History of Aries Vane Gears 

 History of the Aries Vane Gear 1964 - 1992 by Nick Franklin, its inventor, designer and manufacturer.

I built six more and with bated breath placed the first advert in Yachting World magazine in August 1968. Within two weeks a French Canadian called Leo Cotourier worked into my workshop, gave me a cheque and I air freighted a vane gear to Gibraltar the next day. Needless to say I did not tell him he was my very first customer! I hope he is well and that he reads this!

The first model Aries used the inefficient and large vertically pivoted wind vane. I had in fact developed the horizontally pivoting vane before I sold the first Aries but decided to delay its introduction to give myself more time and stay with something that I knew worked and was tested. Apart from the first 40 Aries produced all others had horizontally pivoted vanes.

In fact, the vane axis is approximately 25° from the horizontal to prevent 'oversteer'. In the mid 60's none of this had been tried let alone the ration between the wind Vane and Servo Rudder and Bevel Gear ratios in the linkage to also prevent rudder oversteer. To solve these questions I made a completely adjustable Vane Gear on which you could alter every linkage ratio, angle and balance etc on the Vane Gear by hand while it was actually steering the yacht. I used by father's Dragon Class Keelboat which has a responsive helm and in ten minutes had solved the entire problem. Every Aries since has had the same design and despite trying hard I have not been able to improve it.


Yachting World September 1968 the second advert ever placed for Aries Vane Gears

 How it used to be

Group photo 'Marine Vane Gears' 1975

For readers interest: the Aries was developed on purely practical level with no calculations or theories. There have never been any drawings used. All parts had a 'master sample' nailed to the wall which worked perfectly and still does.

Apart from buying castings from foundries all machining and assembly was done in our workshop. Most sales were direct to skippers, with large stocks always to hand for same day dispatch. 95% of sales were export. No complaints, no records kept whatsoever, no computers, rather crazy customers. Good fun. The exact opposite to how we are told we should run our businesses today.