What hardware for sheet control?

Thread starter #1
Excerpted from original posting by mike4947 (Muchael Lester - Junior Member):

> As for the swivel jam cleat, do not use one unless you like capsizing in anything over 10 knots of wind. When you are hiked out you can not reach high enough to release the mainsheet from the cleat. FIne for no winf pond sailing, but not for any wind you can't sit straight up.
> The prefered method is to use a 009 Harken hexarachet and mount either cam or clam cleats on the foward edge of the cockpit as far toward the outside edge as possible to allow you to through bolt them into the cockpit opening.



I thought I would start a new thread for this. As for my use of a swivel jam cleat (as I call it), yes indeed I have nearly many times (and actually, once) capsized because I couldn't release the sheet quickly enough (I've capsized other times for other reasons, but let's not get into that). And I don't even race, or even hike out much. To be more specific, I mounted (on another hull) a bullseye with swivel cam (Harken 240 $49.99) on the top of the front edge of the cockpit (bolted through, right behind the daggerboard) and passed the sheet from the boom through the bullseye and then into the loop over the cam. And of course in use, I dropped the sheet into the cam "teeth" by pulling down while hauling in a bit. Which worked, albeit a little hard to release at times.

But now on my newly acquired hull with just the OEM hook, I'm open to suggestions. And wishing to limit capsizes. So I've found this 009 Harken hexarachet in West Marine catalog, price $48.99 (yikes!), but precious little on how and why to use it (and the picture is tiny). It says it has a sliding on/off button, and 15:1 holding power (with 180 degree wrap).

Well, pardon my extreme inexperience here, but could you please explain where this thing is placed and a bit more about how it's used? And, what is the diff between cam and cam cleat? Also, are you saying that I would mount TWO of these cams, presumably for use on the two opposite tacks? Which way should they "face" and which one is used on which tack?

TIA. -Steve
Steve. I'll give it a shot. But the easiest way if you intend to do much sailing on a fish is first buy a copy of the "Sunfish Bible" it's got everything about Sunfish sailing ever written in one book.

OK, First pull the hook off the front of the cockpit, your knees will thank you. Sooner or later it'll gouge one of them during a tack.

As for mounting the Hexarachet, Notice there's some space between the front edge of the cockpit and the wall of the tub. That lip is where you through bolt either a rachet base or what I used a simple eye strap. Two stainless bolts (three on the base) with backup washers & nuts will secure it to the deck. In either case a spring is used to hold the Hexarachet vertical. It just goes between the base or eye strap.
As for the cleats. Clam cleats, it you look them up on the Harken website, look like little V's with teeth. Cam cleats have little revolving Cams with the same kind of teeth that grip the sheet.
Either of them are through bolted as far out toward the edge of the deck in line with the ratchet so that they can still be through bolted into that lip between the cockpit edge and the tub wall.
Anothe product that helps keep either one in line with the ratchet are inclined bases for the cleats. These angle the cleats up so the line angle is straight throught the centerline of the cleat from the bottom of the ratchet. When you see them you'll under stand what they do.
Mount them the same way through bolting them and you've got a state of the art mainsheet system. When not hiked out your hand will naturally fall right at the cleat location and when hiked out only a slight raising of the arm will disengage either of them.
Myself I prefer the Cam cleats. I feel it gives me a little more adjustment as it's easier for me to puul in the sheet through one of them than a Clam cleat, but that's more personal preference than anything.
Thread starter #3
Thanks for clarifying placement and mounting. I'm still a little unclear on how this 009 Harken hexarachet differs from a plain block (aside from PRICE). What is this about "15:1 holding power"? I can't seem to picture how it could ratchet and HOLD in any useful way unless it also had some kind of mechanism to RELEASE that holding action. In which case, why the cam cleats? -Steve
Hi Steve. A hexarachet works when it is set to spin only one direction: towards you when you are pulling the sheet. The 15:1 holding power refers to the fact that it takes a lot less effort to hold the sheet (and resist the pull of the sail) with the rachet turned on. It gets its holding power from the "V cleats" built into the spindle of the block and the fact the spindle won't spin in the direction of the sail. When you hold the sheet tight against the spindle, and the rachet is on, the "cleats" assist you in holding the sheet tight. In light air, where you don't need the extra holding power, you can turn the rachet off so the block can spin freely both directions.

Both clam and cam cleats will work to hold the sheet. The main difference is in the release of the sheet. With clam cleats you have to pull the sheet towards the side of the boat and then lift it out of the cleat. With cam cleats you simply have to pull up. This can be critical when you are hiked out trying to release the sheet in a gust. If you can't release it quick enough, you may end up taking a swim (capcising). By the way, I use the 009 hexarachet with two cam cleats mounted on 1" bases I made myself out of scrap plastic I had laying around my shop. Seeing how much time it took to make the bases, I would just buy the ones made for the cleats next time.
MG 40,

Get the Harken 009 (3") or 019 (2.25") Hexrachet. Your arms and hands will thank you and if you removed the "Hook", so will your knees. One of the best upgrades you can do. Beats a bullseye or loop guide completely (had one, no contest). Go to Harken website (http://www.harken.com/), check small boat classics, then hexratchet, and you will see a picture of the slider switrch that turns the ratchet on and off. As neil said, the shape of the pully is the key. It may take a bit to pull your sheet in, but with the ratchet on, the holding effort will be much less (ie: 15:1).
As for cam cleat, my boat had only one located center. I moved it to the side of the cockpit. It is a good one made by RWO I believe. To save money, I bought another one made of plastic, same kind as on Lasers. Well, this one doesn't hold the sheet when it is windy and there is a lot of tension. I have to say thought that the pulley is not an hearachet or something like that (it is a not a sailboat pulley), and it has no swivel at the base of it. So the angle of the sheet with the cam cleat is not perfect, so the plastic cam cleat doesn't hold the sheet good enough.

Next year, believe me, I'll buy an hexarachet pulley with a swivel .
Cam or clam cleats mounted outboard on the sides of the cockpit lip need to have angled blocks installed under them or fairly high risers to compensate for the angle between the Hexaratchet and the lower cam/clam cleats. Otherwise the mainsheet will pull out due to the difference in angle between the mainsheet and cleats.
Your effort and life will be easier if you forgo the cleats and stick to the Harken block only. I follow the advice I read somewhere, "Never cleat the mainsheet." You can't uncleat fast enough when that gust of wind hits!

While I agree with Fred if you are using one of the center cleats. You can't reach back in the boat far enough to get leverage to uncleat it without taking a bath. The side cleats release with any tug or lift. I "revised" the advise for myself to "never let go of the main sheet".
It's a case of if you need them they are there, if you don't, just don't cleat the sheet.
Fred P said:
Your effort and life will be easier if you forgo the cleats and stick to the Harken block only. I follow the advice I read somewhere, "Never cleat the mainsheet." You can't uncleat fast enough when that gust of wind hits!


Right on Fred. Cleats are for wooses.
Thanks for suggestions. Since two Harken hexaratchets, the 3" (009) and the 2.25" (019) are suggested, is either one equally suitable for recreational use in the Sunfish? I doubt I'll be doing any racing. My racing days (in an O'Day Sprite) were really fun but I don't have time for it now.
When I called a place selling hardware to ask about buying the hexaratchet, he informed me that most people use simply a Harken cam cleat with bullseye fairlead, that a block is unnecessary for a small sailboat like the Sunfish (unless racing). Anyone use this setup for a Sunfish?
As a recreational sailor (only) I use the cam cleat on both of my Sunfish. I have read all the negatives above about them but for my money it's more comfortable and just as responsive. I keep the sheet in my hand at all times and have yet to be dumped because I wasn't quick enough. Fact is I traded a hex setup with someone on this board to get my cam cleat. It was an even swap and I think we both came away thinking we got a great deal.
Over the years most newbie fish sailer start out with the cam cleat and fairlead. The first time the wind gets strong enough to have to hike most take a bath from not being able to release the cleat.
If you figure you'll never race or sail in winds over 10 knots it's a fine choice.

When you are hiked out you can't get your arm high enough to pull the mainsheet out of the cam and the more you pull the tighter the mainsheet gets, just the opposite of what you need and want. Plus even if it's not cleated in the cam, when hiked out your arm position puts enough down force on the mainsheet that it tends to drop into the cam and cleat itself. It ends up wind 1 sunfish 0
Way back when, a common comment to new fish racers with a fairlead/cam cleat when the wind came up was, "hope you brought the soap for your bath"
Before I could afford a new Harken and still had the old fairlead setup was when the wind came up to reverse the mainsheet through the fairlead so the cam cleat was on the side to the boom. That way the cleat couldn't catch the sheet.

Either way, Harken or fairlead, removal of the mainsheet hook on the front cockpit wall will have your legs thanking you.
MG 40,

Who ever told you to use a bullseye and cleat, gave you some bad advice (IMHO), especially for a novice sailor. Bbryant, I have to disagree with you on preference to the cam cleat/bullseye set up. But I will agree with you on a major point, keeping the sheet in your hand at all times. As Mike, said some people have used them and end up swimming. I have used the bullseye and cleat and did what Mike said, reversed it and eliminated the cleat and just hand/arm stregth to hold the line. The Harken block will make it much easier to sheet in and hold (with the ratchet on) than with the bullseye. Friction is reduced to almost zero in both directions. The ratchet helps you hold the sheet in (tension) and to let it out, just loosen your grip, the ratchet/sheeve will let the line pass with out a problem. If you need to cleat, place the cleats on the deck as previously posted. I keep kicking myself in the pants as to why I didn't upgrade (trying to save $$$, not worth it) to the Harken earlier. Soo...much better. And get rid of the hook.
This is more of a humble question than an opinion: I've sailed for years with a center mounted block/cam cleat in some pretty heavy winds while spread-eagle hiking and never had a problem capsizing from a stuck sheet. Granted, I don't think I ever intentionally cleated the sheet under those conditions but I'v never had it inadvertantly cleat itself either.
However, everyone else mentions a mount through the horizontal part of the lip. Mine is mounted on the vertical lip (overhang) of the cockpit, with a plate and pin a bit like a rudder mounting, so it's a bit lower than other installations I've seen.
Could this be why I have an easier time keeping the sheet free, or am I just fortunate . . . so far :rolleyes:
Hi guys, I'm not a novice sailor by any stretch, but I haven't sailed a sunfish that much and I just got mine and haven't sailed my own boat for years. Based on all the replies I think I will go for the hexaratchet block and YES, I'll remove the hook.