Operation and General Maintenance

In August 2014 we filmed this Operational video – first time using the Hydrovane we installed on SV Corra Jane. Just another excuse to go sailing!  Hopefully this answers a few questions before you do too. Also see the TIPS section




A. Motoring and Going Astern

B. Under Sail

C. Variable Ratio Control & Adjustable Vane Axis Angle


D. Bearings – Replace Rudder Shaft Bearings

E. Ball Sockets – Change

F. Drive Sleeve – Change

G. Vane Axis Disc and/or Bobbin – Change

H.  Ratio Arm 70 – Change

I. Assembly of Drive Unit onto Shaft – When the shaft is already fitted to boat

J. Shortening Rudder Shaft Assembly

K. Conversion of VXA1 (Clamp Course Setting) To VXA2 (Remote Course Setting)

L. Installation – Course Control Winch – older model





  1. VANE LOCK PIN (near the vane – holds the vane vertical) inserted to hold vane vertical.  
  2. RATIO KNOB in neutral position (plastic-sleeved drive arm vertical).  
  3. SHAFT LOCK PIN (below the Tiller) inserted to fix rudder central.
  4. On some yachts the water flow from the propeller (prop wash) may create bias on the helm. This is overcome by removing the RUDDER LOCK pin and securing the Hydrovane TILLER to one side. It is preferable to remove the auxiliary rudder if motoring for long periods, particularly at higher speeds – although not really an option when at sea motoring through a calm waiting for wind. Re-installing the rudder at sea in the best of conditions is challenging for those that have a swim platform – largely impossible otherwise.




  1. 1.VANE LOCK pin in to hold vane vertical 
  2. RATIO KNOB in neutral position. 
  3. SHAFT LOCK pin out to leave rudder free. 


  1. Remove the VANE LOCK pin and ensure that the SHAFT LOCK pin is out.      
  2. Sail the yacht onto the desired course.      
  3. Adjust the sails for good balance.     
  4. Turn the windvane until it is approximately in line with the wind direction (balance weight pointing into wind). On the VXA1, slacken the COURSE CLAMP knob, turn the vane round using the knob and tighten it in the position required. On the VXA2 pull one or other of the COURSE SETTING LINES     
  5. Secure the wheel or tiller in the position to hold the best course. This should be done firmly so that the boat’s rudder cannot move.     
  6. Pull out the RATIO KNOB and move it into one of the three operating positions to engage the Hydrovane. Adjust the vane axis – SEE BELOW.     
  7. After the yacht has settled down onto a steady course adjust the course setting as in 4 if necessary.




Left – Variable ratio Control … Right – Knob for Adjusting Vane Axis

  The variable ratio control and adjustable vane axis combine to give the Hydrovane the capacity to respond accurately in a wide range of wind and sea conditions. When using the Hydrovane for the first time:

  • Slacken the AXIS CLAMP knob, and using the balance weight as a handle
  • Incline the axis to about its mid-position.
  • Tighten the AXIS CLAMP
  • RATIO KNOB in its 3rd position (middle)
  • Observe the performance of the unit:
    • If the yacht is moved repeatedly through the correct heading, the vane is too sensitive and the vane axis should be inclined farther.
    • If the yacht returns too slowly to the correct heading, increase sensitivity by moving the vane axis nearer horizontal (vane vertical).
    • If necessary, combine these adjustments with alterations in the position of the RATIO KNOB to obtain optimum performance.
  • In general, the vane will be vertical or nearly so when sailing close hauled, and inclined more as the apparent wind moves astern.
  • RATIO KNOB positions are:
 1st position  NEUTRAL  Rudder trails free
 2nd position Least power – most rudder angle – 40 degrees  1:1 – Rarely used
 3rd position Double power – less rudder angle – 30 degrees  2:1 – Preferred by many
 4th position Treble power – least rudder angle – 15 to 20 degrees  3:1 – Preferred for bigger or faster boats

On some yachts a single setting of both vane axis angle and ratio knob position may prove satisfactory under most conditions. On others different combinations of ratio and axis angle will greatly improve performance for different wind strengths and points of sailing.








Because the rudder shaft has a reduced diameter just below the top bearing, the shaft can only be removed downwards. To change the bottom bearing, without the use of special tools, the top bearing is first removed, using the rudder shaft to knock it our upwards. The shaft can then also be used to knock out the bottom bearing.

  1. With pin 61 inserted, move the ratio knob to the least rudder movement position.  
  2. Slacken bolt 58 and bolts 55.  
  3. Remove the pin 61 and lift the drive unit off the rudder shaft. Remove the fork arm 71 from the top of the rudder shaft as it becomes free.  
  4. If the drive unit can not be moved upwards, remove one of the bolts 55 and screw it into the threaded hole between the two bolt 55 locations, until it touches the casting on the other side of the gap.Now tighten this bolt carefully, a quarter turn at a time (so opening the drive unit frame casting around the rudder shaft tube) until the drive unit can be lifted off.  
  5. Slacken screw 46 and remove the collar 26.  
  6. Pin 28 in the collar 27 prevents the rudder shaft from dropping downwards out of the rudder tube 29.Before knocking out this pin, if the unit is mounted on the boat, brace a safety line upwards from the rudder retaining pin hole to take the weight of the shaft and prevent its loss if it drops through the tube.  
  7. Remove pin 28 (the pin 61, removed from its string, can be used for this, since it is fractionally smaller in diameter that 28).Remove collar 27 and the 19 nylon balls below this collar.  
  8. When the shaft is below the top bearing, it can be used to knock out this bearing upwards.Try to keep the shaft in contact with the inside of the tube as it is moved up and down, to avoid any damage to the bottom of the bearing.  
  9. After the top bearing is removed, the shaft can be lifted above the bottom bearing and used to knock this bearing downwards and out of the tube.TO DO THIS, THE SAFETY LINE FROM THE RUDDER PIN HOLE WILL BE REMOVED AND CAN INSTEAD BE ATTACHE DOT ONE OF THE TWO HOLES AT THE TOP OF THE SHAFT.  
  10. The shaft bearings 24 and 25 can be replaced using a soft-faced hammer, or a steel hammer, using a plastic or timber pad on the bearing flange.  
  11. Slide the shaft back in and replace the collar 27 and the 19 nylon balls 31.Replace the bottom collar 26 so that the shaft has a small vertical clearance – about 0.015 inches (the thickness of a piece of card from a cigarette packet).  
  12. Replace the drive unit after reviewing the installation instructions – ‘Assembly of Drive Unit and Shaft’


In mid 2008 changes were made to the bearings:

  • Material changed from Delrin to PTFE
  • New ‘Mid Bearing’ added

INSTALATION OF THE MID BEARING – recommended for bigger and faster boats

All new shaft assemblies have the mid bearing included. Not so for pre mid 2008 units.

  1. HAND FILE RIDGE – The bearing can be inserted in either end of the shaft tube. A cavity has been machined out of each end of the tube for the bearings. You can feel a lip or ridge at the end of the cavity caused by the machining (not noticeable in new assemblies – has a smoother transition) – the edge between the machined section and the unmachined wall of the tube. That ridge must be filed down – otherwise there is not enough space for the Mid Bearing to fit in the tube. This will take a bit of work.
  2. DEVISE A ‘PUSHER’ – A suitable ram must be devised to push the bearing half way up the tube. Suggestion: 1inch (50mm) plumbing PVC pipe – add the related cap – the cap has an OD of 42mm or 1.65 inches – about right.
  3. SOAP INSIDE – Mix dish soap in water then pour some in the tube and slosh it around so the surface is slippery.
  4. Carefully insert the Mid Bearing (has two rubber ‘O’ rings) so that it is clear of that machined lip.
  5. Ram it up to a position of about half way up the tube.
  6. Proceed with installing the other two bearings.




  1. Using an Allen key, slacken ball socket screws 43 – under the aft end of the bottom lever 69. Push the sockets out sideways by moving ball screw 57 at the bottom of con-rod 63 to one side and the other. This should allow sufficient purchase on the outer end of the sockets to enable them to be pulled out.
  2. Insert the new sockets and tighten the screws 43 to leave a small but distinct clearance between ball and sockets.
  3. Because the screws are held in with locking fluid, they may be difficult to turn. Try alternative tightening and slackening to free them. Remove the socket screws completely, apply locking fluid and replace. If the screws are damaged, replace the screws with new.



  1. Using an Allen key, slacken ratio screw 45 a few turns to ensure it is clear of the retaining groove in ratio rod 35.
  2. The ratio rod is now free to drop downwards – take care not to lose it.
  3. Remove ratio rod and drive sleeve 19.
  4. Remove ratio screw completely, apply locking fluid and screw partly back in. Replace new drive sleeve, insert ratio rod and tighten ratio screw.
  5. Having ‘cracked’ the original locking fluid, the ratio screw should turn without too much difficulty.





  1. For ease of handling, remove the balance weight – bolts 52.  
  2. Remove con-rod bolt 49 and detach con-rod top 68 from con-rod 63.  
  3. Remove appropriate axles 47 by slackening their axle screws 40 and lift off vane lever 65.  
  4. Remove axis knob 33 and tilt bolt cover 12. Remove locking nuts, washer and tilt bolt washer 11 from axis bolt 38.Pull out vane axis disc 8 from top mounting casting 66. Screw out axis bolt 38 and the other washer under its head, remove the large vane axis washer 9 and replace these on the new vane axis disc.  
  5. Install new vane axis disc and vane axis washer into the top mounting casting. The tilt stop stud can be seen projecting from the top mounting casting. The small hole in the vane axis washer and the larger hole in the vane axis disc are both fitted over this stud.Replace the plastic tilt bolt washer, the stainless washer and the two locking nuts on the axis bolt. Tighten the locking nuts so that the vane lever can be moved on the axis bolt, but is quite stiff. Replace the tilt bolt cover and the axis knob. 
  6. If the bobbin 3 is to be replaced, slacken its axle screw 40 and remove its axles 47. Remove con-rod top by taking off the lock nut and outer washer of the bobbin bolt 50 and screwing the bobbin bolt out of the con-rod top, together with the white bobbin washer 17.Place 50 and 17 in the new bobbin, in their original positions, and re-fit to the con-rod top. Note that the head of the bobbin bolt, with a stainless washer under it, sits in the deeper recess in the bobbin, and the bobbin washer lies between the con-rod top and lock nut, tighten the bobbin bolt so that there is a small but distinct clearance between the con-rod top and the bobbin.  
  7. Re-fit the vane lever to the vane axis disc, with the axles set to leave a small but distinct axial clearance. Re-fit the bobbin into the vane lever in a similar manner.  8.Re-fit the con-rod top to the con-rod. Before the con-rod bolt is tightened, conduct the following set-up check.
  8. With the vane locking pin and the shaft locking pin inserted, check that the ratio knob will move freely from neutral to the 3:1 ratio (far left side) and, with the shaft locking pin removed, that the rudder shaft is free to rotate. If there is any interference between the drive arm and the drive rods, adjust the vertical position of the con-rod top on the con-rod. The hole in the con-rod is lightly oversize to allow this.
  9. Replace the balance weight.



  1. The ratio arm 70 is already fitted with the lever bearings 18 and both ratio screws 45. One screw 45 serves to limit the distance the ratio bolt 56 may be screwed into the casting – and the position of this screw may be adjusted, using an Allen key, so that the ratio bolt can be tightened with its washer level with the outside of the ratio knob 21 – see diagram. The other screw 45 holds the ratio rod 35, with the drive sleeve 19, into the ratio arm casting. This screw locates in the groove in the ratio rod.  
  2. If the ratio rod and drive sleeve are not supplied, fit these into the ratio arm casting and tighten one screw 45. Place the ratio arm inside the bottom lever casting 69 and insert the two axles 47, through the axle sleeves 1 in the bottom lever, and into the lever bearings in the ratio arm casting.
  3. Screw in the ratio bolt, with the ratio knob, spring and washer, but do not finally tighten. By tightening the axle screws 40, the axles are located so that: a) there is a very small axial clearance of the ratio arm (a clearance that can be just felt), and b) the drive sleeve, now located between the drive rods 36 and placed vertical with the ratio knob in its neutral position, allows the rudder shaft to rotate freely – the vane locking pin 60 inserted.
  4. When the axles 47 have been finally located and the screws 40 tightened, tighten the ratio bolt 56 against the other ratio screw 45 so that all the bolt head is visible outside the ratio knob 21. If necessary, adjust the position of the ratio screw to achieve the correct position of the ratio bolt.  4.With the vane lock pin 60 still inserted, insert the shaft lock pin 61 and check that the ratio knob can be moved from neutral to its 3:1 position. If the drive sleeve will not move freely between the drive rods 36, slacken the fork bolt 58 and move the tiller 23 until the ratio knob moves the drive sleeve freely through its range of movement. Tighten bolt 58.



 The usual instructions for the ASSEMBLY OF DRIVE UNIT AND SHAFT should be followed, except that, since the drive unit is to be fitted with the shaft vertically, the following should be noted.

After completing step 5 of the assembly instruction, before tightening the clamping bolts at the bottom of the drive unit frame fully, check that:

  1. The rudder is pointing aft – if not, rotate the drive unit on the rudder shaft until the rudder is pointing dead aft.  
  2. When the rudder is pointing aft, and with the clamping bolts still not fully tightened, check that the RUDDER LOCK PIN, which locates the drive unit vertically, can be withdrawn and inserted easily. If not, the weight of the drive unit will be resting on the pin and the drive unit will have to be raised slightly until the pin is free. At this stage, check again, that the rudder is still pointing dead aft. When the rudder is pointing dead aft, and the RUDDER LOCK PIN can be inserted and withdrawn, the two clamping bolts can be finally tightened. Step 7 onwards of the ASSEMBLY OF DRIVE UNIT AND SHAFT can now be followed.



  1. Support shaft in a horizontal position on padded blocks.
  2. Place a container below the top of the shaft to collect the 19 nylon balls of the SHAFT BALL RACE 31.
  3. Knock out RACE COLLAR PIN 28 and pull off SHAFT RACE COLLAR 27.
  4. Remove the SHAFT BOTTOM COLLAR 26.
  5. Slide the RUDDER SHAFT 30 until the top end is inside the SHAFT TOP BEARING 24.
  6. Use the rudder shaft to knock out the top bearing, rotating the RUDDER TUBE 29 so that the bearing comes out evenly.
  7. Slide the rudder shaft until the bottom end is inside the SHAFT BOTTOM BEARING 25 and use the shaft to knock out this bearing.
  8. Set up a drilling machine or miller to drill a new hole for the RUDDER PIN 62.This must be exactly on the shaft centre line Drill is 6.4mm diameter.
  9. Shorten the shaft and tube by the same amount. This should be done using a lathe. Re-machine the small radius on the bottom edge of the shaft.
  10.  Re-fit the bearings in the tube. Use a soft-faced hammer to replace the bearings. Alternatively a steel hammer can be used with an intermediate piece of wood or plastic between hammer and bearings. Ensure the bearings are seated on their flanges, but tap them into their final positions with care to avoid cracking the bearing flanges.
  11. Slide the shaft into the tube and stand the assembly on the bottom of the shaft. The reduced diameter at the stop of the shaft will support the tube.
  12. Replace the 19 balls, slide on the top collar and replace the retaining pin – in the top hole.
  13. Lift the assembly, allowing the shaft to sit down on the ball race, and turn the assembly so that it rests vertically on the top of the shaft.  TAKE CARE TO HOLD THE SHAFT AND TUBE TOGETHER AT THE TOP TO AVOID LOSING THE BALLS AS THE ASSEMBLY IS TURNED UPSIDE DOWN.
  14. Replace the bottom collar, tightening the screw so that a small vertical clearance remains.
  15. Check the assembly by spinning the tube around the shaft while the assembly is upside down.



 VXA2 – Remote Course Setting – worm gear



 VXA1 – Integral Course Setting – basic clamp


  1. VANE LOCK PIN out.  RUDDER LOCK PIN in.  COURSE CLAMP KNOB tight.  Frame case off.
  2. RATIO KNOB to least rudder movement position.
  3. Remove con-rod top clamp bolt 49 and pull out con-rod by pulling balance weight – con-rod top casting 68 is split at back.
  4. Remove collar screw 51 and slacken COURSE CLAMP KNOB.
  5. Lift off top of unit, together with collar 16, from the tube 64.
  6. Remove COURSE CLAMP KNOB, spacer 13 and heading bolt set 39.  Remove bolt with care to avoid twisting casting.  If bolt 39 refuses to move, leave it in place and cut off part of the thread length so that the bolt becomes the same length as gear clamp bolt 89 supplied.
  7. Remove bearing screw 59 and remove bearing 15 upwards.
  8. Insert wormwheel 85 upwards to replace bearing 15.  Ensure that wormwheel seats firmly onto bottom of top mounting casting 66.
  9. If bolt 39 has been removed, screw clamp bolt 89, with washer under head, through plain hole first and tighten lightly.  Put on second washer and tighten lock nut.  If bolt 39 remains in lace but has been cut shorter, put on washer and lock nut in place of knob and spacer and tighten lightly.
  10. Worm box casting 86 is supplied with worm assembly 80, 81,82 ,83, 84, 87 and 88 assembled into it.  Slide casting 86 onto tube 64, with 2 inch PTFE washer 90, together with top of unit, WITH WORM AND WORMWHEEL IN MESH.  Washer 90 is positioned between the casting 86 and the wormwheel 85.  Collar 16 must also be in position as the top of the unit is lowered onto the tube.
  11. Replace and tighten collar screw 51.
  12. With the REMOTE LINE FAIRLEADS pointing forwards or any other direction to give a straight run of line, tighten clamping nut 88.  BEFORE TIGHTENING NUT 88, LIFT CASTING 86 SO THAT THE TOP OF THE UNIT SITS ON THE 2 inch PTFE WASHER AND NOT ON THE COLLAR 16.  NOTE ALSO THAT AFTER NUT 88 HAS BEEN TIGHTENED THERE MUST BE A SMALL BUT NOTICEABLE (0.01INCH/0.3MM) vertical clearance between the top of the wormwheel boss and the collar above.  Check this by feeling that the top of the unit can be moved up and down slightly.
  13. Re-connect the con-rod by reversing STEP 3.
  14. The con-rod will now have to be extended by approximately 1/8″ (3mm).  Using two spanners, ensure that the two ball screw nuts 57 at the bottom of the con-rod are locked together.  Wind out the ball screw by using a spanner on the upper nut.  The con-rod is the correct length when, with the VANE LOCK PIN in and the RUDDER LOCK PIN out, and the RATION KNOB in the neutral position, the shaft will rotate freely using the EMERGENCY TILLER.
  15. Separate the nuts, run the top nut up tight onto the con-rod bottom washer and tighten the bottom nut onto the top one.
  16. Carry out the final adjustment check: with both the VANE LOCK PIN and the RUDDER LOCK PIN in, the RATIO KNOB should move freely from neutral to the least rudder movement position.  If not, slacken nut 58 and adjust the position of the fork arm casting 71.
  17. THE COURSE SETTING LINE: for smooth operation the lines should pass straight through the fairleads without any significant change in direction. Double blocks can then be used, if necessary, to lead the lines forward around any obstructions. The final anchorage for the line is made using the block, shock cord and hooks provided. The tension in the shock cord is adjusted so that the line does not slip on the grooved wheel 82.  It is intended that the course setting line be made into a continuous loop, preferably using a long splice that will pass easily through the fairleads on the unit. The loop can be made simply by knotting the line. This will limit course setting if a short run of line is used. An endless loop is preferable. A splice might be too bulky. A weld would be best. The nylon ends of the line could be melted with a torch or gas stove and welded/stuck together.


HYDROVANE TYPES –  VXA I (Series 1200) and VXA II (Series 5000)

(These are pre 1986 models – different than the current models: VXA1 and VXA2)

The winch should be positioned close to the helmsman, on deck or coaming.    Dismantling the drum assembly gives access to the four holes in the base of the winch, for countersunk bolts or self-tapping screws.]

The cable outer sleeve is supplied in a single length to be cut into the two lengths required.  After cutting, the rough edges must be carefully removed, particularly from the inside.  As direct a route as is convenient should be followed from unit to winch and the bends given a radius not less than 3 inches (80mm).  The outer sleeves should be taped together at about 10 inch (250 mm) intervals and secured to the rail, deck or other suitable points.  REMOVE 1/4″ (6 mm) OF THE BLACK COATING AT THE ENDS SO THAT THE COPPER TUBE FITS PROPERLY INTO THE PLASTIC ADJUSTER SCREWS .  SCREW THE ADJUSTERS FULLY HOME.

Connect the inner stainless cable to the winch by forming a clove hitch at mid-length around the split pin.  Pull the hitch tight.  To complete this operation the drum will have been removed from its spindle.  Replace the drum but hold it so that its groove is fully accessible and so that the split pin is pointing away from the adjuster screws.  Pass one end of the cable around the drum, past its point of attachment to the split pin, and on through one of the adjuster screws to enter the sleeve and emerge at the unit.  Repeat this with the other end of the cable, winding it in the opposite direction.  The turns are to be laid so that they do not overlap.  Therefore, one end of the cable will be wound upwards to be  received by the upper adjuster and the other end downwards to pass through the lower adjuster.  With the turns correctly laid, ease the drum down its spindle whilst pulling the cables tight.  Replace the washer above the winch drum and tighten the knob with the split pin still pointing away from the adjusters.

Turn the head of the unit round until the clamping bolt in the pulley points exactly aft.  Pass each end of the cable in turn around the drum, past the bolt once and on round the front of the pulley until the end of the cable can be pushed through the hole across the groove.  It may be necessary to push a small screwdriver into the hole from the opposite side to part the clamping sleeves so that the cable will pass through.  Each end of the cable is wound in a direction opposite to the other to enter the hole from each side.  One end is wound downwards to the hole and the other upwards.  There must be no overlaps.  Tension the two ends of the cable as much as possible before tightening the clamping bolt.   Leave an inch of cable protruding from the hole on each side and cut off the remainder.   Slacken the clamp knob at the winch and rotate the winch fully each way.  If the system works smoothly and there are no riding turns at either end.