Five simple steps to Winch Wisdom

Winch Wisdom - getting the angles right can help to avoid overrides
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Did you know that in just 15 knots of wind, a large 150% Genoa can exert over 750 pounds of pressure? Or that without the correct number of wraps around a winch, you will lose pulling and hauling power--and need to work harder than necessary?

(To determine the amount of pull exerted on a headsail sheet, multiply the sail area by the square of the wind speed; divide the result by 232. This formula is from 'The Practical Mariner's Book of Knowledge' by John Vigor).

So how can you get more power, efficiency and life from your sheet and halyard winches? John Jamieson (Captain John) here shows you how to make your winches work harder with these five easy steps:


Winch Wisdom - keep the angle greater than 90 degrees
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1. Lead sheet lines at a proper angle:

Lead the line from the load to the winch at an angle greater than 90 degrees. The loaded line on this halyard winch (left side) has a good angle to prevent overrides. Don't forget to wrap the line 3 to 4 times around the drum to hold the loaded line onto the winch drum.

Make the headsail sheet rise up to meet the winch drum. Keep the angle greater than 90 degrees.

This helps avoid winch overrides, where the turns jam and freeze onto the drum. If necessary, lead the sheet to a second block and then up to the drum.

2. Wrap the drum and haul around:
Remove the winch handle (if installed). Start near the base and wrap three to four clockwise turns around the winch drum (both photos).

Pull on the hauling part to remove excess slack. THEN insert the handle after you remove all slack from the sheet or halyard.

Winch Wisdom - the length of the winch handle is important
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3. Choose the best winch handle length
For maximum winch power bend the knees, keep the back straight, and hover over the winch so that you can look straight down at the winch drum.
Measure the radius at the top of the winch. Determine the distance from the center out to the drum's edge. Multiply this distance by 4. Use a winch handle of this length for good mechanical advantage.

For example, if you measure 2.5 inches, use a 10 inch handle; if you measure 3 inches, use a 12 inch handle.





Winch Wisdom - stand OVER the winch
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4. Position your body OVER the drum
Stand or crouch next to the winch. Hover your body over the winch so that you can look straight down at the top of the winch. Insert the winch handle and crank in a smooth, easy motion. Keep your body in this position until you're done.

5. Strip down each winch annually
Follow the winch manufacturer's maintenance recommendations to the letter. Once a year, strip down each winch. Clean all internal parts of old lubricant. Inspect the pawls and springs for wear or cracks; replace as needed. Apply new grease to the center drum and reassemble the winch.

Gain years of faithful service from all of your costly sailing winches--and make your own life under sail easier than you ever thought possible!

John Jamieson (Captain John) with 25+ years of experience shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need beyond sailing school. Visit his website at www.skippertips.com for a free sailing tips newsletter. Become a member for instant access to 550+ sailing skills articles, 100+ sailing video tutorials, 145+ sailing tips newsletters, 12+ sailing topic e-Books, and more!