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Jammers vs. Clutches

Since humanity started sailing, there have always been ropes that helped the sailors to adjust the sails and any different systems. The problem with it: how do we adjust them? Also, the crew is not only looking for a place to belay or secure the lines but also a system to make it fast. Therefore, sailing deck hardware like cleats, clutches and jammers were invented to make this task easier for each sailing type, sailboat system, and crew member.

The following article guides you through jammers and clutches, explaining their functionality and mentioning quick reasons to consider one of them above the other. This way, you will be able to determine the best option for securely holding a rope on your sailboat.


It uses a toothed cam which is controlled by a handle. The cam is engaged when the handle is down, and the toothed plate keeps the rope in place. While the jammer is under heavy load, the handle cannot be released, contrary to a clutch. To take out a line from the jammer, it must be first taken to a winch and tensioned, so the load is transferred. Once it is off the jammer, the handle can be pulled out and the rope released. Therefore, no adjustment is possible, making jammers a robust, secure, and reliable option for permanently loaded lines on big boats.

When to choose a Jammer?

For permanently loaded lines, under medium and high loads, like main and jib halyards and any sheets on big boats.


A rope clutch works the same way as a jammer; the only difference is that it can fully release the line under load. As a result, clutches are ideal for controlling medium loads and therefore are extensively used on medium-sized boats.

Like a cleat, a rope clutch allows easy trimming and adjustment (lines can be adjusted with the clutch closed), and, in an emergency, a fully loaded line can be quickly released by simply opening the clutch handle. However, it is better to take the loaded line onto a winch as a precaution before releasing the clutch and also to minimize wear and tear.

When to choose a Clutch?

Ideal for lines regularly adjusted (under low and medium loads) as halyards and sheets on medium-sized boats, but also good for control lines on larger boats.

Once installed, this deck hardware doesn't need a lot of maintenance. However, we advise checking rope clutches and jammers annually (together with the winches) and lightly greasing any bearing surfaces as each supplier's manual recommends.

If you ever upgrade or replace your lines, bear in mind that your rope clutches might not be designed for thinner line diameters, higher loads, or the fancy slippery outer braid on the new rope. Beyond that, most spare parts or upgrades are easy to come by. Jaws, for example, can be replaced if they get worn or lose their grip.

Related Article:Selecting Cleats vs Clutches (Click here)

If you need to upgrade your rope clutch or jammer, the MAURIPRO Sailing's Tech Staff is ready to help you find the product that suits your sailing style and budget.


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