What would you integrate into a winch handle if everything was possible and money was no object? Would you make it light and therefore easy to transport from winch to winch? Sure. And would you make it strong so that it would transfer your effort quickly to the winch? You bet. What other features would be desirable? Well, youd probably want something that locked in placethats a given. And youd probably want an ergonomically designed handle that would be versatile enough to accommodate any number of gripping styles, right? How about a broadly radiused joint between the shaft and handle so that errant line would tend to fall off rather than get snagged? Sure, that would be OK too. And lastly, youd want it to float so that it could be retrieved, right? Definitely.
Well, this entire wish list has been incorporated into the new Viper Series winch handles from Titan of Australia. Titan, the company that brought you the first floating winch handle, has designed the Viper winch handle to be a top-of-the-line piece of performance gear, manufactured expressly for racing enthusiasts who want that additional edge on the racecourse. The shafts on the Viper Series (available in eight-inch and 10-inch lengths) are made of hand-laid carbon fiber. To execute the shaft, the manufacturer uses pre-preg raw material baked and pressurized in female molds. Even the tapered axle inside the hand grip is molded as one part to ensure stiffness.
Weight is a big factor for most racing sailors, and its nice to know that the Viper Series winch handles weigh just 50 percent of the weight of comparable models. But thats not the best part, which is the lifetime guarantee against breakage that accompanies this item.
So whats the downside? Well, most sailors might be surprised at the price tag (suggested retail price of $199), but other than that, its hard to find fault with the Viper. "Ive used it for about eight races now," said Brad Taylor, who trims the jib on board Pamlico an Andrews 38 and one of the top PHRF boats in Charleston, SC, "and its really efficient. The shaft doesnt flex at all, and the handle is easy to grab. The ball-bearing system works really well even when the winch is pretty loaded up. And if I make a mistake and drop it over the side, the bright handle color should make it easy to retrieve."