To be honest, an automobile is about a thousand times more reliable.
Well, it seems that old lady that tested the HR 64 was not convinced either, I mean she was not convinced about the efficacy of those mechanic helps and had to change her opinion and even so the way she puts it it seems she raises some questions about reliability.
Fact is that these systems have been used on the last 20 years (increasingly) in top yachts, I mean really big yachts and have proven themselves as reliable as the systems used on a car and there is no reason to be otherwise. When these systems have a malfunction you have always the possibility operate them the old way, manually.
The real problem with these systems, that go from the computerized docking system with bow thrusters to the push buttons sail control, is price that make them very expensive in a small sailboat but these systems permits big 100ft yachts to be operated only for three, 60ft to be operated solo and allow old people to keep on sailing avoiding all the efforts that were otherwise needed and that they are not able to provide anymore.
I have to say that I prefer to keep it simple, if I can, but some facts with my own boat helped me to change of opinion regarding these systems:
I would not have bought a sailboat with electric winches but mine come with an electric winch and a remote control, that I thought it were pretty useless on a 41ft sailboat. I was wrong. I cannot fully put my big main (52 m2) fully up without the help of a winch and even putting 2/3 up it takes a considerably effort that I can do but someone weaker will not be able to do (I am big). Even for myself it take a considerable effort to put the sail up. Using the Electric winch I just pull the first 1/5 of the sail up by hand, out of the lazy bag and then use the electric winch and voilá, the sail up in 10s without any effort.
The boat is 7 years old and the winch works like if it was new.
Regarding the winch remote control, a weightless thing very small, I was so suspicious that on the first year never used the thing. Give it a try this year and now it is always around my neck. How coll it is to trim the main sail from the steering wheel at the push of a button? Very cool I can tell you. I only regret that the winch is not one of the new ones that allow trimming on the two positions, to let go and to pull.
I guess that on the third year with the boat I will have to learn how to use properly the remote control for the steering wheel that I confess, never used but that can proven very useful to solo sailing. In fact Solo racing sailors use it extensively.
Yeah, you've gotta love that Push-Button Sailing, alright...
Especially, when you have to reach THROUGH the wheel to push them... :-)
I've really come to detest these sort of helm consoles that require one to stick your hand/arm through the spokes of the wheel to do something, they seem to becoming more and more commonplace... A VERY poor/dangerous arrangement, especially in cold or foul weather when you might be more encumbered by heavier clothing or gloves...
Jon, do you use the buttons on your TV? Anybody use them? No, everybody uses a remote control. The buttons are there as an emergency back up.
That's the same with those controls, they are remotely used from any part of the boat. Those big boats will almost be on autopilot all the time and will be steered from somewhere else. That plotter on the wheel is only a back up, the third one. The main plotter is on the nav. station and the one more used in navigation it will be the one under the big dodger that on the photos is down. They also offer an hard dodger but the removable one is almost as big and offer already a big protection.
On foul or cold weather, depending from the situation and where the boat is sailing, the boat will be sailed from the interior or from the protection of that big dodger, using the nav station there and a remote control for everything, from the rudder to the sails.