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I've always used a preventer but recently I have decided to install a boom brake and looking for some advice.

There is a decent sale on the witchard gyb'easy at defender and I'll problably get that one, unless there is a compelling reason to go with the Dutchman (or some other).

So a few questions
  • I'm inclined to use the boom brake in lieu of a preventer. Is that wise, or should I use both? I've been doing a lot more ocean sailing this season and the thought of back winding the main and even dipping it in water with the preventer strained to the max is a bit worrisome.
  • rigging the boom brake to the chainplates seems preferred but it also strikes me as a significant obstruction going forward on the high side, at least on my little boat. Am I missing something? (As a single hander I value clear side decks)
My experience with a boom brake is limited to my Dutchman, have only looked at the Wichard. Aside from the dual preventer setup seen on most Valiants, i don't think I've ever delivered a boat equipped with one, so they seem pretty rare. I'm a big fan of mine, but they definitely come with some tradeoffs, and I see my opinions are gonna differ from some of those who've already posted… :)

First off, i do not consider a brake to be a substitute for a proper preventer. Using it as such, or rigging a preventer from mid-boom to the deck amidships, can be a recipe from breaking something, especially on larger boats… preventers should only be run from the end of the boom forward, IMHO. If you're concerned about dipping the boom, use a rope like climbing rope, instead…

As Tatia mentioned, fixing the brake to chainplates seems a bad idea. I'm surprised Dutchman actually recommends it. Mine are taken out to my perforated toerail, instead. Of course, that constitutes a major tripping hazard… I would hope most sailors would learn to actually step over it :) But if you routinely sail with guests aboard, it's certainly something to consider, and using a brightly colored/high visibility line can't hurt… but if you're running jacklines on deck, taking the control lines out to the rail can be problematic, as you've got to decide whether to run the jackline over the brake line, or underneath… I which case, you'll have to un-clip if you're going further forward. Since I virtually never use my jacklines, preferring fixed tethers instead, that's not a big issue, for me...

I also have a pair of folding padeyes inboard, behind the shrouds, where the control lines are 'parked' whenever I don't need the brake underway, or while at anchor or a dock. I actually appreciate the utility of the brake as much when the boat is at rest. Since I have end-boom sheeting, I can completely remove my mainsheet, and swing the boom outboard a bit, then lock it in place with the brake, which greatly frees up my cockpit space and headroom…

In my opinion, you absolutely need to have the control line run back to a cleat or clutch at the cockpit, to make it easily adjustable to suit the conditions… My brake is the yellow line, below…



I've come to favor the use of a line with a bit more stretch over time, seems a bit easier to control, but it does require a bit more fine tuning/continuous adjustment…

The Dutchman is a nice piece of gear, but has one major drawback, in addition to being rather heavy. If you stow your mainsail in a conventionally flaked fashion, draped over the boom, you might get a real issue with chafe against the rather sharp edges of the top of the brake… I resolved this issue somewhat by fitting a sort of 'drape' from elkhide, that lays over the top of the brake, but not before I had done some minor damage to a 3DL main, not good :) Even with the protection I've added, it still requires a sharp eye from time to time… One advantage to the Wichard, with its much more rounded shape, that sort of chafe would not seem to be nearly as much of an issue…

You can sort of make out the protection I've fashioned in this pic, and you can see I have the control lines stowed inboard near the chainplates, rather than out at the rail, where they would be if I were sailing downwind…

 
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