There’s no turning back now. Unless you want to, that is, using the joystick to spin the boat on its axis. Following last year’s launch of the Teleflex Optimus 360 system for outboards, Yamaha is introducing its version of integrated boat control. Helm Master makes its debut at the Miami International Boat Show this month. With this news, it’s clear that electronic outboard control is here to stay, which will not only make docking easier but precise trim, speed and steering adjustments easier too.
“Helm Master is much more than a joystick controller,” says Yamaha’s marine-group president Ben Speciale. “It is a fully integrated boat-control system with a new electronic steering system, throttle and shifting controls, electronic key system and a joystick controller. It ultimately provides the boater a simpler and more enjoyable boating experience.”
Helm Master was designed to work with Yamaha’s 4.2-liter V-6 four-strokes (F225, F250 and F300) as well as the 5.3-liter V-8 F350 outboards in twin- or triple-engine configurations. The system was several years in development. Brad Leatherman, Yamaha’s OEM and tournament support manager, conducted endurance tests with it in real-world conditions on the water.
“It’s a pretty eye-opening system,” he says. “It definitely eliminates the apprehension for nonboaters, and turns everyone into a pro.” Leatherman believes current owners of mid-20-foot outboard-powered boats looking to move up or yacht owners downsizing are Helm Master’s primary market. “There are a lot of customers who can afford a bigger boat but are scared to buy it because of their experience level. Helm Master will help reduce that fear factor.”
The total system comprises several key components, starting with the electronic key-switch panel. The functions of on/off, start/stop are set using a radio-frequency key fob similar to a guitar pick. Traditional metal keys are not required to start the engines. Yamaha’s Y-Cop security system is also standard with Helm Master to immobilize the engines to prevent theft.
The ergonomic control box has multiple settings that can be preset or finely tuned based on desired adjustments. With the push of a button, engine rpm can be set for optimal conditions; for safety, manual override returns control to the operator at any time. The new control box can also be operated with a single throttle lever. In this setting, the port control becomes the master. Additional selector buttons let the operator choose to run the center engine only or shifts control to a second station. The trim-adjust function synchronizes the outboard trim to set rpm levels so the engine automatically trims to the optimum running angle while under way. Five preset positions can be designated using the new Command Link Plus 6Y9 gauge, which also displays the system’s overall functions. The operator can use the gauge to select some automatic settings like steering friction (adding more resistance in rough water) or joystick calibration, but more-involved adjustments like the toe-in/out adjust or lock-to-lock can be done only by Yamaha-certified technicians.