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Vane Sailing

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Tony Hadley25/10/2015 18:23:53
914 forum posts
559 photos

Anyone ever sail vane yachts? Some years ago I used to sail a Marblehead with vane sailing. The vane gear was built to plan MM398 all silver soldered. The accompanying magazine item advised chrome plating but there was long wait time and it was just finished with lacquer. Great fun, even considered making the yacht dual purpose i.e. vane or r/c which was not a lakeside exchange. Unfortunately storage issue meant the yacht was sold.

The MYA still organise competitive events for vane and commercially available vane gear I can still be bought from model yacht specialist, Sails etc.

Just one thing for anyone considering this form of steering - unless a mate is available on the opposite bank with a pole, a good pair of running shoes will be required!!

MM 398 Vane Gear

Martin Field 125/10/2015 20:05:04
564 forum posts
6 photos

I would love to do vane steering, but my old Marblehead has Braine. And I haven't a clue how that works, never mind vane. But yes, it does seem to be done at various clubs, still. I think it's fascinating to see a model respond to the slightest movement of the vane.

If anyone can do an explique of vane (or Braine!) I think that'll go down well.



Paul T26/10/2015 13:15:39
7340 forum posts
1229 photos
2 articles

Hello Martin

Try this site **LINK**


Tony Hadley26/10/2015 15:03:09
914 forum posts
559 photos

Found this on Braine steering in Vic Smeed's 1984 book - Boat Modelling.

boat modelling book.jpeg

The accopmpanying text reads - "Braine gear is really obsolete but sometimes encountered in simple form. The yacht is trimmed to sail to windward on sail trim alone, and the gear only engaged for reaching or running, when the quadrant tension and hook position is balanced against sail pull. The jib is set slightly in so that if the yacht turns towards the wind jib pressure will turn it off again; if it turns away from the wind increased mainsail pressure will move the quadrant and return the boat to the required course. This is just the principle and there is much more to getting maximum control; probably the most easily available infrormation appeared in Model Boats magazine for June 1983".

Must say I really like Gareth's dual system (Braine or radio) shown in the other thread and what a lovely job he has made of the yacht.

The easiest Vane system is the Draper (designed by Geoff Draper), nothing more than two nylon gears, one 20T and one 10T, the vane is just lifted and engaged in the required position. Can be seen in this photograph from Vic's 1979 Hamlyn Book - Model Ships. The yacht is 'Wind Rider' which was besigned for the 1975 BBC TV series Model World.

from hamlyn book-wind rider (2) .jpeg

Martin Field 126/10/2015 15:48:15
564 forum posts
6 photos

Oh dear, I'm none the wiser!

What connects to the traveler?

What are beating sheets?

No diagram I've seen so far explains or shows the slider satisfactorily.

And that vane seems to have no resistance to its movement compared to the conventional vane mechanisms (none of which I understand either!)

I find the VMYG article of no help at all, much as I've studied it a lot.

I shall have to get another book, I think!



Kimosubby Shipyards26/10/2015 17:54:52
563 forum posts
272 photos

Hi Tony, Martin and Paul,

YUP, I sail Braine and have tried vane too.

My only advice to you is yes have at least two mates to assist because whilst you are learning the boat can go anywhere it decides (actually it's your set-up that makes that decision) but until you've learnt and got some experience any thing can and does happen.

You will not understand any of it till you actually have the boat on the water, so you need to find a friendly sole who has sailed before. The whole essence of Braine and or vane is setting the boat up to sail, using the current wind, to a point of your choosing that is actually possible. By that I mean yachts cannot obviously go head to wind and make any way.

There are two sets of sheets, one for beating - that's any direction that is making way up wind. The direction is controlled by your setting of the sails - NO rudder is employed, in fact under both systems [Braine and Vane] it is locked or held dead straight so that it cannot influence the yachts direction. Older yachts have no rudders at all!

The rudder is only used when the wind is aft (behind the mast) and the sailing term is then called running. The second set of sheets are the running sheets. Again experience only will allow you to make a proper setting of the sails, but what makes the run harder to set-up is that IF the wind gusts or falls away slightly then the sheet attached via the boom to the rudder then turns the rudder to counteract the wind effect. In Braine boats that's down to the elastic band tension and on Vane boats it's the effect of the wind on the vane.

On a well set-up yacht the boat should always be balanced to be slightly too windward, that means that it will try and head up into the wind rather than sail a straight line. (On no account do you want a boat that sails off the wind - it will end up doing circles). The trick is to balance that with counter rudder, and not very much either else the boat will gybe. Oh dear, lots of yachting terms and the only way to learn is to do the sailing.

You really need to see a yacht perform when set-up well, then you can start to appreciate the skills.

Now, when we're learning on our own we actually screw a small sail winch on deck and have loose lines fitted to the rudder. Loose, so as not to influence the sailing unless you really want to. It's no good having a solid arm as that stops the rudder moving unless you move the servo. Having loose lines means you can set sail and watch what the yacht is doing, use the servo to get the boat back, make adjustment and sail again. That way you can record what small adjustments made have on the direction and sailing ability of the yacht.

Racing is great fun and my baptism a couple of years back was a tremendous learning curve. Yachts race in pairs, going up wind the first yacht across the finish line gets two point. The run back down the course is worth only one point, as I was informed by my opponent "even a beach ball can sail down wind!"

I'm sure Gareth will pop up at some time and confirm the wonders and joys of Braine and Vane sailing - but it is an art and r/c yachting does not teach it, the rudder over rules a yachts natural sailing direction, almost like forcing the yacht to do what it doesn't want to do naturally.

Have fun, if you want more come back. There's still a very large following about the country for 36R yachting and other classes with vanes. They still work well, but you do need the boats that were built for that style of yachting as even the sails on modern yachts have a different style.

Oh Martin, if you wish I can send you the 1930 instructions that I used, they are long winded but do explain what adjustments can be made to counter erratic actions. But I have to emphasise this style of yachting is learnt out on the water, experience is everything and practice brings understanding too. Yes, there is a yachting language, once you've started understanding it all will become a lot easier.

The books you need are the ones written when this style and form were the norm, so anything from 1920 through to 1950 should do well. 

Aye, Kimmo

Look up the thread on this forum - Vintage yacht 36R - its my build of a vintage 36R yacht and her and my first competition sailing in the UK v America series at Llandudno.  Some useful tips in that lot, just had a look again myself.

Edited By Kimosubby Shipyards on 26/10/2015 17:56:53

Edited By Kimosubby Shipyards on 26/10/2015 18:04:44

Martin Field 126/10/2015 18:36:47
564 forum posts
6 photos

Wow, many thanks for the long and useful reply, Kimmo. I still need to learn the rigging in order to get a boat sailing at all. And there's no chance of finding a friendly local. This IS the Fens after all!

Because I can't always be making the long journey to Norwich from here, I can't sail Braine as I don't have anywhere that I can get all round the pond. So I will have to use a mixture of Braine and R/C.

I'll check out that thread if the search facility will find it.

Thanks again,


Kimosubby Shipyards26/10/2015 19:36:45
563 forum posts
272 photos


I'm sure Gareth's idea is the one to try for then, it gives you the feel for free sailing with the security of being able to turn the boat and head it back to somewhere near you. The temptation would always be to include a sail winch, but then you've gone full r/c. I'll post an image I have of one of our local chaps who added a steering servo, it mounts on top of the deck, but he has managed to disguise it somewhat,

I'll send you a pm (message member on the bottom of a post). I've found two simply written in depth explanations of Braine and then Vane (big boats too), both start with what went before, reverse tillers mean anything to you? Thought not.

I'll be in touch. Aye, Kim

Martin Field 128/10/2015 10:27:51
564 forum posts
6 photos

Kim, many thanks for the PM and info. I'll go through it bit by bit and see if any of it makes sense!



Gareth Jones28/10/2015 13:08:21
802 forum posts
1081 photos

Hi Martin,

I have also had a go at both vane and Braine steering systems and have found vane to be easier to understand and set up. However I would strongly endorse what Kim says about going out and trying it for yourself.

My wife Elizabeth restored a vintage Marblehead which came with a self tacking vane gear. I spent hours reading the information on the VMYG website and trying to understand how it operated, without any great success. One of the problems is that there are lots of variations in the design of vane gears and unless you have a diagram showing how your exact variant works, its difficult to understand. However spending a couple of hours sailing at Llandudno and getting some guidance from experienced vane sailers gave us a good understanding of how to set the gear and what it does. We are by no means expert but at least we are confident enough to go out and sail and engage in some informal racing with others.

There is a well known vane gear design by Graham Reeves called the Easy build vane gear and details are available through the VMYG and on the Llandudno MYC website. I have built one and fitted it to a 36R Razorbill and it works really well.

Also as Kim says, having the ability to radio control rudder alone is easy to implement and allows you to sail the yacht and get a feel for the setting of the sails and position of the mast without worrying about the model disappearing off into the distance and getting lost in a far off reed bed. Its easier than trying to fit a full sail control system and well worth trying as a first step. Elizabeth has a couple of large yachts including a 70 year old 10 rater and a 50 year old Shetland class which are both sailed successfully with that set up.



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