Peter Matthiesen 2019


It took me about 18 years to realise that the tale being told (by the then-owner of a brand that had once embodied the state of the art in windvane self-steering systems) really was starting to plant questions in the mind of sailors.

The “Bad Weather Problem” was invented in 1997. I did cover it in my books, but not in any great detail because I regarded it as just a bit of marketing fluff and not at all something to be taken seriously. I trusted that smart sailors would weigh up the hypotheses for themselves and recognise them for the nonsense they were.

A letter from Helen Franklin (daughter of Aries creator Nick Franklin) in 2015 prompted me to think again: was it possible, after all, that despite being no more than a figment of a young Dane’s imagination, the tale of the Bad Weather Problem was actually helping to convince sailors that the Aries was the best option for them? I’ve set out the details before:

Bad weather problem

Today, some four years after the above article first appeared on the blog, the following comment landed from Brazil:

14.11.2019 Peter Matthiesen, ex-Eigentümer der Marke Aries:

Peter Förthmann. One on my employees in my company here in Brazil, looked me up on google just for curious. He found your blog. Well. As you and me both know (and not many else, I guess) you failed completely in your resent lawyer attack on me regarding the bad weather problem. I gave you hard proof that this is real and thats why you ran away from me like a frightened cat. Maybe you should be honest enough now to admit that you have failed and if this is too hard for you, at least to stop spreading your lies. I dont expect tat you will publish this but I know that you will read it.

My reply

Hi Peter, perhaps reading of the wind vane report might be the lesson you may need to get some hints of understanding about your findings of some 20 years ago. Alternatively take this as invitation to explain in your own words about your considerations, rather than referring to a handwritten letter of Nick Franklin ( enclosed herewith ) who passed away in 2010, a letter even his own daughter failed to understand. Stage is yours …

Nick Franklin letter redacted

Windvane Report

Hamburg 14.11.2019
Peter Foerthmann

Regarding the lawyers, as regular readers of my blog will know, I have a long history of winning tortuous and expensive legal cases. My younger self was quite certain justice was worth the distraction, the stress and the (sometimes severe) financial pain. Whether my older and theoretically wiser self shares this view I’m not sure. The thing is, I don’t have to be sure: these days I have much more forceful advisors – including one particularly close to home – and it would take something really extreme to convince her another trip to court was worth the effort!

2 Responses to Peter Matthiesen 2019

  1. Hallo Peter,

    Now I understand what it’s all about, thanks. I don’t know if Aries customers have a “Bad Weather Problem” or not and it doesn’t make any difference to me anyway.

    What I do know is that we have never had any problems with our/your Pacific even in big following seas. It has always worked absolutely fine.

    Fortunately, we have not experienced any knock-downs but if we were to be knocked down, my pendulum rudder (by some impossibility) popping up out of the water for a few seconds would be the least of my concerns.

    Best regards,
Christian SY Subeki

  2. Peter Foerthmann says:

    Good evening Christian,
    Thousands of Aries and Monitor sailors over the decades have accepted that if their system suffers lateral overloading, for example as result of extreme weather, a knock-down or capsize, the designated point of failure on the pendulum rudder will need to be replaced (after all, spares are supplied as a matter of course). This obviously means managing without the windvane (which means manual steering or autopilot) until the broken part has been swapped out.

    Peter Matthiessen replaced the Aries design’s designated point of failure with a hinged joint so that the pendulum rudder could be lifted up, which has the advantage of improving convenience but also the (presumably – unless he underestimated its importance) unintended consequence of removing lateral overload protection. Mr Matthiessen presumably built up/invented the Bad Weather Problem (BWP) to create a unique selling proposition for the Aries, namely that – if you believe in the BWP – it is the only “safe” windvane self-steering system out there.

    The marketing pitch framed up by the organiser of the Golden Globe Race meant that whatever the implications, the 18 participants could not be allowed to carry an electronic autopilot for redundancy as they headed off to the higher latitudes. This brought home to the whole world – and in dramatic fashion – just what happens with traditional servo-pendulum systems that lack any built-in protective mechanism to keep them serviceable after a knock-down.

    How ironic that it should be the GGR that illustrates so vividly and compellingly the fundamental importance of lateral overload protection! Hopefully the evidence that has emerged from the race will persuade its inventor (who sold the Aries brand on a good four years ago) to accept that, after 20 years, the time has come to drop the BWP illusion once and for all.

    As Gerard Dijkstra sought to remind me in his clear-sighted comment on my Wind Vane Report, “there are still people out there who think the earth is flat”.

    As far as I am aware, the laws of physics apply as comprehensively in Denmark as they do everywhere else and it ultimately does the Aries brand no favours to base its appeal on a notion (the BWP) that goes against these laws.

    It pains me greatly to think of any sailor being led astray by bad science.

    Hamburg, 23 November 2019 

    Peter Foerthmann

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