Freedom Books and Plays


There has been debate over the first yachtsman to use a self-steering system to run before the wind on a long-distance solo voyage. The Frenchman Marin-Marie, who was the painter to the French Ministry of Marine and a single-handed Atlantic sailor, wrote in his book Wind Aloft, Wind Alow:

“I firmly believed at the time in 1933 that I was the first to make the attempt. Later I discovered that Capt. Otway Waller had before me, although his method took an altogether different form.”

An article in the Tatler in 1931 explained Otway’s invention:

“An invention which is of vital interest to sea-going yachtsmen by which a yacht may be made to run indefinitely before the wind with no one at the tiller, has been introduced by an Irish yachtsman, Captain Otway Waller.

“Although most cruiser-type yachts will keep to their course with tillers lashed and will sail unattended when ‘close-hauled’, or with the wind on the beam, it has hitherto been considered almost impossible to make a yacht run before the wind without someone on the tiller.

“When a yacht is running or ‘scudding’ before wind and sea forces are set up – such as the varying pressure in the sails and the tendency of the overtaking seas to throw the hull round – which cause the vessel to yaw and to ‘steer wildly’. This tendency to broach-to needs constant checking one way or the other by the tiller. Hence the virtual impossibility of ‘letting her look after herself’ before a following wind.

Imogen with running sails set

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