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  #1  
Old 04-27-2009
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Controlling Lines—Cleats, Clutches and Jammers

There was a sailor asking me about his mainsheet setup on an on-line forum, and was thinking of using line clutches or line jammers for his mainsheet. I tried to explain that this was both unwise and dangerous. A line clutch or line jammer can take too long to release—and in the case of a main sheet, could result in a knockdown or broach.

Dealing with Dynamic Lines


Dynamic control lines, like sheets generally need to be released fairly quickly in an emergency. The best type of line control mechanism for dynamic control lines are cam cleats or clam cleats. Both clam cleats and cam cleats allow you to easily release the lines being held by them by lifting the lines upwards, out of them.

Cam cleats are often used for sheets and other dynamic control lines, since they can easily be incorporated into blocks, while still allowing fairly easy control of the line. Clam cleats are generally used for smaller lines, and are often seen on dinghies and on sails, where they’re used for leech lines.

Controlling Static Control Lines


Halyards, boom vangs, outhauls, topping lifts and furling lines are relatively static lines, since they aren’t generally adjusted very often. These are probably best controlled using line clutches or line jammers. However, line clutches are better than line jammers for heavily loaded lines, since some line jammers, as well as some poorly designed line clutches, can be difficult to release under load. Spinlock line clutches have this problem.

The best line clutches, in terms of performance and price, are probably the Lewmar line clutches. The use a different mechanism than most of the other line clutches, and seem to cause the least amount of abrasion to lines, as well as give you the most control when easing a heavily loaded line. However, the Lewmar line clutches have the narrowest working range, so your choices of line used are far more limited by them.

One important point, if you use Lewmar line clutches—unlike most other brands, the handles on the Lewmars flip open towards the winches, not away…. if you’re used to most other brands, you might end up mounting the line clutches backwards, like my friend Craigtoo did.

Cleats, Clutches and Jammers—What They Look Like


Spinlock PowerCleat

Good for many different kinds of lines, but can only deal with relatively low loads. They can substitute for cam cleats, or lightly loaded line clutches. Unlike a line jammer, the Spinlock PowerCleat has a positive release mechanism.


Cam Cleat

Good for sheets and other control lines that need to be released quickly. Often integrated into fiddle blocks and other block and tackle setups. The plastic jaw versions tend to be kinder to the line, but the metal jaw versions usually are more durable.


Clam Cleat

Good for sheets and other control lines that need to be released quickly, only for fairly small lines. Often found on sails for leech lines.


Jam Cleat

Often used with genoa sheets… not quite as quick to release as cam cleats or clam cleats. These are often used in place of regular cleats, which aren’t being discussed here, but don’t require a cleat hitch to hold the line under normal conditions. For safety’s sake, a cleat hitch should be used if extra security is required.


Line Clutch

Best choice for halyards and other relatively static lines. Usually available in single, double, and triple forms. Have the highest load capacity of all the line control devices.


Line Jammer

Good for halyards and such, but often have a problem being released under high loads. Line clutches are a bit more sophisticated and a better choice for heavily loaded lines.
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Last edited by sailingdog; 04-28-2009 at 07:31 AM.
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  #2  
Old 04-27-2009
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Nice post SD. One other option for holding the main sheet that you didn't mention is a self-tailing winch. Our main sheet is led through a Lewmar D2 clutch and then to the self-tailing winch. We generally leave the clutch open and the line on the winch. If we need to do a reef or use the winch for something else, we'll close the clutch, pull the main sheet off, use the winch, put the main sheet back on again and open the clutch. I completely agree that dynamic lines can't use a clutch as a primary stopping mechanism.

A lot of cats have a poor line handling design, leading all lines, including dynamic ones, to a bank of clutches and a single winch by the steering station. All lines being led to a single winch is a bad idea.

Also note that because of their design, the D2 clutches have to be sized based on the size of the line going through them. In addition, if you get the smallest clutch and a high tech line, they may not be compatible. We had that issue with our original reef lines. We sized the clutch according to specs but the line slipped through it. We ended up having to go up one line size. I do love the D2's though. Regardless of Practical Sailor's latest review, we haven't had much abrasion at all and they've been solid performers. We have 6 clutches on the starboard side under the dodger and 5 on the port side, with all lines save three halyards led aft. We can reef, raise sails, etc. all from the comfort of the cockpit.
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Old 04-28-2009
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I disagree that a clutch should not be used on a mainsheet. Sorry SD but they can be released with load on them quickly and I'd rather have a clutch on the line and the line wrapped around a winch before letting it free. To pull up on a heavily loaded mainsheet with no other control like wraps on a winch could prove to be more dangerous to the line handler than use of a clutch which is only slightly slower to release. In addition; cam cleats have a much lower load limit so for high loading applications a cluch might be the only way to go aside from cleating off after the winch. Multiple clutches in front of the winch also allows use of the winch for more than one line; which can't be done as easily with cam cleats or clam cleats.
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Old 04-28-2009
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i'm w/ keelhaulin on this one...
i have spinlocks on my main traveler for fine tuning..and the setup is ideal.
would i use them as primary..prolly not, but i like them in conjunction w/ other line handlers...i replaced all my cams w/ spinlocks or line clutches, and they work perfectly..then again..if you pay attention to wind conditions and progressivley release, you'd avoid knockdowns..
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Might be an issue of mono-hull vs multi-hull. On a mono you have more forgiveness when it comes to knockdown or getting a bit overpowered. You can just round up a bit and then spill the sheet. If you did get knocked down generally you can just release the sheets and you will pop back up. On a multi-hull you might -need- the ability to instantly let the sheet free to prevent getting flipped (less forgiving) so in that application SD is correct in saying that a rope clutch is too slow.
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A lot of this depends on how your main sheet is setup, as well. With a six-to-one purchase, which is how my mainsheet is setup, a line clutch doesn't make sense. There's enough internal friction to the block system and a lot of line to get moving that keeps the forces and speeds reasonable. If you've got less leverage and NEED to have a winch to make up the difference,, then a line clutch might make sense, since you've got a lot less leverage and less friction.

Some of what I've written does reflect the fact that blowing a sheet on a multihull is far more time critical than on a monohull under certain conditions. However, broaching really isn't one of those conditions, since multihulls tend to be far less likely to broach.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KeelHaulin View Post
I disagree that a clutch should not be used on a mainsheet. Sorry SD but they can be released with load on them quickly and I'd rather have a clutch on the line and the line wrapped around a winch before letting it free. To pull up on a heavily loaded mainsheet with no other control like wraps on a winch could prove to be more dangerous to the line handler than use of a clutch which is only slightly slower to release.
Yes, line clutches generally have the highest load capacity of all the line control devices. However, there are some, like the older Spinlock ones, which can JAM under a heavy load, and may need to have the line tensioned before they will release. This is one reason I don't like the Spinlock line clutches.

Quote:
In addition; cam cleats have a much lower load limit so for high loading applications a cluch might be the only way to go aside from cleating off after the winch.
I'd point out that if you're using a single winch to handle multiple lines, unless they're mostly static lines, you've designed or setup the running rigging fairly poorly. Dynamic lines should have their own winch IMHO if at all possible. I have three winches on the cabin top of my boat. The third one has six line clutches in front of it and is for halyards and reefing lines.

No argument that cam/clam cleats aren't as versatile when needing multiple lines led to a single winch—in that situation, line clutches are definitely the way to go.

Quote:
Multiple clutches in front of the winch also allows use of the winch for more than one line; which can't be done as easily with cam cleats or clam cleats.
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Old 04-28-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KeelHaulin View Post
I disagree that a clutch should not be used on a mainsheet. Sorry SD but they can be released with load on them quickly and I'd rather have a clutch on the line and the line wrapped around a winch before letting it free. To pull up on a heavily loaded mainsheet with no other control like wraps on a winch could prove to be more dangerous to the line handler than use of a clutch which is only slightly slower to release. In addition; cam cleats have a much lower load limit so for high loading applications a cluch might be the only way to go aside from cleating off after the winch. Multiple clutches in front of the winch also allows use of the winch for more than one line; which can't be done as easily with cam cleats or clam cleats.
And what happens when you do use that winch for something else and don't put the wraps back on it and release that clutch with the line in your hand? While we would all like to say we are disciplined enough to never do that ... isn't that the 3 AM rule?
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Old 04-30-2009
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Perhaps even better... both cam cleats and clutches.

I think there may have been some confusion. SD surely meant that the cam cleat would be on the tail of the line, with the line on a winch (assuming it was not a tackle - one or the other). In that manner, there is not an unsafe load on the cam; no more than if you were hand-tailing.

My winches have self-tailers, but when it's blowing they are too slow to release. You could remove the rope from the tailer and release them with the jammer; that makes even less sense. My usual arraignment is this:

Note: the jammer is between the load and the winch, the cam cleat is between the winch and the sailor.

* if the wind is light and I am cruising, jammer off, sheet in the tailer.
* if the wind is moderate and I am cruising, jammer might be on, sheet in the tailer.
* if the wind is up, jammer off, sheet in the cleat. Pay attention.
* if I am tacking or trimming a lot, jammer off, sheet in the cleat.
In all cases, there are 2-4 turns on the winch, as needed for control.

As for forgetting to put turns on the winch... well, without using a jammer that would be cute. As for releasing a sail with a jammer, I'd need a reason. In light winds, the jammer wouldn't be in use.

I never use the jammer to release a line. If it is in the jammer and under load, unload the tailer, give the winch a small turn, and let it slip on the drum.
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