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The old saying that ‘if a job is easy, you’ll do it’, is a good one that we have tried to bring to bear at all times when improving our Ovni 435 Pelerin. If the job’s difficult, you’ll delay it until it’s beyond inevitable and then it can become a hardship. And nowhere is that more true than when reefing, especially if you’re alone on watch.
When our boat was delivered some of the deck gear was less than perfect in our view; a simple case in point being the line controls for the roller reefing gear. This had small solid pulley blocks, and was led to the winch via a jammer to secure it (the original lasted a week before the lever broke off!). The friction in the system was such that the line had to be led to a winch every time we needed to reef the yankee (jib topsail), which meant that we lost the ‘feel’ that gives warning of a jam or snarl up at the drum end when the line is handled manually. And once you start cranking away on a big winch it’s easy to make things worse–multiply this x 4 with electric or hydraulic winches. So we shifted the blocks around a bit, replaced the jammer with a more robust model and then went sailing, fully intending to sort it properly when the right idea appeared.
A New Approach
A year later we saw a neat looking system from Harken that not only had low friction roller blocks, but routed the line outside the stanchions, thus removing a common tripping point from the deck. This came as a kit, to which we added an additional two blocks to reduce the angles and get the best possible lead, with the least friction. The final turning block is a ratchet block, which might be okay for smaller boat applications, but we didn’t think was right for a boat of our size, and we’d still have to use the jammer. So we installed a Spinlock clutch into the line just ahead of the ratchet block alongside the cockpit, making for a simple and foolproof system, that has proved itself over the last 2500 miles.
A Great Result
The result is that even with the extra blocks I can reef the Yankee by hand 90% of the time, Lou 75%, and there is no chance of the line slipping through the clutch. It’s made a really useful contribution to sail handling at not excessive cost, which we feel was well worthwhile. And it’s worth mentioning that whilst Spinlock and Harken might not make the cheapest deck equipment, both firms have earned a good name for innovation and gear that does the job, and that has certainly been the case in this application.
You can click on the slide show to enlarge it so you can really see the details of our gear. Use the buttons at the bottom to move through the show (it does not advance automatically).
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