For years the sailing industry has been exploring ways to make sailboats easier to handle. Now Harken and Jeanneau have combined their considerable talents to take ease of use to a whole new level with their Assisted Sail Trim (AST) system—which integrates sophisticated software with Harken Rewind winches and other gear so that your sails trim themselves automatically. The Sun Odyssey 519 on which the system will debut has not yet launched, and therefore we have not been able to take it for a spin. Nonetheless, the Jeanneau/Harken team is confident, and the demo controller on display at the METS trade show in Amsterdam seemed thoroughly developed. The “basic” auto trim function adjusts sails as you change course or as the wind changes. Additionally, the main can be auto-eased to limit heel, while AST auto-tacking appears to be the pleasurable opposite of doing it with a pilot—you simply drive through the tack while the primaries do all the sheet work. There’s even a controller page for setting and dousing sails, though it’s not mentioned in the brochure. It’s important to note that AST is about sailing “assistance,” not full automation. Still, in its ability to promote sailing among those who have previously felt left out—including older sailors and those with physical limitations—this is an innovation that breaks new ground in a way we haven’t seen in years.
Electronic “Flares” for Cruisers
The United States Coast Guard requires that all boats operating in coastal waters or on the high seas carry a selection of visual distress signals. Almost invariably, such signals include the pyrotechnic type, either handheld or fired from a flare pistol, but surely there are ...read more