- Small but powerful -
When choosing the right winch there are several things to consider. In addition to size and power transmission, the number of gears, material, grip and space on board all play a role when it comes to making a smart choice.
There are also electric winches, which can be used on larger yachts. Price is also key when deciding which winch to buy. Choose the right one and you'll have a winch you can use for many years to come.
Choosing the right winch size depends primarily on how big your boat is, the type and size of your sail and the way the winch is used. Winch manufacturers provide tables for their own winches, to help choose. You can find these tables on the individual product pages in our online shop.
There are, however, some things to know when looking at the tables and many factors must be considered when choosing a winch size. It's virtually impossible to standardise these and create a table that is always correct. For example, your boat's displacement and type of rigging also play a role when choosing a winch. These factors are not usually included in the tables. There are, of course, other things that are difficult to include in standardised winch selection tables, such as your sailing style and ability, as well as that of the crew. It's also difficult to compare selection tables with each other, as each winch manufacturer has different requirements for yachts and sailors. As a result, Harken recommends winches to be used more for racing, i.e. a larger winch for a smaller sail surface area, while Andersen is more geared towards cruising.
An essential aspect of winches is the number of gears. Most winches have one or two gears, sometimes manufacturers also offer versions with three gears for larger winches.
1-gear (speed) winches
Single-speed winches provide power when turned in one direction and idle when turned in the opposite direction. These types of winches are more common on smaller boats.
Two-speed winches have different speed ratios, depending on which direction you turn the handle. This allows you to have much greater power, especially with the second gear. For example, a 40 winch has a power transmission ratio of about 40:1, which means that you get 40 times more output power than what you put in. However, the recovery speed, i.e the length of the line recovered with one 360-degree turn of the winch handle, is also lower. Winch manufacturers indicate the power transmission of the second gear in the model name, calculated with a 254 mm (10") winch handle. If you use a 200 mm (8") handle, power transmission is lower, but recovery and speed is higher. Two-speed winches are used on larger yachts because of the different gears and resulting higher pulling forces.
There are two different types of winches. Standard winches and self-tailing winches. Self-tailing winches have an extra line clutch that is mounted on the drum. This makes it no longer necessary to hold the line by hand, and you can crank the winch with both hands. A disadvantage with self-tailing winches is that there are limitations in terms of possible rope diameters. The winch attachment adjusts automatically to the sheet diameter used, but if the rope diameter is too small, the winch will not have sufficient grip, while the sheet can be damaged if the diameter is too large. Standard winches are often used on smaller racing boats, where the sheet has to be released from the winch quickly.
All manufacturers provide winches that are good quality in terms of durability, regardless of whether the drum is made of stainless steel, aluminium or chrome. Winches will last for years if used and maintained correctly. While aluminium winches are on average slightly lighter than the other materials, stainless steel winches offer better durability. In addition, stainless steel winches can look like new even after years of use, while chrome-plated or anodised winches can show signs of wear more easily. On the inside, winches feature high quality components that won't cause any problems for years to come, provided they are regularly maintained.
You should clean and re-grease your winches every year or every other year. We supply special winch grease for this purpose. Only a few tools are needed for cleaning and with some preparation, maintaining a winch is no problem.