Recently two Japanese solo sailors, each on their own boat, arrived in San Francisco after solitary crossings of the Pacific. For sailors Michiaki Koga (age 64) and Yasuo Abe (63). the voyage represented the fulfillment of a life-long dream to sail solo across that massive ocean. Both said they were inspired by the 1962 solo Pacific crossing of 23-year-old Japanese sailor Kenichi Horie in a 19-foot sloop.
Koga's vessel is named Tsuyotaka and is a 1998 Japanese-built version of a French Groupe Finot Esprit du Vent 30 design. Abe sailed a Japanese-built Trekker 34 named Yukikaze II.
While both vessels were equipped with electronic autopilots, the Japanese sailors relied almost exclusively on Monitor wind vane self-steering units, consigning the autopilots to a back-up role only. Mike Scheck and Ross Gillanders of Scanmar International, which makes the Monitor wind vanes, greeted Koga and Abe after they arrived in San Francisco Bay and docked at Alameda. Gillanders reported some details to ON via email:
"Both Mr. Koga and Mr. Abe relied on their Monitors to self-steer approximately 95% of the time once the boats cleared the coast of Japan. Out of the 55 days Mr. Koga was at sea, he experienced 10 days of storm conditions with the Monitor steering 100% of the time. Both boats are equipped with redundant below decks electronic autopilots, but saw no use based on the opinion they consume too much power and are prone to failure if over-worked.
"After approximately 5,000 sea miles, the Monitors are ready to safely steer them back to Japan with only a simple control line replacement due to a minor chafing issue. Mr. Koga is returning via Hawaii and Mr. Abe is sailing non-stop."
Pretty good endorsement for Monitors in particular and for wind vane self-steering in general as a still viable option for ocean sailors.