I was just wondering what peoples' preferences are about using the ratchet function on their mainsheet block. Up to now I rarely have it on as I think I have less 'feel' on the mainsheet.
I sail with it on upwind and off downwind. Upwind I need all the assistance I can get to keep the sheet in block-to-block in medium to heavy winds. Downwind I want to be able to feel the pressure in the sail so I know when the sail is trimmed just right.
Funny! I've always had it on, but due to a bad experience (actually, in a different boat) I was just considering this morning to do as Old Geezer says, but wasn't sure whether this was common or not.
Three days ago, I was sailing an Omega Topaz in around 15/20 knots and found very difficult to ease the main enough while gybing. As a result, the boat headed up almost capsizing in each gybe. I released the ratchet downwind and the problem was solved.
I've never had this problem in my laser yet, but just in case ...
The only drawback is that I'll had one more adjustment to remember when passing the windward mark :-(
I recently replaced my mainsheet block with a Holt-Allen block with an automatic ratchet that cleats under load, works pretty well, though sometimes I'm not sure if I wouldn't rather be the boss of when its on or not. I think actually I would prefer maybe if it cleated under a bit less load.
I have been using a Ronstan RF62100 with 7mm Rooster mainsheet. I have been pretty happy with this combination for a while but have been curious to see if there is a better combination. I have been interested in the potential of an auto ratchet to get a better feel offwind. I have also wanted to try an alternate to the Rooster mainsheet to see if there is a more tangle resistant mainsheet out there. I still get occasional tangle problems.
I have been able to get hold of a few potentials to evaluate them. In the photo you can see 4 blocks (from left (1) Ronstan RF62100, (2) Ronstan Orbit, (3) 40mm Harken Carbo ratchet, (4) 57mm Harken Carbo Ratchmatic) and 2 mainsheets ( Rooster 7mm top and NE ropes 7mm Bzzz bottom).
I set the boat up in the backyard and measured the force in the mainsheet to go block to block (using a spring balance) and found that to be 25lbf. With all 4 ratchets , I measured the force to just release the sheet. I found that the Harken Carbo Ratchmatic and the Ronstan Orbit both had the best holding power reducing the sheet release load to about 2.5 to 3 lbf. My RF62100 and the 40mm Harken were about 4 lbf. All 4 blocks give a really good reduction in holding force. The Harken Ratchmatic gave a really smooth release whereas the other blocks were a bit grabby in comparison. This evaluation was with the Rooster mainsheet. I then moved on to the Bzzz sheet and found it to give slightly higher release loads but generally a smoother release. This may have been because it is a new sheet and still has the binding compounds in it that make it feel a bit greasy.
Looks like both of the auto ratchet blocks should perform well. If you want a simple lightweight manual ratchet the small 40mm Harken could be a good choice.
Once our sailing season starts I will update this with my on the water evaluations.
Prefered to use it upwind, not down (no real need), but since I switched to no gloves I haven't needed to use it at all.
(so...tough guy, huh? )
When I used gloves I needed more closing power in my hands to hold the sheet, so the ratchet came in handy. Now my skin jams the sheet far more effectively. This was a happy consequence of not wanting to shell out NZ$60 every 4 months for a new pair of Gills, rather than a search for efficient grip. Life's good like that sometimes.
I used to sail with it always on but at CORK I took it off for the downwinds. I think it lets me feel the sail better and as a bonus people can not hear you pump. Which means you can get away with a lot more... not like anyone at cork cared if you were pumping...