Not an Aires but a lot of experience with a Sailomat
windvane and an Autohelm
electronic autopilot on a 40' 24,000 cutter
with over 8,000 miles at sea. I concur with everything the folks above say.
We have three wood vanes that we put on the Sailomat
depending on the wind and course.
- Big and light
- Factory default
- Small and heavily reinforced
-the stronger the wind the better the windvane works
One night off the west coast
of Baja Mexico
we had a 35 knot gusting to 50+ knot blow for over 10 hours (broad reach to almost DDW). The seas built to breaking 10' or more. The Sailomat steered every inch of the way. Full moon, scudding clouds, 75 degree air - a night sail to dream about! I sat in the cockpit
with my back to the cabin
and spent the whole time watching those big breaking waves come from astern, the boat's stern lift
, the windvane steer, and the boat accelerate down the wave. A high point of my 40+ years sailing!
-well balanced sailplan is essential
-the windvane follows the wind so a good watch is essential
Sailing NW upwind along the SW coast of Mexico
it was hot and sunny and I was alone. It was very hard to stay awake and I ended up falling asleep for many minutes at a time. This went on for several hours. Eventually, I arose from my stupor and realized that rushing and roaring noise
I heard was the surf breaking about 1/4 mile to starboard. The 20 knot wind had shifted a little and Mirador was now sailing a course that would put her in the surf in less than 15-minutes.
Two different boats I was friends with went onto the beach in Western Mexico and Costa Rica
in similar situations with their windvanes driving the boat.
- DDW is hard because we need at least 5 knots apparent over the vane to effectively and safely steer with a big spinnaker pulling us along.
... but WAIT there is a combination that allows the low energy consumption
of the windvane and the magnetic course (or GPS
track) following of an electronic autopilot.
We have an AH1000 tillerpilot that connects to the windvane counterbalance (that connection replaces the big wood windvane) and drives the windvane to keep the boat on the desired magnetic course or GPS
track. It works a dream and has steered us DDW in light wind with either the Code 0 or big spinnaker up for hours and hours.
Our ST6000 Raymarine
electronic autopilot uses about 3.2 amps while driving the boat in demanding conditions, but only uses about 2 amp hours / hour overall. The ST1000 tillerpilot uses about 0.4 amps and only about 1/4 amphour/hour.
Our solar panels
(500 watts) make so much power that under most conditions the 3 or so amps (36 - 40 watts) used by the ST6000 is of no concern.