Upgrading Your Winches

Easily taken for granted, your boat’s winches are critical to nearly all sailing functions. If you’re refitting, consider an upgrade.

February 14, 2017
Anatal 3-Speed XT Race (left), Andersen Flush-Top (right) Courtesy of the Manufacturers

What Speed do You Need?

Single-speed winches are the least expensive ­option but don’t offer as much ­mechanical advantage as a two- or three-speed winch. On a cruising boat, you’ll most likely find these used for halyards and possibly the mainsheet. If you’re replacing a single-speed winch, ­consider a geared one that ratchets so you can turn the handle in ­either direction. For sheeting in the headsail, you’ll want a two-speed or possibly a three-speed winch. Two-speed winches have a 5-to-1- or 6-to-1-ratio high speed, which is usually counterclockwise, to bring in the sheet quickly, and then turn the other way for a 1-to-1 gear ratio to complete the trimming.

Three- and four-speed winches are less common on cruising boats, but may be a worthy upgrade if you routinely sail with a 150 percent genoa that’s tough to sheet home.

Antal 3-Speed XT Race

Bring in that line fast! Push the button on top of the three-speed XT Race winches to engage the fast first gear; the second and third gears are automatically ­selected simply by reversing the direction of the handle’s rotation.


Andersen flush-top

All Andersen winches now feature a new flush-top style that creates a cleaner, more modern-looking winch. To achieve the new look, the central drive shaft, self-tailing arm and countersunk screws have been re-engineered. The updated parts are fully compatible with ­existing winch models, so owners can ­upgrade their winches without replacing them. Electric conversion kits are also available.

Harken Radial (left), Pontos Trimmer (center), Selden S-Series (right) Courtesy of the Manufacturers

Harken Radial

Harken’s Radial line of ­winches, available in one-, two- or three-speed versions, feature a ­distinctive pattern on the drum that will grip the line and help prevent overrides. Winch maintenance is ­simple: Remove the top, and the interior parts lift out as a single unit. Want to power up? Harken Radial winches are also upgradeable to electric.

Pontos Trimmer

Fairly new to the market, Pontos winches debuted in France in 2014. The Pontos Trimmer is a four-speed winch that ­engages the extra gears automatically — no buttons needed; just reverse the winch handle. The extra gears make hauling in a large genoa easy even for smaller crewmembers.


Selden S-Series

The Selden S-Series manual winches feature a unique self-tailer that allows the trimmer to pull the slack out of the line with the sheet already loaded in the self-tailer and the winch handle in place. This makes it easy to go ­quickly ­into grinding mode and is safer for the trimmer, since it’s not necessary to load the tensioned sheet ­into the self-tailer.


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