All About


  1. How Does it Work?
  2. Performance
  3. Ratio Control
  4. Variable Axis
  5. Remote Course Setting
  6. Two Rudders
  7. Emergency Steering
  8. The Tiller – Manual and Tiller-pilot
  9. Heavy Boats
  10. The Vane
  11. Hydraulic Steering
  12. Mizzens
  13. Multihulls
  14. Off Centre

HYDROVANE is a unique ‘NEXT GENERATION’ self steering system which is both:

  • SELF STEERING – easiest to operate, no lines in the cockpit – excellent on all points of sail and in all conditions
  • EMERGENCY STEERING – Strongest Emergency Rudder and Steering System available today – always in place, nothing to set-up – ‘Ready to Go’ – takes the fear out of losing your rudder or breaking your steering mid passage


The Hydrovane is an Auxiliary Rudder system –  it has its own rudder that is independent of the main steering system. Once engaged, the big vane becomes a wind direction sensor and also provides the power to drive its own rudder. Being independent, there are no lines connected to the main steering. 

To Operate

  1. Trim The Sails To The Course – so the boat is comfortable holding that course

  2. Set The Vane with its leading edge into the wind – as if “in irons”

  3. Lock Main Rudder in the ‘on course’ position that compensates or eliminates any weather helm.

  4. Click Hydrovane Into Gear – just ‘click’ the ratio knob from neutral into gear

… The Hydrovane rudder is then steering the boat!

If the boat falls off course, the apparent wind changes and drives the vane over. The movement of the vane is linked to move the Hydrovane rudder down below to bring you back on course.

All windvanes steer a wind based course (as opposed to a magnetic compass course).  As the wind shifts, your course will also shift. To adjust your heading, simply pull on the ‘remote course setting line’ that is set up within reach of the cockpit, to adjust the angle of the vane to the wind. Trim your sails. 

Best shown in our video:

POWERPower for the system is derived from the large vane and its sophisticated linkage to the rudder. Because the rudder is semi balanced it requires little effort to move.

Even though fixed, the boat’s main rudder is still a large part of the Hydrovane’s perfomance:

  • “BALANCING OUT THE BOAT” –The main rudder becomes a big trim tab that is locked in position to compensate for any weather or lee helm. Although fixed, the main rudder does that certain amount of work to balance the boat – the Hydrovane rudder has that much less steering to do as the boat is  comfortably trimmed  and  balanced  to  keep  the  ‘on  course’  direction.  
  • NATURAL STABILITY OF A FIXED MAIN RUDDER – The combined effect of two rudders working together is perhaps the most significant advantage of a separate auxiliary rudder system. For downwind sailing in particular, the main rudder can provide the greatest yaw resistance only if it is fixed. To this natural stability the HYDROVANE rudder is tempered to the conditions resulting in yet further yaw damping – means a more comfortable ride, a straighter course and less potential to lose control in bad seas and risk broaches, crash gibes and knock- downs.


SWEDEN YACHT 45 finishing ARC 2006



The Hydrovane is the most sophisticated of all windvanes:

  • Only Hydrovane can adjust its sensitivity and the amount of rudder applied to control the timing and amount of steerage applied to course changes. The result is that a Hydrovane can straighten its wake in a calm sea and greatly reduce yaw in a heavy sea. No other system can be adjusted to the conditions.
    • “Discovered that the third setting (least rudder movement) works best in light wind from behind. Also found that keeping the vane vertical gives the best performance, at least in the 5 – 15kt winds we experienced. It even worked when we were motoring!” – Malo 37 Owner
  • The natural stability of a fixed main rudder makes for a better ride in all conditions.
    • “Overall when Helga is working she is amazing. Her ability to sail the boat smoothly and quickly astonished me even after reading various reviews before we purchased. My wife is a bit prone to seasickness and we clearly notice the difference as soon as Helga is engaged or dis-engaged.” – Hallberg Rassy 412 Owner
  • In the worst of conditions, don’t rely on an electronic autopilot or manual steering!
    • “Winds were reported at 55 knots, and waves in the region were at least “boat length” high and quite steep with the currents. This was an awful night and I was very afraid for myself, the boat and my equipment – I had new found respect, trust and comfort in the Hydrovane after that.” – Contessa 26 Owner
    • “In the Queens Birthday storm (6 yacht lost) the Hydrovane saved us days of exhausting steering and allowed us to pump, prepare food, rest, and make needed repairs. While in the big following seas, averaging over 10 knots under bare poles, the Hydrovane steered, most of the time, while a crewmember simply sat behind the wheel, ‘riding shotgun’.” – Rhodes Reliant 40 Owner
    • “Our passage from Hawaii to San Francisco included a heavy gale in the last 600 nm with winds up to 50kts true (according to B&G). “Irene” stayed on the same point of sail, with a triple-reefed main and a storm stays’l, while we stayed below, only popping up every 15 minutes to scan the horizon and marvel at the size of the waves.” – Kelly Peterson 44 Owner
  • It’s near frictionless system means it can steer in the lightest of wind. In addition, it doesn’t need to overcome the friction in lines nor in your boat’s main steering system.
    • “This is undoubtedly the best piece of kit I’ve had on any boat ever. It replaced a much older servo pendulum gear and is just amazing in the band of wind and sea conditions it covers. In particular its ability to steer safely on a dead run even when surfing is incredible, as is its light weather performance. I kept thinking, it just can’t be this good.” – Westerley 33 Ketch
    • “We have sailed about 4800nm with it since we installed it less than a year and a half ago ( 3 legs between Fiji, and Majuro). The trips have had the wind in every quarter, and on average 3-4 squalls a day. The winds have ranged from very light (8-12kts) to Heavy (40-55kts). The Hydrovane has handled it all.” – Maple Leaf 50
  • Because it is a completely independent steering system it will provide its steering power, tempered for the conditions, to any boat. Most other systems are limited in performance by the various characteristics of each boat – due to problems caused by friction in the existing steering system. Not so for the Hydrovane.

We speak from experience, and so do our customers… For many more Performance Reports, browse hundreds of Email Testimonials.


Westerly Oceanlord 41 ‘SKARDU’ – finish of 2004 ARC
“Our Hydrovane (a.k.a. “Scarlet”) has been a complete star
the last 18 months. We’ve covered over 18,000nm, with her
steering for most of them.”


Simple to use but sophisticated in capability.

There are two tools for adjusting the sensitivity and power of the HYDROVANE:

RATIO CONTROL – Rudder Settings for Power & Angle Applied

VARIABLE VANE AXIS – Adjusts Sensitivity/Responsiveness

The HYDROVANE is not finicky. Many owners leave their vane and ratio knob at the same setting for most conditions. The degree of tuning is personal taste… enthusiasm to trim! All the other major brands have either no such tuning capability or at best can make only minor adjustments.

1. RATIO CONTROL – Settings to Control Power and Rudder Angle

Three settings for the ratio control knob for different amounts of power and rudder angle:

  1. Far right – Neutral – Vane disengaged (Emergency Rudder)
  2. Right setting – 35 degrees rudder – 1:1 power – least power (no over steering), most rudder deflection – for storm conditions
  3. Middle setting – 25 degrees rudder – 1:2 power – heavy conditions (move from left to middle at 15 – 20 knots apparent wind)
  4. Left setting – 15 degrees rudder – 1:3 power – most power for light air and normal conditions

Ratio Control

Many sailors find that the normal settings with the vane partially standing tall and ratio knob in the left setting are all that they need – but you may want to fine tune to see just how well the HYDROVANE can perform.

If it appears you need less steerage, try the first ratio control setting (far left). Alternatively, if more steerage is needed use the third setting (right) – least used. At those settings you can try varying sensitivity/power with the vane angle (see below).

Examples – In light airs, when the vane may be vertical for maximum power, the resulting rudder movement can be reduced if necessary to avoid over steering, by moving the Ratio Control to a less responsive setting – ie – to the left. In heavy weather, when the vane axis will be declined for stability the ratio knob can be moved to the right to give more rudder control from a smaller vane movement.

Easy Waving Motion –  The end result should be an easy waving motion of the vane as it swings from side to side, rarely banging at the stop and not spending long periods without moving. You will soon learn what positioning works for you. Over time you will develop your own technique for altering the settings.

Surprisingly, many users are happy to leave the settings alone – seeing no need.

2. VARIABLE AXIS – Vane Angle Controls Sensitivity

Incline the vane to desensitize it. No other system can do this: CHANGE ITS AXIS. 

This is a technical issue that needs explaining: It is not so much the change of the angle of the vane – most systems can do that – but when inclining the HYDROVANE vane its axis is also changed. The axis is at the point of linkage that connects the vane to the steering mechanism. Changing the axis changes the physics of the impulse delivered to the rudder. A major development in self steering occured when systems adopted a compromise between the power and sensistivity of the horizontal axis and the tempered vertical axis. Most other systems have now chosen a fixed axis of about 20 degrees off the horizontal – a compromise. Only HYDROVANE has a variable axis that can be adjusted between perfectly horizontal (when the vane is vertical) and up to 30 degrees off that.

  • Normal setting – Vane is vertical – most power, most sensitive.
  • Partially inclined (0 to 30 degrees) – de-sensitizes the vane
  • Fully inclined to 30 degrees – for heavy weather, least sensitive

Vane Axis – to reduce power and sensitivity, simply loose the knob and lift the balance weight to tilt the vane axis

Examples – If the Hydrovane is responding too slowly, under steering, then finally catching up by over steering, you may raise the vane – make it more responsive by putting it in the vertical position. Conversely, if the vessel is over-steering with each correction being too dramatic, then de-sensitize/de-power the vane by further inclining it.



REMOTE COURSE SETTING – Its purpose is to change/set the course and it moves the entire upper section that holds the vane to put the leading edge of the vane into the wind. On the desired course the vane must be positioned with leading edge into the wind – ‘in irons’.

To use the remote course setting there is a line that is set-up like a clothesline – an endless loop – to somewhere handy to the cockpit. It’s usually attached by a bungy chord somewhere along the lifelines. A little pull on that line moves the vane a tiny bit. Three or four full arms length pulls would tack the boat. The worm gear is wonderful – no need to tie off or lock anything – just pull the line and leave it. 

MANUAL COURSE SETTING – The VXA1 Model of Hydrovane has a more basic mechanism – a course locking knob (‘Course Clamp’) – muscle the vane to the desired heading and tighten the knob.

MANUAL COURSE SETTING VERSUS REMOTE COURSE SETTING – One can imagine reaching over the transom in the middle of a bad night – and just at the wrong time being thrown by the motion…… “Now what course were we on?” For the extra cost the remote course setting is well worth it. We only sell one or two of the Manual versions (VXA1) per year and some of them come back for the upgrade (VXA2) – as the Remote system is such good value – a pull on the line does it all:

  • No need to lock off – never moves on its own
  • Can make the smallest adjustment or even tack/gybe with it
  • Lead the line anywhere – no need to get up to make a tweak in course
  • SAFETY – No need to lean over your transom in heavy weather

VXA2 Remote Course Setting, VXA1 Manual Course Setting


Both types of Course settings


Course Control lines - Freedom 44

Course Control lines – Freedom 44



TWO RUDDERS – The combined effect of two rudders working together is perhaps the most significant advantage of a separate auxiliary rudder system. For downwind sailing in particular, the main rudder can provide the greatest yaw resistance only if it is fixed. To this natural stability the nimble HYDROVANE rudder is tempered to the conditions resulting in yet further yaw damping – which means a more comfortable ride, a straighter course and less potential to lose control in bad seas and risk: broaches, crash gibes and knock-downs.

THE HYDROVANE RUDDER – VIRTUALLY INDESTRUCTIBLE – The rudder is manufactured in solid cast nylon – perhaps the largest single piece of nylon that one may see in a lifetime. With over 20 years of history these rudders have proven to be nearly indestructible. We have yet to see one of our rudders damaged from hitting a submerged obstacle. We believe that on such impact the rudder flexes, bends to absorb the blow then merely fends off the intruder – often unbekownst to watchkeepers and leaving little trace – maybe a scratch but never a gouge – the nylon is so tough … and flexible. Avoids Snagging Commercial Fishing Gear – Neither do we hear of the rudder being fouled by commercial fish nets or lines – because:

  • Tapered shape – helps line slip off
  • Flexibility – rudder bends under load helping such gear to slip free
  • Not very vulnerable with hull and keel in front acting as protective barrier

Rudder Locking Pin

Easy Removal – The rudder is designed for easy removal with a quick release pin that is easily ‘popped out’ with a boat hook. A tether must be kept on the rudder at all times.

Easier to Install – In recent years we have tapered both the bottom of the shaft and the entrance of the shaft hole – greatly facilitating the installation of the rudder – especially in sloppy seas. Those with older units should consider doing the same.

Improvements Over the Years – For nearly 30 years the rudder has been made of solid nylon poured into a mold and over the years various improvements have been made – lately getting larger and thicker. The improvements were designed for bigger and faster boats producing more power with less force required to control it. Excellent for all.

  • In 2006 the length was increased by 5.5 inches/14 cm.
  • In June 2009 it got thicker by adding 5 lbs./2.3 kgs. – now weighs 23 lbs./10.5 kgs.
  • The latest version (introduced in the summer of 2009) has been developed by our ‘in house engineer’, Ted Hargreaves. Ted inspired the upgrade based on his aeronautical experience with foils. After the first test Ted reported it was much more powerful but so light to the touch – easy to control – couldn’t believe that it could be that good while also being so very stable. It is a vast improvement. We strongly recommend the upgrade for any owners with older versions of the rudder who would like the extra power.

Rudders. All solid poured/cast nylon

  1. Original (short – 950 mm./37.5″) – 1980 to 2005 – 8 kg. (17.6 lbs.)
  2. First longer version – 1105 mm./43.5″ – 2006 to 2009 – 8.5 kg. (18.7 lbs.)
  3. Current Design – July 2009 onward – 10.5 kg. (23.1 lbs.) – 25% heavier … maybe 50% more power




With a Hydrovane your boat will have two complete steering systems. The term ‘Emergency Steering’ implies some sort of back-up or temporary steering. The HYDROVANE is much more than that. It is a full time, ‘in place’ steering system – capable of completing a circumnavigation without any need for maintenance or repairs – as is!

It is impossible to over-estimate the value of back-up steering on a long passage. “Second only to the importance of keeping the boat afloat is the importance of keeping her pointed in the right direction.”

Since this is such an important feature of the Hydrovane, we have an entire section of this website dedicated to Emergency Steering, with true stories from our customers.




With the vane disengaged (ratio control in the far right setting) the Hydrovane rudder can be steered directly with its own tiller. 

The Hydrovane’s rudder and tiller is just like that on any dinghy sailing boat. Some single-handers connect a dinghy type of tiller to Hydrovane’s small tiller to make an extension that can comfortably be used some distance away in the cockpit. This kind of set-up is practical if you want to use the Hydrovane to hand steer in close quarters or wherever. If in a pinch with no extendtion, a bildge pump handle will fit in the Hydrovane’s small tiller!

Some find it to be a wonderful improvement for those tight turns in a marina. This technique is only for some. When entering a harbour or marina most owners simply lock-off the Hydrovane rudder or even remove it by popping out the locking pin with a boat hook and shipping the rudder aboard with its always attached tether. 

IMPROVED STEERING IN TIGHT MARINAS – If maneuvering in marinas is difficult and you have an extra pair of hands on board you might want to have a crew member manning the Hydrovane tiller to operate it in sync with the main rudder – two rudders are better than one – especially with the Hydrovane rudder in that levered position further aft. Some report this technique has dramatically improved steering in tight quarters.


Proven to be a significant feature for many.  The Hydrovane is designed to be connected to a tiller style autopilot for use when motoring or when sailing in very light winds with sloppy seas. Because the Hydrovane rudder is relatively small and it is ‘balanced’ it needs only the smallest of the tiller pilots.



Tiller style Auto-pilot retro-fits

The installation requires a minor retrofit. Either a 3/4 in./20 mm. OD (outside diameter) insert or a 1.5 in./38mm ID (inside diameter) tube can be used to extend the Tiller and readily adapt to whichever connection is required by the tiller pilot manufacturer. The extensions have been made from many materials: wood, plastic tubes, plumbing copper, stainless steel etc. The tiller pilot manufacturers typically suggest an 18 in./45 cm. radius which means the extension need be 12 in./30 cm. or so. The extension can be held in place with the Rudder Locking Pin. The autopilot itself needs to be fitted nearby – either on the deck or rail or attached to the stern pushpit:

  • More flexibility in devising suitable connection with the Autopilot
  • Provides leverage – means less load on the autopilot – should last longer

Hydrovane owners have installed such tiller-pilots report strong preference for them over their expensive below deck autopilots: less noise, not under a bunk, small electrical draw, saves the larger unit for a ‘rainy day’ – and a cheap way to have yet another back-up.

  • Tiller style autopilot retrofit is highly recommended – for motoring and sailing in the very light winds with sloppy seas

  • Needs only the least powerful units as the rudder is balanced and relatively small

  • With its rudder In its levered position further aft it is efficient and quiet

  • Other self steering systems have variations on such a retro-fit. Only Hydrovane comes complete with a tiller in place that directly steers its own rudder – makes for the easiest to retro-fit … and most effective.

Complete steering redundancy is achieved when both steering systems, the main rudder and the HYDROVANE each have separate autopilots.



The following photo is an Oyster 55 rated at 25 tons and typically displaces several more tons when loaded up – say 55,000 lbs. (25,000 kg.) – well over our recommended maximum (at that time for the smaller rudder) of 40,000 lbs. or 18,000 kg.  This boat did a circumnavigation with the Hydrovane steering a respectable portion of the time. Derek Daniels, the Hydrovane inventor took the picture while on a test sail in the Solent. In those relatively calm conditions the Hydrovane handled the boat competently……. and it had only the older small rudder. The Hydrovane’s steering power is controlled by the size of its rudder and the boat’s speed. Of course, the faster the better ………. although greater boat speed means more power required to turn it. Ameliorating or worsening that issue can be the inherent balance of the boat and the sailor’s ability to trim the sails to the conditions. A well experienced self steering user on larger boats tells others that ask about self steering that “before engaging the self steering effort must be made balancing the trim of the boat so that she is practically ‘self steer’ herself. The test is to steer the boat by adjusting the sheets. When in doubt try to ease some sheets and then take the wheel and feel what the self steering would have to deal with. Only when well trimmed should the self steering be engaged.” We regularly hear positive reports from 25 ton yachts with Hydrovanes……those that were expecting limitations – then pleased enough with what they do get. Over the last years we have done considerable work to exploit the Hydrovane’s capabilities – focused on larger and faster boats:

  • Introduced in Fall 2015 – new ‘Extendable Vane’ –  more power for light airs:
    • The size of the Stubby Vane and extendable to the height of the Standard Vane. 
    • Regardless of the axis setting the vane can always be sitting tall to optimize its exposure to the wind.
  • Finally, in the summer of 2011 we feel that the rudder is perfected – longer, fatter and better balanced – more powerful but easy to control
  • January 2009 – Switched the rudder shaft to ‘Super Duplex’ steel – nearly three times as strong as the predecessor ‘316’ stainless steel
  • January 2010 – new Con Rod assembly  – 33 times stronger but more importantly provides a tighter and smoother transition – more responsive
  • 2008 – improved bearings

But better than hearing it from us, read hundreds of Email Testimonials where ‘unsolicited’ emails are reprinted verbatim – no editing – and include the sender’s email address if you want to contact them. Please note that some of them have older units with smaller rudders. In particular for bigger boats see:

  1. Garcia 48 catamaran (aluminum) – 23 tonnes/25 tons – June 2016 – “The first test was convincing in winds of 5 to 25 knots and for all points of sail. The Hydrovane teaches humility and patience – because it immediately shows any negligence in not attending to sail trim.”
  2. Callisto 45 (steel) – 23 tonnes/25 tons (with old small rudder!) – November 2014 : “We circumnavigated from 1995- 2001, and our Hydrovane steered 85% of the time, and our boat weighs 23 Tonnes.”   [and that would be with the old smaller rudder]
  3. Taswell 49 – 20 tons – September 2014: “Although we managed to mend the Autohelm, we carried on sailing with the Hydrovane for the remaining 1600 miles.”
  4. Hallberg Rassy 49 – 23 tons – May 2014 – made a dramatic rescue when solo on the Bermuda One-Two Race – “It’s the best money we’ve spent on the boat. The funny thing is that, $6k held me back. It took two years before we bought. The peace of mind, savings in energy consumption and the quiet, I’ll say quiet again! It’s by far the best 6K we ever spent.”
  5. Dufour 50 – June 2013 – 17 tons – big and fast – new rudder and bigger vane – “The self steering was really a non issue as it simply worked faultlessly as long as I had enough apparent wind which was 95% on the voyage.”
  6. Motiva 49 – 24 tonnes – February 2013 – lost main rudder in ARC 2012 – “… the vane was working just great for the first five days ….. in what I will describe as rough weather; nothing extreme; 4-8 m waves and winds 25-40 knots and from behind”  AND “…without it we might have ended up on the shores of Senegal.”
  7. Liberty 458 – 25 tons – July 2013, February 2013, August 2011 & December 2009 – “… our Hydrovane (James) just got us from Funafuti in Tuvalu to Pohnpei in the FSM [Micronesia](1688 nautical miles) doing 98% of the steering. That included 35-40 knots of wind and 20-25 foot seas on a broad reach. We only had up our small forestaysail and took three reefs in the main and we were still going well over 7 knots most of the trip.” 
  8. Hallberg Rassy 49 – 28 tonnes (over 60,000 lbs!) – October 2012 – “… 10,000 nm…. The only one time “Hydrolino” ( like I named the wind vane ) lost the way was because , at night and close-hauled with around a 20 kn wind, the main rudder with a bit of helm disengaged himself from the right position.”
  9. Grand Soliel 52 – 23 tons – September 2012 – “Mildred will then drive her at more than 9 knots.”
  10. Custom Aluminum 52 – April 2012 – “… my boat is sometime too big for it when the wind is stronger than 25 knots, it performs perfectly most of the time. I have also appreciated the possibility to use it as a spare rudder.”
  11. Maple Leaf 50 – 23 tons – November 2011 – “…sailed about 4800nm with it … wind in every quarter … average 3-4 squalls a day … winds … from very light (8-12kts) to heavy (40-55kts). The Hydrovane has handled it all.”
  12. Nauticat 44 – 22 tons – October 2011 – “…from San Francisco to Australia via the South Pacific she has steered the boat 94% of our logged hours for a distance of over 12,000 nm!”
  13. Beneteau 50 – March 2011 – “…ARC and WorldARC … It was the best part we mounted on our boat…. Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, South-Atlantic and will lead us through the North-Atlantic back to the Mediterranean. Only when motoring, we used our electric autopilot.”
  14. Wauquiez Centurion 47 – February 2011 – “… in heavy weather. So heavy it stripped our rack and pinion autopilot within a few days of setting sail.”   “The Hydrovane worked flawlessly on the crossing …”
  15. Garcia 46 – 17 tons – January 2011 & July 2010 & May 2009 – “…a crew member who has an xxxxxxxx on her boat says that it does not hold the course nearly as well: moreover hers requires regular monitoring and adjustments – things that are not done with the Hydrovane, really fantastic.”
  16. 20 ton cutter  – September 2010 – ” It’s a great piece of kit and every yacht should have one.”
  17. Van de Stadt 50 – 25 ton steel – May 2010 – “After quite a few days of getting to know one another, the hyrovane and I are now friends. We have worked out our differences and now both understand what needs to be done to control 25 tons of steel, 50 ft long. Once that initial period was over we kept challenging it with harder tasks.”

If you have a heavy displacement boat (23 Ton+) and your interest in a Hydrovane is because:

  • You are a good sailor who can appreciate the bliss of non electronic self steering
  • Your boat is well balanced – minimal weather helm
  • You are aware of Hydrovane’s trump card as a complete emergency steering system ‘in place and ready to go’ – in itself worth the price

Then we feel comfortable in encouraging you to get a Hydrovane.

Oyster 55 sailing in the Solent
steered by its Hydrovane using
the older small rudder



The windvane is a lightweight ripstop nylon fabric stretched over an anodized aluminum tube frame. Its base is a casting that is attached to the steering unit with a quick release knob – easily spun off in a second or so. The attachment incorporates a safety groove to prevent the vane from being lost even if the knob holding it in place has not been fully tightened.

STANDARD VANE – Over the years our Standard Vane has grown in height in order to produce better light air performance. The Standard Vane stands 56 in. (142 cm) tall from it’s pivot point (the axis knob). It is 12 in. (30cm) wide.

STUBBY VANE – Arches, radar masts, antennas, mizzens etc. can be interfering. For those we  provide our Stubby Vane that is 11 in. (28 cm) shorter but 8 in. (20 cm) wider. It will produce comparable power and better accommodate aft deck obstacles.  

POWER – In a wind tunnel the Stubby has slightly more power than the standard vane – but the Standard Vane reaches that bit higher where there might be a bit more wind. Assume they are both about equal power.                

NEARBY AERIAL OBSTACLES – The vane needs lots of airspace. If your boat has any nearby aerial obstructions  – arches holding solar panels, radar poles or wind generators, etc – More information on the  SPECIFICATIONS page.

EXTENDABLE ‘XT’ VANE – * New – has been in production since Fall 2015*  The Hydrovane can perform in light airs because it has so little inherent friction, but there are conditions when more power is desirable – especially for modern big and fast boats that can sail downwind at 7 knots in a 10 knot breeze leaving little apparent wind for the Hydrovane to work with.  

With a similar surface area to both our Standard and Stubby Vanes, the Extendable Vane allows the user to fine tune for light air conditions by telescoping the vane area up higher, and into cleaner air. This changes the leverage and makes the vane much more sensitive.

Looking at it another way, the XT Vane enables the crew to have the benefit of a large vane which can be reduced in the same way that they would reef sails to suit the conditions. The main difference being that the vane area remains the same but when the vane is extended the leverage increases the force available to move the rudder. When combined with the other features a wide range of additional advantages are available.

Extendable Vane - normal conditions Extendable Vane - Light Air





RED VANES – All our vanes are red – a safety colour – visible to aircraft. 

Size Comparison – Standard and Stubby Vanes



With hydraulic steering you do not really lock the main wheel – you simply let go – the hydraulic system will freeze the rudder in that position. Over time there will be a bit of ‘hydraulic creep’ – ever so slowly the rudder will move as hydraulic fluid seeps through its hydraulic motor. That only means that the watchkeeper, from time to time, must give the wheel a little adjustment. We had hydraulic steering on our last boat. I used my big toe to give the wheel a little push now and then.

  • “I am very impressed with its performance and providing our sails are balanced so that the boat is not overpressed, the Hydrovane works very well. Our hydraulic wheel steering allows us to “feel” the load on the helm and yet also allows us to set the helm at midships and engage the Hydrovane without the need to lash the wheel.” – Prout Snowgoose 37 Catamaran Owner
  • “When we were about 150 miles North of Cabo, our hydraulic steering failed (leak in the lines) and we hoisted the sails again and the Hydrovane took over and took us to right outside the harbor without a peep.” – Liberty 458 Owner
  • “The boat is equipped with hydraulic wheel steering. This has allowed us to put some trim onto the main rudder when winds were stronger, which allowed to put off reefing for a bit.”, “We are sailing this arrangement for 30 years, around the world and Europe (about 60000 miles).We carried most of the spare part Mr Derek K. Daniels suggested to take on board in 1981, but never had to replace a part except for the bottom collar.” – Steel 33 Owner



The HYDROVANE is often fitted to boats with mizzens. The technique is to first design the installation so that the HYDROVANE, sans vane, will sit comfortably below the boom. Then the default is to remove the vane before tacking or gybing. There is a quick release knob for that purpose – takes a second or so to spin it free. Actually, there is an even easier method. After loosening the knob the vane can be pivoted to nearly the horizontal position and the knob tightened to hold it there. With the vane lowered and trailing aft the mizzen boom should easily clear the Vane when tacking or gybing. When in use a ‘preventer’ on the boom is the rule. For quick stowage of the vane a good idea is to make a big pocket in the lifelines.

  • “Yes, the Hydrovane worked great and I really appreciated it being solo. I had one time on the crossing with wind directly behind me (15 knots or so), the mizzen out to port, the main out to starboard and the genny out to port (wing on wing on wing) and sailed that way for about 5 days without touching anything!” – Shannon 38 Owner
  • “On a essayé à peu près toutes les allures dans des vents allant de 0 à 20 noeuds. A partir de 5 noeuds de vent, notre ketch se met en marche et l’hydrovane le barre parfaitement quelque soit l’allure – de près serré à vent arrière. Je craignais que la voile d’artimon perturbe l’hydrovane au prés sérré mais elles interagissent sans problème.” English Translation: “We have tried just about every point of sail in winds from 0 to 20 knots. from 5 knots of wind, our ketch starts and the Hydrovane performs perfectly whatever the pace – nearly tight downwind. I feared that the Hydrovane is disrupted by the mizzen when going upwind but they interact smoothly.” – Roberts 44 Ketch Owner

12.85m Custom Ketch

12.85m Custom Ketch



In sailing across the South Pacific Will and Sarah discovered that the multihulls they encountered were no different than the rest of the westbound fleet. Sailing at normal speeds without the rapid acceleration and deceleration of performance multis. Even the big new production cats were often still comfortably within the range of a Hydrovane.

The suitability of a Hydrovane on a multihull is subject to all the same criteria as a monohull: How well balanced is the boat? What is her displacement? How easy is she to steer? What boat speed is she sailing (relative to wind strength)? Just like high speed racing monohulls, high performance catamarans can be problematic because of the rapid changes in apparent wind when surfing downwind.  But the reality is that many cruising cats are more about comfort than maximizing speed.

Within these limitations, the benefits of a Hydrovane can be enjoyed by a cruising multi-hull: ease of use, complete back-up steering system/rudder, and enormous reliability.  Surprisingly, or not so, Hydrovanes have been positioned almost everywhere on catamarans and trimarans – way off centre. 

We recently (2015) received this feedback from a customer who is currently cruising the South Pacific:

“After sailing around 6000 miles now with our Hydrovane on our Nautitech 47 Catamaran, I just wanted to drop you a line to congratulate you on what a great piece of kit it really is. Rarely have I bought something in this Marine industry that simply does exactly what it’s meant to and performs so well. Beyond steering us flawlessly through all the conditions we have met so far, it has also been an amazing conversation starter in most ports when people say “I’ve never seen/didn’t know you could mount one of those on a Catamaran, how does it work?” To which I reply “It’s absolutely brilliant and I haven’t found a condition it won’t steer the boat in yet!” ”

CRITICAL LOCATION FOR BEST LEVERAGE – Locating the Hydrovane further aft, preferably on the end of a hull gives the advantage of leverage – EXTRA STEERING POWER. We also like to put the vane as high as possible, especially for boats with big superstructure. For that we have what we call an ‘Extended Heading Tube’ and simply longer shafts. For safety the upper bracket support struts can be positioned to be ideal handholds.

CONCLUSION – We strongly recommend positioning the Hydrovane on the aft end of one of the hulls ……….. and we shall provide a configuration that gets the vane as high as possible/practical.      

BACK-UP RUDDER – Perhaps mutihulls have even more vulnerability to steering failure than monohulls because their rudders are unprotected, unsupported and connected by a somewhat complex system – usually simple spade rudders lacking a protective keel or anything like a skeg or bottom support. Even if well built, not nearly as strong as Hydrovane’s solid nylon rudder and solid ‘super duplex’ shaft. Hence having a separate independent rudder and steering system should be of considerable value.  

Shine of Exeter, Nautitech 47, in Bora Bora

Shine of Exeter, Nautitech 47, in Bora Bora



Off Centre Installations? Absolutely. Over 70% of Hydrovane’s are mounted off centre today.

See the OFF CENTRE Section of our website.



More questions about Self Steering? Many will be answered in the FAQ section of our website.