem­ber is­sue), who had teething prob­lems set­ting up his He­bridean vane. His ex­pe­ri­ence rang true.

I have sailed more than 30,000 miles with a Hy­drovane. It never let me down. The sight of the vane it­self mov­ing at times had a hu­man qual­ity, rather like a hand writ­ing its sig­na­ture or con­duct­ing the mu­sic of your move­ment. That’s how I thought of it.

Set­ting it up just right and mak­ing the op­er­a­tion of a wind vane sys­tem in­stinc­tive takes a bit of get­ting used to as they aren’t plug and play.

Lars Sil­ver­gren

Red all round

We had a wind vane on our ketch in the Nineties and I re­call it cop­ing ad­mirably with a Bis­cay cross­ing with winds gust­ing to 45 knots and big seas.

With the wind vane driv­ing, the boat ploughed on, tak­ing the odd wave over her, one of which curled over the boat and drenched me. Our only real prob­lems were hold­ing on and sleep­ing, and the only dam­age suf­fered was a plate that de­cided to take fly­ing lessons and failed.

We did have one drama dur­ing this pe­riod, which had noth­ing to do with the weather but hap­pened as we crossed the ship­ping tracks north of Cape Fin­is­terre. The crew on watch at night saw a red light with a sin­gle white above it: a small ship mov­ing right to left across our bows.

Some­thing didn’t seem right and the crew called me up for a sec­ond opin­ion. I knew it was im­por­tant be­cause I asked if I had time to go to the heads be­fore com­ing on deck and he said: “No, get your wet weather gear on and get up here fast please.”

It was al­most im­pos­si­ble to tell which way the ship was go­ing so we had to make the yacht ready for fast eva­sive ac­tion and start hand steer­ing. Even­tu­ally, we went round the front of the ship and to our amaze­ment saw that the ship’s star­board light was also red. Then as it went away from us we saw the stern light was also red and large. Quite why a ship should be show­ing il­le­gal and dan­ger­ous lights is be­yond us. We would hap­pily have throt­tled the skip­per.

John Kelly

Golden Globe in­sights

While the res­cues and at­tri­tion rate of the Golden Globe Race is quite high, we have seen some great ex­am­ples of sea­man­ship in this event so far. Given the long his­tory of boat-break­ing storms in this re­gion, we shouldn’t be sur­prised at the num­ber of re­tire­ments, but the ex­am­ples of Nor­we­gian Are Wiig in get­ting him­self out of trou­ble and Gre­gor Mcguckin mak­ing a jury rig and try­ing to as­sist Ab­hi­lash Tomy are fine in­stances of great skill and brav­ery.

The con­sis­tent speed of the

Fine sea­man­ship by Jean-luc Van Den Heede in the Golden Globe Race

Wind vane steer­ing, such as the Hy­drovane, can be a real boon

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