Group: Forum Members
We had a Hydrovane on our previous boat - a Hylas 44, and I do have views on the subject! Our boat was about the same length, but probably 5 tons lighter - still no lightweight.
We used the hydrovane very effectively on our atlantic crossing. It steered for days on end with just a few adjustments. Obviously, the sails needs to be well-balanced to give the system a chance, and you 'll need to do some playing around at the start to work out the best settings of sensitivity etc - but performance-wise I thought it was great.
However, we also used it during the AZAB race last year. A couple of days out Falmouth we started to get F6-8 NE, which blew us along very nicely but started to build some big seas. Bowling along in these seas, the hydrovane was again coping very well at keeping us on course when there was a loud bang and one of the bolts of the bottom A-frame had snapped. The hydrovane was now waggling about in the waves and I was concerned that it might rip the stern off the boat. After some heroic deeds - that get more heroic after a few drink - I managed to ensure that boat was safe and eventually got the hydrovane rudder off and reached Punta Delgarda using the autohelm and hand-steering.
I corresponded with the Curry family at Hyrovane but they failed to answer the key question to my satisfaction, which was why the bolt snapped. They claim it was an isolated incident, but I know of another skipper to whom it 's happened twice and my feeling now is that I do not trust the fixing bolts to be strong enough in big seas.
I am planning of fitting one of the servo-assisted self-steerers on my new boat.
Hope this helps