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Pilot calibration secrets (B&G H5000)


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I keep reading about how the top solo sailors have an intimate relationship with their autopilots which would most likely make their wives ask them to reprioritize their time if they knew. I’m reading article after article telling me how to  master the pilot, however they all seam to start with the basics and tell me very little about the advanced functions and settings in the end. Can anyone share some of their  secrets to better pilot performance?

Rudder gain & Counter rudder and tricks for fine tuning? Do you set it once and leave it or do you keep making changes? I’m sure there is much room for improvement from my first commissioning – but what should I look for to fine tune?

Auto trim – I keep reading about auto trim to keep a balanced weather helm, but I can’t find a way to change the auto trim in the H5000 pilot (or the manual), is there something I’m missing? If you know where to find it, how do think around adjusting it?

 

Response – how do think on response in different conditions

Gust respons – do you turn it on, if so what decides the min value, response rate and TWA window?

TWS respons – do you turn it on, if so what decides the response rate?

Bear away max – how do you come up with the right angle?

 

Auto response – do you let the pilot handle response by choosing Economy, Normal or Sport, if so when do you go eco and when do you go sport? Or do you prefer to set your own response rate?

Recovery – do you turn it on? What are your thoughts on narrow/medium/wide?

 

Heel compensation – Do you turn it on, if so how do you decide on response rate?

Tack time & tack angle – do you change it? How do you come up with the numbers?

 

What else am I missing? What are key settings for success and what can be left to default?

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I'll be awaiting replies to this.  I've read the basics over and over (it's all about input calibration, etc.)  I'm ready for answers to the above.

11.7m (38.4') on deck, 5,450 kg (12,000# displ.) fin keel/spade rudder with little directional stability.  5000 Hydra CPU, 5000 pilot, T2 drive.

fsiljelof, what's your boat?  I'll post my current settings if you'll post yours but like you, I want to know what they SHOULD be.

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@BobJ my boat is a Prima 38, 38ft, 6500kg with an L shaped fairly wide bulb keel and a fairly large spade rudder - but if you let go of the helm, she will find her own destination on the chart and turn to it very quickly. I think my drive is the T1. Pilot obviously H5000. I’m happy to share my settings but I doubt they are much help - I’ll check when I’m back In the boat.

 

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The only way to do this with any level of science is to find a big bit of open sea, sail in the same direction for a long time changing settings and track your performance on StripChart. Some of the settings you mention are about optimising for power consumption not boat speed.

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Agree, I tune my pilot as I tune my sails.  Every day it is tweaked.  What I would like is for B&G to let us have 10 presets.  That way I can quickly get back to roughly the setting for those conditions.  I have asked a shows, but just get a blank looks.

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Still what I’m after is not numbers - it’s what to look for and how to adjust - I’m not lacking hours on the water ... but I just don’t know where to start - my boat seam to be very active on the helm and snaking more than it would stealing by hand - where do I start? Response - rudder gain - counter rudder? What’s your scheme of adjustment? Look for what - adjust what?

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On a nice sailing day, no too light, not heavy, try this on a nice sailing day. Set your best values. Then sit at the helm to compare what you would do at the helm to what the pilot is doing.

Too little helm movement, you would have done more: gain too low. Too much, you would have corrected less: gain too high.

Correction held too long into turn: Needs more counter rudder. Correction seems to give up too soon: Less counter rudder.

Sluggish response or nervous response? Response value wrong.

Unexpected turns related to healing or wind? Maybe turn the fancy secondary stuff off until the basics are addressed.

Also try driving, like an aircraft pilot under an IFR hood, only looking at the HEADING display. Does it make sense? Sluggish? Jittery? Wrong? If you cannot do it the A/P certainly cannot.

Takes hours...

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Some of the advanced settings are tied to True Wind readings.  Will Oxley says it takes about an hour per TWS to gather that data.  This assumes you have an hour of steady breeze at each wind speed and are efficient at it.  Any suggestions to shorten the process, enough to get a workable TWA/TWS table input, to use those autopilot features?  For example, are TW adjustment tables available for various kinds of boats, which can then just be tweaked for observed errors?

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On 9/18/2020 at 1:24 PM, fsiljelof said:

Still what I’m after is not numbers - it’s what to look for and how to adjust - I’m not lacking hours on the water ... but I just don’t know where to start - my boat seam to be very active on the helm and snaking more than it would stealing by hand - where do I start? Response - rudder gain - counter rudder? What’s your scheme of adjustment? Look for what - adjust what?

Peter G (blur.se) suggested using a higher cruising speed during Autotune than B&G recommends (B&G recommends using 1/2 of normal cruising speed).  Unhappy with my initial results, I tried this and did it twice - once upwind and once downwind due to wave effects - under power at 7 knots.  I'm leaving "Adapt" on so it can keep learning.  Gust Response, TWS Response and Heel Compensation are turned off for now.

Hard-over time turned out to be a major adjustment.  Slowing it down to 12 seconds really settled the pilot down.  I also found out the hard way that if your speed paddlewheel is fouled, your boat will wander under autopilot like a '62 Chevy Impala with bad shocks.  The Cruising Speed value is supposed to take over in this situation.  I keep re-setting it to 7 knots but each time I turn on the pilot it has set itself back to zero.

I know there are some of you lurking out there who have been through this process.  Help a couple sailors out.

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16 hours ago, BobJ said:

Some of the advanced settings are tied to True Wind readings.  Will Oxley says it takes about an hour per TWS to gather that data.  This assumes you have an hour of steady breeze at each wind speed and are efficient at it.  Any suggestions to shorten the process, enough to get a workable TWA/TWS table input, to use those autopilot features?  For example, are TW adjustment tables available for various kinds of boats, which can then just be tweaked for observed errors?

@BobJ I was recently told a typical TWA correction table to start out with was ...

TWS 5 10 15 20 25 30

TWA offset -5 -2 3 5 6 7

+/- some degrees

As course (not heading) is used for TWA and leeway is a factor in course, make sure you have your heeling sensor and leeway constant calibrated (along with your compass of course) before you go for tweaking  your TWA any further.  

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16 hours ago, BobJ said:

Peter G (blur.se) suggested using a higher cruising speed during Autotune than B&G recommends (B&G recommends using 1/2 of normal cruising speed).  Unhappy with my initial results, I tried this and did it twice - once upwind and once downwind due to wave effects - under power at 7 knots.  I'm leaving "Adapt" on so it can keep learning.  Gust Response, TWS Response and Heel Compensation are turned off for now.

 Hard-over time turned out to be a major adjustment.  Slowing it down to 12 seconds really settled the pilot down.  I also found out the hard way that if your speed paddlewheel is fouled, your boat will wander under autopilot like a '62 Chevy Impala with bad shocks.  The Cruising Speed value is supposed to take over in this situation.  I keep re-setting it to 7 knots but each time I turn on the pilot it has set itself back to zero.

 I know there are some of you lurking out there who have been through this process.  Help a couple sailors out.

I'll try and have a go at my hard over time, I haven’t changed it since first commissioning 

I have an ultrasonic speed sensor, so to me a fould paddle wheel is not the problem.

@BobJ cruising speed - are sure you adjust the correct one? There is both cruising speed under "Steering > Limits > Cruising Speed" which you should be able to set at 7 and there is speed source "Steering > Speed Source > Manual" where 0 means you let the pilot select the best available source of speed input (1st BSP > 2nd SOG > 3rd Cruising speed). If you set that one to 7 you override BSP and SOG if they are available. 

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21 minutes ago, fsiljelof said:

@BobJ I was recently told a typical TWA correction table to start out with was ...

TWS 5 10 15 20 25 30

TWA offset -5 -2 3 5 6 7

+/- some degrees

As course (not heading) is used for TWA and leeway is a factor in course, make sure you have your heeling sensor and leeway constant calibrated (along with your compass of course) before you go for tweaking  your TWA any further.  

Very helpful - thanks.  And yes, it's very likely I hadn't set both cruising speed and manual speed when one of them showed zero.

Regarding hard-over time, one of B&G's support articles states "This is the required reaction time for your autopilot drive system to steer correctly.  It has nothing to do with the tack or gybe timing but only to ensure the rudder can react fast enough to ensure it can keep the yacht on course under most circumstances."  Initially I set the hard-over time based on how fast I wanted to tack.  This was too fast and the autopilot would not steer a stable course.

I have a coastal race this weekend and I'm looking forward to making incremental changes in settings and observing the effects.

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  • 3 months later...

Looking at a new B&G set up for a new X4.9.  Will be sailing shorthanded most of the time.  I was always considering two independent auto-pilots for redundancy in case of failure under way.  Seems that the calibration for the auto-pilot can be a bit cumbersome - now multiply by 2?  

I guess if it's done with an iPad interface to adjust settings it's a little easier? 

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If you have two identical pilots, you can copy the known good settings from one to the other, so you still only need to calibrate one.

If you are considering a spare pilot head, I would also seriously consider a second mast head wind unit and possibly a spare ram.

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49 minutes ago, jdazey said:

Given the experience of boats in the Vendee Globe (Isabelle and Pip), a second masthead unit sounds like a good idea.

Depends if you're going into the southern ocean :lol: in all seriousness most competitive Class 40s have 2 wands,  and all the IMOCAs do, Pip is currently using her 2nd spare (3rd unit).

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Good topic.

We have never conquered the H5000  autopilot!!!

Works Ok in flat water but hunts a lot in ocean swell, and will not steer to wind.

One tip I have been told is turn the auto learn part of the system off as this prevents the system trashing the previous settings.

I have a long term plan of taking an expert out for a day off shore in a good Southerly and stay out till the thing will steer the boat.

We have always calibrated the system inshore.

A B&G trouble shooting guide would be a huge help.

We use a Raymarine ST2000 to steer the boat most of the time, does a great job.

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16 hours ago, bushsailor said:

We have never conquered the H5000 autopilot!!!

Works Ok in flat water but hunts a lot in ocean swell, and will not steer to wind.

How far did you get in trying to calibrate it?  For example, in steer-to-wind mode, the default is to steer to AWA upwind and TWA downwind.  If you don't have TWA at least roughly calibrated, I assume it won't perform well downwind.

I have the same plan as you:  Find an expert and go sail until it works reasonably well.  But I'm starting to think autopilot calibration experts can only be found in France.

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The wind mode steering can also fail if you have it using COG to replace compass heading for the true wind calculations, this throws everything off unless you have a high-frequency GPS connected to the system.

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This is probably known but might bear repeating. The basics have to be right and accurate before any advanced settings can be messed with or you get a garbage in - garbage out.

 

You have to be sure that you have your instruments right first. AWA, AWS, Heading and boatspeed must be calibrated, heel angle too if you have the sensor / gyro compass. Damping needs to be about right, these can't update to slow or quick. Also the pilot needs to know where the rudder is, does the little bar gauge read full lock on both sides and straight ahead properly.

All these things have to be correct and accurate before going any further into more advanced settings.

 

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We have had the system calibrated by experienced people(some of the best in aus) but not offshore, some good points above though, we will check them. Thank you.

Also we tune the system using a laptop and it is possible to get a expert to access the laptop and run through the system remotely as long as you have internet

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