A method by which the wind, acting on a rotatable vane linked to a rudder, can be set to steer a sailing yacht on a given course. This principle of wind-vane-operated gear was introduced in the mid-1920s to control model racing yachts while sailing downwind. Known as the Braine gear, after the name of its inventor, it proved highly effective, and in the model-yacht-racing world quickly superseded the older hit-and-miss contrivances with weights and springs then in use.
It was first applied to full-sized yachts about 1948. The gear comprised an upright metal or hardboard vane, like a small sail, mounted on a freely turning swivel plate. With the vane adjusted like a weathercock to the wind relative to the desired course, and connected by means of rods and linkage to a servo-tab on the yacht's rudder, or to a separate small rudder mounted right aft, the yacht is made to keep her course whether close hauled, or with the wind abeam, or with a following wind.
These self-steering gears, which are manufactured in a variety of types and sizes, have been widely used by ocean-going yachtsmen, particularly when cruising short handed or solo. See also steering gear.
Subjects: Maritime History.