SARCA Excel Anchor—A Real World Test

Our Rocna (33kg) next to the SARCA Excel No 6 (30kg)

Anchors have changed dramatically during my sailing lifetime. When I started out, plough type CQR anchors had already largely replaced the old fisherman type and for a long time ruled the roost, with the only challenger being the claw type Bruce.

Having owned or run a range of commercial sailing vessels that were equipped with one of all three of those types, I can confidently say that I wouldn’t want to return to relying on any of them, although I retain respect for larger Bruces (say 35kg and upwards) as tough and versatile anchors, at least if you can find a genuine one anywhere these days.

The CQR’s plough shape always looked like it should work well and, indeed, with the use of careful setting techniques (slow and steady) and the right substrate (mud, clay, soft sand), they held well once dug in.

But in some substrates (soft mud, rock, hard sand, weed) they were pretty much hopeless at setting and were prone to drag even if they did set. And in the event of the CQR dragging, the chances of it digging in again were slim or zero, in my experience.

I have also extensively used the Delta, that largely superseded the CQR, and found that, while it was certainly a better all-rounder than the CQR, it still struggled with some substrates (hard sand and weed), and I was never fully confident in its holding capacity.

Then, in the early-2000s, came the introduction of the ‘New Generation’ anchors, like the innovative SPADE, Rocna, Manson Supreme, and others. None of these were convex plough types, and they finally gave those of us who anchored on a nightly basis a real choice of excellent fast-setting anchors that stayed firmly put in a wide variety of substrates—a revolution, for which I was (and remain) profoundly grateful!

And then along came the SARCA Excel, which certainly looks like a plough type, but seems to behave quite unlike one.

Made in Australia by Anchor Right, the SARCA Excel—not to be confused with the Super SARCA, also made by Anchor Right—is a relative newcomer in the European and US markets, so it's up against quite a range of established products. Although it certainly looks like one, Anchor Right insist that the Excel is not a plough anchor:

Excel is not a plough anchor there are no plough sheers, in their place is what are called single plain concave flukes, this being the greater part of its concave arrangement, rather than plough the substrate this new fluke arrangement is designed to compress, then directs the material-substrate over the rear of the Excel forcing itself deeper as more load is applied.

Given that and that the SARCA has been granted Super High Holding Power (SHHP) status, as well as the number of positive reviews, this may be an anchor with many of the attributes AAC members need.

So when we were offered a SARCA Excel anchor to test this season on Pèlerin, we snapped up the chance to see whether this anchor with its "old school" appearance, would perform anything like as well as the other anchors we’ve come to know and trust.

Not Just Maximum Holding

But before we get into the details, is maximum holding the be all and end all?

No, not in my view. It’s a key factor, but not the only one. We already have two anchor types on board with high holding power that we hold in high regard:

The Incumbents

Rocna

We know from many years of experience that with its huge surface area our current Rocna 33kg has exceptional holding power in most conditions.

But the Rocna is big, the roll bar gets in the way of our bowsprit, it’s hard to stow, and we have concerns over its ability to set again after big wind shifts. (See Further Reading below.)

Although we have only had this last problem occur on two occasions—both during really violent thunderstorms in southern Brazil—it's not an experience we wish to repeat in the future, to say the least.

Fortress

We also carry a Fortress that has regularly demonstrated remarkable holding power in straight line pull tests.

But we wouldn’t want an aluminum Fortress as a bower anchor, as to be of sufficient size for Pèlerin, it would be both huge and awkward to handle; also, we’d have lingering concerns over the aluminum construction reducing its overall robustness for daily use.

The Ideal Anchor

So, in our ‘ideal anchor wish-list’ criteria we want an anchor that will:

  1. Resist failing in any way under extreme loads, which means robust construction in high strength steel.
  2. Set fast to ensure that we anchor where we intended to, not where the anchor finally deigns to dig in.
  3. Hold well in a wide variety of substrates.
  4. Stay put in big wind shifts in strong winds, or reset quickly after the shift.
  5. Set on short scope.
  6. Fit the bow area neatly and be easy to use and handle.

But Nothing Is Perfect

Now I realise it’s near impossible to get all of the above in one anchor, although some do come close. Even the best anchors usually have at least one weakness as there are always trade-offs between ideal-anchor characteristics.

For example, we carry our Fortress as a second anchor where its light weight makes it easy to use. It is also our first choice for soft mud when set to the 45 degree fluke angle, when it performs wonderfully well. But it is all-aluminum, so is therefore vulnerable to bending shanks and flukes, so wouldn’t meet my criterion #1.

And, although we have great respect for the Rocnas we carry, after fifteen years of experience we have discovered criterion #4 (failure to set after big wind shifts) to be their occasional weakness, plus the roll bar does makes it difficult to stow (criterion #6).

Also, a number of long-term SPADE users have told me that they feel that setting on very short scope (criterion #5) may be that fine anchor's one shortcoming.

So our eternal dreams of finding the perfect anchor are dashed again, and we’re left to evaluate what compromise suits us best, or needing to carry and (being prepared to) change to a different anchor in certain circumstances—and, in all honesty, how often do we really want to do that?

With all that out of the way, let's dig into our SARCA Excel review:

  1. Introduction
  2. 4 Vital Anchor Selection Criteria and a Review of SPADE
  3. SARCA Excel Anchor—A Real World Test
  4. SPADE, SARCA Excel, or Some Other Anchor?
  5. Rocna Resetting Failures and evaluation of Vulcan and Mantus
  6. Some Thoughts On The Ultra Anchor, Roll Bars and Swivels
  7. Specifying Primary Anchor Size
  8. Kedge (Secondary Anchor)—Recommended Type and Size
  9. Third Anchors, Storm Anchors and Spare Anchors
  10. Anchor Tests—The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Silly
  11. Making Anchor Tests More Meaningful
  12. We Love The Way Our Anchor Drags 
  13. Things to Know About Anchor Chain
  14. Selecting a Chain Grade
  15. Anchor Chain Catenary, When it Matters and When it Doesn’t
  16. Anchoring—Snubbers
  17. Anchor Rode Questions and Answers
  18. Q&A: Hybrid Rope And Chain Anchor Rodes
  19. Anchor Swivels, Just Say No
  20. A Windlass That Makes The Grade
  21. The Perfect Anchor Roller
  22. Install A Wash-down Pump—And Save Money!
  23. Anchoring—Kellets
  24. Anchoring—Chain: Stoppers, Termination and Marking
  25. 20 Tips To Get Anchored and Stay Anchored
  26. Choosing an Anchorage
  27. Choosing a Spot
  28. 15 Steps To Getting Securely Anchored
  29. One Anchor or Two?
  30. Two Anchors Done Right
  31. It’s Often Better to Anchor Than Pick Up a Mooring
  32. Yawing at Anchor, The Theory and The Solution
  33. Yawing at The Anchor, an Alternative Cure
  34. How To Use An Anchor Trip Line
  35. ShoreFasts—Part 1, When to Use Them
  36. ShoreFasts—Part 2, Example Setups Plus Tips and Tricks
  37. ShoreFasts—Part 3, The Gear
  38. Gale And Storm Preparation, At Anchor Or On A Mooring
  39. Storm Preparation, All Chain On Deck

Colin, European Correspondent here at AAC, is a deeply experienced offshore sailor who holds a Yachtmaster licence, and a gifted photographer and talented writer who has added a whole new dimension to Attainable Adventure Cruising. In addition, since Colin and Louise are from England and had their OVNI 435, Pèlerin built in France, they bring a European perspective to our site. You can read more about Colin and Louise and their business at their website.

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Marc Dacey

A thorough and helpful report, Colin. Thank you. We have nearly identical setups in terms of chain size, anchor size and windlass make and size. We also have two Fortresses for the same reasons you do…on a metal boat we are sailing this summer to Nova Scotia! So your findings are of interest, save I am not predisposed to shorter scope unless the weather is fine and the anchorage crowded. But I understand why a 5:1 is a valid test of holding power.

The Excel was not easily obtained in Canada when we were shopping for a main bower, and we went with the SPADE, which has not disappointed, but still, to know there are decent options is always good news. Thanks for this report.

Colin Speedie

Hi Marc
well, we’re not fans of shorter scope, either, but sometimes you just have no choice, due to lack of room or other boats having bagged the best spots.
5:1 is our normal scope, with an all chain rode. We only ever veer more if conditions are wild – and we have room to do so.
As you know, we’re big fans of the Spade, too. As you say, though, it’s good to have viable options.
Best wishes
Colin

Marc Dacey

I understand that, and appreciate that the Excel was tested at 5:1 scope to provide a “sometimes necessary” baseline of real-world conditions. However, some of the marketing materials for the newer class of SHHP anchors seem to suggest that the old 7:1 or 10:1 equal the 5:1 and that shorter scope can be the new standard.

To me, that’s like unscrewing the handle to the parking brake when parking on a grade.

Rob Gill

Hi Colin,
When we bought a Sarca Excel in 2016 our question was not whether it was as good as a SPADE anchor but whether the EXCEL was up to the task. So I was really interested to read your review this morning thanks. It absolutely reflects our 2 year + experience, so I’ll try not to repeat your findings, but focus on the slight differences in our requirements and experiences.
What we wanted our “ideal” anchor to be (along with strong, well built etc):
1) Up 2 sizes from our old 25kg Rocna but still fit on the bow – based on AAC recommendation.
2) Excellent holding power especially in coarse Pacific coral sand and excellent re-setting.
3) Like you, no roll-bar (larger ROCNA wouldn’t fit) as we run a Code Zero with furling drum on a specially lengthened and strengthened anchor roller lead.
4) Simple to have re-galvanised (several of our anchorages have high acid substrate after storms with soil run-off from the bush which can strip your anchor and chain in just a few days). We expect to need to re-galvanise every 5 years.
5) Not a SPADE because of 4) above but also the local NZ agent charges like a wounded bull for the anchors and they are more than double the price of the EXCEL in NZD.

We went to Rope Chain and Anchors in New Zealand where we live, who are experienced in the field as their name suggests , mainly supplying commercial users like arborists, linesmen, fishermen etc, but luckily also recreational users like us. I understand the original ROCNA was prototyped on their workshop floor. And they recommended the Sarca EXCEL. So has the EXCEL met the “business case of good enough”?

What we got:
a) A No 7 36Kg Excel fitted beautifully in both the lower notched “self-launch” position (we use this setting for coastal work) or in the closer snugged in position (we use this position for offshore or for strong wind forecasts). Great feature for us, but readers should realise the EXCEL will rise up when stowed in the closer “snug”, position. More on that below.
b) So far no drags or problems re-setting with some big wind shifts – most challenging so far has been an exposed Tongan anchorage over coarse sand in 28 ->35 knots, 120 degree wind change. No issues to report.
c) The shank on the 2 sizes larger EXCEL is much longer than on our old ROCNA and with the steel weighted tip, if the anchor rotates coming over the bow roller, the shank can kick up a long way and strike the underside of our FURLEX jib roller-furler housing. So we had a top roller fabricated for our anchor roller lead to prevent this happening. The top roller itself and the through bolt are removable from their stainless housing to allow the EXCEL to stow in the closer but higher, un-notched, “snug” position for offshore.
d) The EXCEL didn’t set when fouled with an old shirt and one other time when fouled with a plastic bag (both in Tonga), which leads me to think the sharpened tip is critical in setting the EXCEL. It has never been prevented from setting by kelp or other seaweed, which was not an uncommon occurrence with our Rocna.
We also once had a problem getting the EXCEL to set in a shallow layer of coarse coral sand over a rock base (found in some Pacific Islands). I suspect your observation Colin about the relatively small fluke size was the issue in this case, since the EXCEL definitely gains holding power by burying more deeply than other anchors I have observed. It couldn’t on this occasion because of the hard rock base.
e) To begin with, I would frequently free-dive down to check our anchor, especially in the Pacific Islands where the water is so clear and warm. The issue can be finding the jolly thing even in clear water, as often only the tip of the shank and shackles are visible after a good set or a decent blow. I have checked the anchor after a 120+ degree wind change and there was no evidence of any break-out. It looked like the anchor re-set in its own length.
f) Like you, we have to drive right over the anchor though our Maxwell windlass is rated to 850Kgs pull, more than enough for the chain and anchor. This effectively prevents us sailing off our anchor with the EXCEL – we tried and ended up with a sudden involuntary tack – funny at the time but could have adverse consequences.
g) We have found the EXCEL needs more scope to set than our old Rocna did, which would usually set at 3:1 if we ever needed it to. So in a tight fine weather anchorage we set on 5:1 plus and then shorten up like you.
h) Finally, we love that the anchor comes up way cleaner than the old Rocna used to, which took an age to wash down when clogged with mud. I suspect this characteristic, along with the “EXCEL ” logo cut-aways in the flukes to reduce any suction effect, would assist in re-setting if the EXCEL were to break out from the substrate.
Our summary on what we have experienced to date – satisfactory setting, good durability and value, great holding / re-setting and self-cleaning. Or as a friend commented, “the thing just keeps digging for Africa”! We would buy again.
Kind regards,
Rob

Colin Speedie

Hi Rob

thank you for an excellent adjunct to my review. All good points that I totally agree with.
A couple of thoughts:
1. Tumbling and hitting the furling gear – we have had the same problem with the Rocna and indeed it happened a couple of times with the Excel. I’ve tried all sorts of ‘fixes’ over the years but never achieved a 100% success rate in reducing the incidence of this annoying and potentially destructive issue. I find now that the only really sure way is to take real care in the final moments when working the windlass controls. But I take your point about the upper roller – maybe we should try that.
2. I’ve fouled all sorts of stuff over the years. Last was an old beach towel in Dominica. Do anchors seek such things?
3. Sand over rock – as with really soft mud, what’s worse? And what works? Reliably? I totally agree with your comment on the Excel relying on digging deep to generate such high holding power, and sand over rock won’t permit that. There is no one size fits all….
Best wishes
Colin
Useful to kn

Rob Gill

Hi Colin…grew up sailing in the Bristol channel and we had a Bruce anchor which seemed to love soft mud, but then we only had a light boat. If it didn’t set, you just dragged until you found some slightly firmer mud and then you weren’t going anywhere and we used to have to anchor almost every light weather race at least once! Mud suction trumps everything.
Yes, we could get the anchor up without it kicking by being ultra careful with the controls. But I worried about our frequent guests coming aboard and enthusiastically upping anchor for us, or either of us hurrying on the bow in the dark at night. So we had the top roller installed and now it works just great and the “kick” is not a thing for us anymore. On our boat it now doubles as a preventer to stop the chain ever jumping out of the channel in the roller lead in a swell.
Happy to send pics or a video via your web-site if you would like to see things in action.
Rob

Chris Eldridge

It’s Chris from Ground Tackle here.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Colin & Louise for their efforts and a great read. Also for John & Phylis in allowing it to see print.
I’ve been testing a #5 20kg/47lb galv Excel over the last 4 years on a 41’ 11T ex two tonner turned cruiser. My wife Shelley sleeps much better when I do but is fed up with me anchor testing everytime we go out. Perhaps this article will stop my experimenting. The Excel has lowered my stress levels and now tend to anchor in not so great but wonderful spots I’d never entertain in the past. We live in Sidney BC and have seen a fair bit of this entire coast. The local substrates consists of all sorts / depths / conditions and extremely challenging when in heavy grasses and kelps. Anchors are a really tough sell but honestly we just want folks to have more fun and be safer.
Happy to answer any technical questions here or thru our site. Chris

Rob Gill

Hi Chris, Colin,
In the SV Panope video he shares the issue of the shackle attachment not working between the eye in the larger Excel shanks attaching to 10MM chain. We have the same issue with our EXCEL No.7 and came up with the same solution as he did – 2 shackles.
But when our anchor comes up, the second shackle is vertical and the protruding pin strikes our top rubber roller we have installed (see my point “c” above), jarring and probably causing a little damage each retrieval.
Have either of you found a really strong single shackle that attaches to both the EXCEL and 10mm chain?
Cheers, Rob

Chris Eldridge

Rob, I know exactly the issue and have solutions or am working on them. We are working with Anchor Right Aus and Rex Francis to slightly alter the shank hole I.D. so they work better with easily obtained alloy shackles like Crosby 209A. I’m all about matching certifications as my personal reputation or groundtackles liability is always at risk. It doesn’t take much $ to get all this gear to rate. Colin has shackle issues that we also need to address and I’m here to help all of you. When Rex first manufactured the anchors he designed them around shackles available in his backyard. We have taken to sending these Excels out with alloy shackles attached to simplify the process for the consumer until production changes have been implemented. I’ve got very little time at home between Seattle and Vancouver boats show to get technical info posted for you. Once the show starts I can sit down and write, so stand by. If you would like to discuss this here or sometimes easier on our moc.elkcatdnuorg@selas address. When your issue is solved we can share that solution with the group for others to follow. I look fwd to getting involved in with AAC, you all seem like nice people…
I guess I need to find a pic of my dog aaarrrby in my profile, I’ll work on that.
Chris

Colin Speedie

Hi Rob
we used two shackles – I didn’t have a big enough metric shackle that would fit better than the Crosby. One of the things (one of the only things…) I liked about the old CQR was the hefty eye to attach the anchor which, with the right shackle, could never tumble and jam. Something similar would be good, in my view.

Rob Gill

Hi Chris, I bought our anchor in NZ so this is in no way your issue, but really helpful to know there is work going on – I hoped to benefit from your and Colin’s experience with such things.
I am going back to Rope Chain & Anchor to see what they come up with and will share with you if we find a rated solution – completely with you on certification. No point buying expensive chain and an unrated shackle.
Having said that Chris, we were completely happy with the 2 shackle “fix” before we put the top roller in place – I also wonder if it might assist the EXCEL with its long shank to mount the bow roller with the slightly superior articulation afforded by the “bow to bow” coupling of 2 shackles vs one shackle to the chain? Not sure on that one. Many thanks, Rob

Rob Thompson

Rob, on our anchoring arrangement with a #7 Excel, we used 2 “bow to bow” shackles. The 5/8 Crosby G209A body goes through the anchor slot, and an Omega Link shackle, commonly used in the heavy lifting industry, that has been stripped of paint and well galvanised for the chain connection. We use 8mm G100 chain that has been galvanised to US Navy spec ( 120 micron thickness and toughness) with Armorgalv in Newcastle, NSW. And it is really tough and abrasion resistant. The Omega Link pin goes through the 8mm chain, so you could get a size up on the Omega for 10mm chain. These Omega Links have seriously good strength specs, even after galvanising, assuming it’s done well.

But another suggestion would be on the smaller rated shackle when the lug is contacting the roller, is to Locktite in the pin after assembly, and take a centre punch and hit the edge ( hard) all around where the pin thread meets the shackle body thread so the pin threads expand and jam in the shackle. Then angle grinder cut off the pin and smooth down so it’s more roller friendly.

Rob Gill

Hi Rob,
Thanks for the constructive ideas. We currently use 2 x Crosby shackles. The Omega Link looks a nice bit of kit – shame they don’t do a ready galvanised one as this would be a nice solution – not sure our galv shops are up to that level of ability.
I was really hoping to find a single shackle solution, but grinding off the pin would certainly solve my issue but I have never found success in using cold Galv over more than a few months. Eventually rust and then rust spots come back as little tell-tales down our white decks. I think the eventual solution may be to round out the anchor eye in the shank before re-galvanising in 3-4 years time. Until then the roller may have to suck up the punishment.
How have you found your EXCEL #7? Any negatives or positives not covered?
best regards, Rob

RobT

We have not launched the new boat, so I can’t offer any first hand owner info, yet.
However I have experienced what an Excel can do on friends boats. One time returning from a Coral Sea dive trip on a 57 foot Radford, we were entering the Wooli bar and if you look at the entrance to the breakwater on Google Earth, you’ll see it can be a bit like threading the needle when there’s a bit of an afternoon NE sea breeze rolling in. Just as we got near the end of the breakwall, the skipper gunned the diesel to follow a breaker in on the back shoulder of the wave. You guessed it, the engine died. He released the Excel from his helm windlass switch ( ah ha!, so that’s why he released the anchor from the bow roller as we were coming in. Now THAT’s good seamanship) & let it drop for just a few seconds as the chain was flying out. He locked off the windlass with the brake, the Excel dug in instantly, and we swung around into the swells before the next big breaker could whack us broadside. We were no more than 2 -3 boatlengths off the Wooli south breakwall. Saved our bacon, big time. Changed filter, motored back out, turned around and came in.

Another time later, same skipper different boat, a 15m Simpson cat this time, we were anchored for the night at Elizabeth Reef, which has pretty lousy holding, and sure enough at one in the morning, pretty big winds came through for 3 hours in a big front. I was “quite concerned” but he said confidently, “No worries, the Excel will hold”.

But the main reason I got the Excel, as if those two experiences weren’t enough, was talking to several Oz East coast commercial fishermen, many many of whom have a big Excel bower, about their anchoring experiences with it. That’s all I needed to hear. Many of those guys had tried several other well known ones before the Excel, and they are out in atrocious weather, so I got the picture.

Rob Gill

Hi RobT,
Great account of crossing Wooli bar and big tick for your skipper and the EXCEL as you say. We have an anchor up and down switch at the helm which we almost never use, preferring someone on the bow actually watching what is happening. We only ever use it to scare seagulls sitting and shi#*&% on the pulpit – works every time.
Having read this, I will now make a count of metres of chain per second in case we ever need to use the same trick – not that we cross many bars like the Wooli one – looks tricky without your engine sitting out mid-crossing!
Cheers, Rob

Devon Rutz-Coveney

Hello,
We are using a single Crosby 209A. 7/16″… 1/2″ Pin. This onto 10mm DIN766 chain. The Pin fits fine through the link. The Anchor is the Excel # 5.
boat.. Valiant 40.
Specs on the Crosby shackle (from website):
Nominal Size – 7/16″
Load Capacity – 2.6 Ton
Weight – 0.38 Pounds
Pin Diameter – 0.50″
Inner Length – 1.69″
Inner Width – 1.16″
Opening Size – 0.75″
Eye Outer Size – 1.06″
Overall Body Length – 2.91″
Overall Body Width – 2-3/8″
Body Material – High tensile forged alloy steel
Material Finish – Hot dip galvanized
Pin Material – Steel Alloy
Safety Compliance:
Exceeds the performance requirements of Federal Specification RR-C-271F
Fatigue rated
Approveduse at -40 degrees C (-40 degrees F) to 204 degrees C (400 degrees F).
Meets or exceeds all requirements of ASME B30.26

Dick Stevenson

Hi Chris,
Firstly, I wish to say that I always notice when people add to the discussion who are involved and knowledgeable about products being reviewed or commented on and make themselves available. It is admirable and appreciated and makes it far more likely I will consider a product for purchase.
Next, I am a bit slow so I took a while to think that the url for your company was in Colin’s text (and I did not find it on a quick search), so I include it here for those as slow as me: https://www.groundtackle.com/.
Thanks for your participation, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Colin Speedie

Hi All
whilst I accept that pins sticking out of shackles can snag occasionally, I’ve generally found that a top shackle system works well, allowing useful articulation that a single shackle sometimes lacks. Obviously the shackles should be good quality and tested to high loads such as those from Crosby (US) or A & P Lifting (UK).
I don’t like relying solely on Loctite (though I do use it) but always mouse up the pin with Monel seizing wire from the venerable and great British firm of Ormiston – https://jimmygreen.com/shackles/20296-ormiston-monel-seizing-wire
Grinding off the head of the pin certainly gets around the snagging issue, but will make life hard if you wish to change anchors etc.
Sounds like you’ve met a top skipper, Rob T!
Best wishes
Colin

Eric Klem

Hi Colin,

Thanks for the review. It seems like a promising anchor and I do like how reports say that it comes up clean as that should really help resetting ability. Based on shape and surface area, it is definitely a different take on the depth of dive versus holding power equation than anchors like the Rocna, I wonder what percentage of places would prevent the deep bury. The other reports that I hear are similar to yours about short scope abilities which is too bad, this can really be a huge benefit especially to those of us who regularly anchor in deep spots.

Personally, I put a large premium on setting distance, including with a lump of mud on the fluke if applicable, and staying set while veering. The chances of fouling go way up as this distance increases. My memory of anchoring in tough substrates from the days of CQR’s and Bruces was always pulling them to the surface when they didn’t set and often finding some form of fouling.

Not directly the subject of your review but you mention using your Fortress at the 45 degree fluke angle for soft mud. How do you decide when to do this? We have an FX-55 that hasn’t been wet since the boat got a new gen anchor but it has been assembled a few times and never in the 45 hole. I worry that I will have misjudged the substrate and the most likely reason that it is going over the side is that the main anchor has insufficient holding power. In this case, I don’t want to find out that I really needed to use the other hole. Since the anchor is large for our boat, I don’t worry too much about the holding power in soft mud but it is possible that sometime I will need more. When I was a kid, we had a danforth style that was unbelievably hard to set to the point where we got a new one. Once I was a teenager, I realized that the problem was that the fluke angle was probably 50 degrees so I welded a bar on that limited it at 30 degrees and it suddenly became just as good as the other danforth types we had.

Eric

Colin Speedie

Hi Eric
I guess that the kind of situation where deep burying would be difficult would be those mentioned by Rob above, i.e. sand or mud over rock. As we know, though, that’s a problem for most anchors. The worst, in many ways.
I’m not sure iff I understood your comment correctly about short scope. I thought the Excel did well on short scope sometimes in deep(ish) water.
As far as the Fortress is concerned I break it down when on long passages (as you know, they are a problem to stow) but reassemble it when coastal cruising when I set it 45 degrees as that’s almost always the way it will be used, in soft mud. If I had to change it over I would – it only takes a few minutes, but I have not done so for years. But I take your point about angles and ease of setting. I suspect it was one of the reasons that the Danforth fell from grace as a bower anchor due to the variable ability of the design with two often similar looking anchors not performing as well as each other, something I suppose was inevitable as so many were knock-offs of dubious origin!
Best wishes
Colin

Eric Klem

Hi Colin,

Sorry, I got mixed up on the short scope comment and was incorrectly attributing Rob’s comment above on the Excel’s short scope performance to you.

You comments on why you use the 45 degree setting angle on the fortress are interesting, this is something that I probably need to think more about. Ours is one size larger than I would have otherwise bought but it came with the boat so it has never forced the issue as its holding power should be quite good even in soft mud on the 32 degree setting.

Eric

Dick Stevenson

Hi Eric,
I, too, noticed Colin’s comment that the anchor came up relatively clean, an attribute that the Spade does not enjoy. I have thought myself that the amount of seabed that builds-up on the Spade would interfere with resetting, but in 10+ anchoring with our Spade, it has never failed to re-set and nor has it ever failed, at least in mud, to present me and my wash-down pump some exercise in cleaning.
So, build up of mud, at least with Spades, seems not to interfere with it re-setting after a wind shift or current change.
And I also concur with setting distance (as opposed to scope). The more an anchor is dragged around looking for a set (or re-set), the more likely it is to get into mischief.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Colin Speedie

Hi Dick
good points (as always). The ballasted anchors like the Spade (and the Excel?) seem to maintain their balance and therefore ability to dig in when choked with mud, which would be especially important (as you point out) when re-setting after a big wind shift – a very valuable plus.
I agree, too, that fast setting helps reduce the risk of fouling some unwanted object. Your comment made me think back to my old CQR days – discarded trawl wires, lobster pots even a double mattress on one occasion, all picked up when trying to get the thing to set. The good old days, eh?
Best wishes
Colin

John Harries

Hi Dick,

I would confirm that in our 20 years of SPADE use that it almost always comes up with a chunk of mud to wash off, but that does not seem to have any effect on resetting. I think the the key is very high tip weight percentage coupled with not having a roll bar to stop mud exhausting off the fluke as it digs in.

Also, in the early days of using a SPADE I dove on it a lot and always found that it had set in it’s own length, or less. Again, I think high tip weight percentage is the key.

Rob Gill

Good thoughts on setting distance guys which I absolutely agree with. In my estimate the EXCEL takes longer distance to set than the old ROCNA at 3:1, with some of the old CQR tendencies, but stops about the same length when set at 5:1. We didn’t have to worry with the old Rocna. But since the first few sets, we nearly always set it at 5:1 and so this hasn’t been an issue in practise.
If we were in deep water, say 25m+, then we may have an issue (untested although we have 100m of chain), I wonder if the amount of chain out would likely create a good enough catenary shape to ease the EXCEL in deeply before the chain became tight. The videos from SV Panope show the EXCEL performs well at short scope, once set. Thoughts?
Cheers, Rob

Colin Speedie

Hi Rob
good point. I always try to veer at least 5:1 (if it’s possible) to set any anchor, then shorten up to what scope I can get away with in the space and conditions. Thinking back through our experiences this season with the Excel, I can think of a couple of occasions when we had to set on 3/3.5:1 due to the proximity of other boats or moorings. Both times it held well, helped no doubt by it being a mud substrate. Sand, especially hard sand would have made for a much sterner test.
Our Rocna(s) have always done well on short scope, in a wide variety of substrates and I agree may set slightly faster – but there’s very little in it that I could discern in most instances. I think the Excel will hold as well in most bottom types after taking into account the need to modify setting technique to take account of this.
But as with every anchor yet devised, they all have their little idiosyncrasies and as long as you know them, things should go well.
Best wishes
Colin

Chris Eldridge

I’ve given the Excel a good workout and was so happy with it’s positive attributes I didn’t really notice this long set behaviour or felt any issue. Im a long time CQR’r as I was always a toe weighted fan and learned how to make it work. Roll bars let down me down too many times in thiner stuff and particularly in heavy weed as they would just sail along sideways. Mudding was an issue as they wouldn’t get upright or go back in. On the beach once and almost lost her.
I did test the Excel against ten or so of the best anchors of all types I could get my hands on for a year or so before pulling the trigger on GT and the Excel.
I’m going to watch a little closer now. We are doing some more testing and I’ll share our findings.
Chris

Charles Starke MD FACP

Hi All,
Great discussion. I found the RobT note especially enlightening, and I will free my anchor on entering or leaving harbor in the future. WOW!
I was disappointed, previously, in the setting and resetting of an 88 lb Rocna and sold it for a Spade. Thie Spade has been perfect and does come up dirty, but this does not change its setting or resetting
The SV Panope video and Colin’s article were instructive and excellent. I hope we can have a real world comparison of the Spade and Sarca Excel in the future.

Chris Eldridge

We are going to test those two against each other. My feeling is they will perform similarly. I have experience with the spade in both galv and aluminum. Until the Excel showed up I’d always felt the Spade was the best and recommended to all my clients. I still like them very much. We need to do more tests with the aluminum Excel but so far we’ve had excellent feedback. Just needs a little gentler or slower speed set as its so light, same with the spade.
For the little reasons you have been talking about and I’d like to add the stainless toe that can be sharpened, gives it an advantage. What a bonus to have a non rusting toe. They weren’t easily obtained in NA so they never showed up around the docks. I do appreciate the certification performed by Anchor Right, that went a long way with me.
Chris

Mark Wilson

Dear Colin
Thank you for such an in depth article – no pun intended.
I am planning to replace the slightly dubious CQR anchors on my Twister in the next few weeks. Last June I nearly embarrassed myself by dragging in soft mud into the GGR fleet as they paraded off Falmouth Haven.
I am not trying to make you say which is categorically the best but if you needed to replace your best bower and you were spending your own money which anchor would you be minded to choose ?
By the way, in challenging conditions in the Falklands and Tierra del Fuego, I absolutely adored my massive Fisherman’s as part of the anchoring regime. Hard to handle and not an all round solution but a proper anchor.
Best
Mark

John Harries

Hi Mark,

I will not get into a “best” argument between the two anchors. But what I can say is that the SPADE has never let us down in over 20 years of visiting remote places. And since we have had the SPADE, we have never had to use our Luke (fisherman type).

See the first few chapters of this online book for specifics: https://www.morganscloud.com/category/anchoring-mooring/online-book-anchoring/

Mark Wilson

Thanks John.
Thought it was worth a try.
My wife is a magazine editor and she’s rigorous, almost puritanical, about freebies, handing them all on to her staff. I can’t remember when we last went on a free jaunt.
But it’s really interesting to know when someone puts their money where their mouth is. In this case you with Spade and Colin with Rocna.
For both ease of purchase in UK and aesthetic reasons I think it will be the Spade for me.
Best
Mark

Colin Speedie

Hi Mark
another factor may simply be what fits your bow set-up best.
The Falmouth Yacht haven anchorage has been so well ploughed it’s getting hard to find a good spot. There’s also quite a bit of junk on the bottom. We dragged right across there once with a big sail trainer and found we’d fouled a massive old wire hawser…
Best wishes
Colin

Dick Stevenson

Hi Mark and John,
I have 10+ years with Spades and when I went from a 30kg to a 35kg I decided that having different anchors for different conditions no longer made sense to me when a Spade was just a superior anchor in all the conditions I regularly encounter. So, the 80 lbs Luke got sold and the 30kg Spade was put in the bilge: made easier by its being able to be broken apart. In addition to being a better anchor, handling the Spade as the extra anchor is far far easier than handling the Luke: a practice I never mastered without fear for my bodily integrity—or the boat’s.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Neil Mckinley

Hi Colin
A little off track I know, but as I too have an Ovni 435 I was interested in the Bowsprit for your boat that is shown in one of the photos above. I am looking to get one fabricated and wondering if you could send me some more information about the sizing and construction of yours.
Thanks Neil

Colin Speedie

Hi Neil
ours is a factory standard one, so I’d guess that they could make on for you – might be your easiest option. It’s a good fit and is plenty strong enough.
I’d give you more details on ours, but I’m afraid it’s on thew other side of the Atlantic currently!
Best wishes
Colin

Neil Mckinley

Hi Colin
Thanks for the reply.
I have already contacted Alubat who were not really helpful and me being in Australia not really that practical for the moment!
I will take the photo to someone local and go from there , if you do get a chance to get some details of yours that would be most appreciated too.
KInd Regards Neil

Michael Corboy

Hi Neil
Did you get you bow sprit made? I could do measurements etc as we have the same set up as per photo.

Tim Good

Excellent article Colin. It’s always important to keep testing and considering new developments even when the likes of Spade, Rochna and Fortress have so many loyal supporters. Good to see companies still developing and testing. For us we took Colin’s advice a few years ago and went Spade.

We were anchored off a small village inside the acceleration zone of Gran Canaria recently and experienced 70kts gusts which put the gear under tremendous shock loads as the boat swung about in gusts from all directions. The spade held strong as usual and we’ve yet to see it drag.

Since the water is so clear in the Canaries and we have diving gear aboard I may try and do a video of setting the Spade with low scope and see how she fairs. I’ll report back!

John Harries

Hi Tim,

Thanks for the real world report, always the best kind. We too have had the same good experience with SPADE on multiple occasions in the high latitudes.

And yes, it would be great to see the results of your short scope testing.

Tom and Deb Jarecki

We have a relatively new Sarca Excel 9 bought in May 2021. Since then, as full time liveaboard cruisers in New Zealand and now Australia, it has been our primary anchor. Our boat is a 16.5m/55′ 11,500kg/25,300# catamaran – relatively lightweight and moderate windage.

Previously we had a Spade S140 (31kg) that came with our boat. The Spade was adequate but a little small for comfort, had performed generally very well in extended cruising in the South Pacific and New Zealand, but had let go a couple times in mud bottoms and we had lost a bit of trust in it. When we decided to go cruising full time, we decided to upgrade it – the decision was between a Spade S185/S200 (45kg/55kg) and the Excel 9 (50kg). We ended up getting the Excel – our decision was based a variety of factors including cost.

It’s been a relatively short test period so far (5 months, approximately 40 anchorages on a variety of bottoms but not including kelp nor pebbles) and we’ve generally had fast and solid sets (2-3 anchor lengths where we’ve been able to dive on it) and no dragging even in wind changes. In anything but the softer bottoms it is very difficult to bury the anchor completely under engine power – we have 35hp engines and MaxProps so perhaps underpowered for the anchor size?).

However, we had one dragging incident that has really shaken us. This was at Opua, New Zealand, in an estuary with very soft but sticky clay mud and a strong reversing tidal stream. We anchored near the main marina on the edge of a mooring field in 10m depth. When we anchored the wind was from the NE 20-30 knots with relatively small wind waves due to limited fetch, and 2 knots of W current (ebbing). We set as usual with 4.5:1 chain, laying out the chain using the windlass clutch and slow reverse at an angle midway between wind and current based on other anchored boats. Once the anchor was holding we set the bridle (6.5m each) and let out another 10m of chain to create a small lazy loop. Then we power set up to 70% rpm – our usual practice. Everything seemed solid.

The next day, with wind gusts peaking to 35 knots during the night, the plotter and anchor alarm app both showed no movement of the anchor and boat swings back and forth over about 60* angle with the current changes.

Not quite 24 hours after anchoring, the anchor just let go and we were dragging 2 knots in reverse. Fortunately this was just after breakfast and we noticed before the anchor alarm sounded. We had dragged about 150m before we got our engines started and at that point we fetched up alongside a moored boat. One bow ended up over the mooring cable and against the moored boat’s bow and the dragging stopped.

After a bunch of manoeuvring we were able to clear the moored boat and retrieve our anchor. All this time the rode was taught in the direction we had dragged from, but obviously wasn’t holding. We motored forward and brought the chain in without any problems (luckily hadn’t fouled anything), had to use little extra breakout force at 12m chain, then brought the anchor up. It was clean (though it had plenty of water depth and current to clean off any mud). The chain links in the final 30m were absolutely plugged with sticky clay mud.

We moved to a different location on the other (downwind, up estuary) side of the mooring field in much shallower water and re-anchored. We stayed in that location for the next three days and had no movement at all, despite the same wind and twice daily 120* swings due to stronger current in the new location.

So why did the anchor hold, then suddenly let go and not reset?

One theory by locals was that we had found a pocket of thicker mud, got the anchor set in that, then that blob of thicker mud, with the anchor in the middle of it, let go and slid through softer mud. This could explain why we still had to use extra force to break it out and why it came up clean and not fouled with anything.

Was there anything we could have done differently, other than choosing a different location, which we didn’t feel we had to due to the (apparently) good set?

We have lost a little comfort with the anchor and are certainly more careful with our setting since.

John Harries

Hi Tomasz,

First off, thanks for a very clear and well thought out report, just the sort that help us all.

Second sorry to hear about that experience. I too have ended up across another boat’s mooring (the mooring we were on failed) and it’s a very unpleasant experience that takes good seamanship to get out of.

As to the cause of this drag, my guess is that self fouling of the chain getting looped around the ears of the fluke in a tide change may have been the cause: https://www.morganscloud.com/2021/07/18/two-interesting-anchoring-reports/

And then the foul cleared allowing the anchor to reset.

Tom and Deb Jarecki

Very plausible and the likeliest scenario. If we can consider it so, our faith in the anchor is restored :).

I have noticed on diving the anchor many times, particularly when we’ve set at 3:1, that the anchor is false set in a tilted position with one fluke buried (and seeming to hold, hence false set) and the tip just barely, with the other fluke and the shank exposed. That fluke certainly could catch the chain.

John Harries

Hi Tomasz,

That’s interesting about what you have seen diving and, I think, nails it down pretty well.

Rob Gill

Hi Tomasz,

We have a 14.5 metre,12 tonne sloop in NZ and have anchored in the Opua inlet many times. We have used a 35 kg Excel since 2017 including a 6 month SW Pacific circuit. In the early days we had some reliability issues setting in certain conditions.

The trick for us has been to try and always set with a minimum of 5:1 scope. Also round-up to the nearest 5m chain mark increment, not down. And then allow for our high clipper bow by having the 5m increment chain mark “in-the-water”, not “on-deck”. The anchor seems to need this amount of scope to get a deep set, so the flukes are fully buried. Now the only times we have problems setting is when we have skimped on these rules due to proximity of other boats.

My theory is the Excel has this sharpened, slightly more deeply angled stainless nose-tip section which must dive deeply on setting, and this requires a horizontal pull from the chain. Any upward angle to the initial pull and the anchor can fall on its side and stay with a relatively shallow set with only one fluke buried.

Once both flukes are in the substrate, if the wind blows the anchor just digs deeper and deeper. In popular anchorages and fine weather, we will often shorten up to 3:1 after setting, as we are very confident in this anchor when properly set.

May of course be different on a lightweight cat. Good luck. Rob.

Tom and Deb Jarecki

Excellent point regarding using 5:1 or more rode (to the bow roller, which for us is 1.5m above waterline) to make the set. We have failed on that many times as we often lie to 3:1 for crowded anchorages (other boats, or shoreline/reef) and we set at 3:1. Your comment and John’s also is to set at 5:1 or more, then to shorten the rode if needed and test. That is our new practice. Thanks very much.