Sailing is a technical sport - but it’s frustrating when the technology demands time and effort to manage, without giving you the benefits you’re looking for. Autopilots are one such area, where it is difficult to determine in advance what you need, and how to make it work really well.
In recent years, we’ve seen a number of really good integrated autopilot options from companies like Raymarine, but when I chose the autopilot for Blur in 2012, NKE was the natural choice for an ambitious project. Because I had decided on Nexus instruments, it seemed sensible to choose something that would just work. After all, thousands of French solo sailors can’t be wrong!
So I got a NKE Gyropilot installed in France. I chose the Raymarine linear drive, as this was common among solo sailors and something that could be serviced anywhere. I had a hydraulic ram on my J/109, but was keen to get lower resistance in standby mode.
Quite soon it became clear that the GyroPilot was very competent, but required quite a lot of adjustment for different conditions (Gain, Counter helm, Helm coefficient & Wind smoothing). The advice from the experts was to “become one with the autopilot” and that there were no simple rules. What also bothered me was that there were different versions of the software. So when I sailed on a Class 40, they usually had their own, a bit more advanced, custom version…