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The ultimate self-tailing winches selection guide

We had made some tech articles about winches in the past, hoping to help sailors determine their right winch size based on the Power Ratio and Gear Ratio (check: Your "Go-To" guide for Winch selection); and so other selection guides by brands such as Andersen, Lewmar, and Harken.

These articles are beneficial once you know exactly which brand you are looking for. However, you will probably need to have expert knowledge of each to ensure the winch you are buying is the right one for your boat and sailing style. This is why our tech staff, here at MAURIPRO Sailing, elaborated the ultimate winch selection guide for self-tailing models. We've put all our knowledge together, from years of experience, in 4 of the top winch manufacturers worldwide. But first, we will start from the basics.

Self-tailing winches:

They are designed to facilitate short-handed (solo) operation. The jaws on top of the drum hold the line and maintain it under constant tension, acting as a cleat, enabling the crew member to apply more force on the winch handle.

You can choose between different materials for the body of the winch, such as carbon, stainless steel, anodized aluminum, or bronze. Also, they have different speeds (1, 2, or 3 speeds) associated with the power ratio of the winch.

Pros and Cons:

On one hand, a self-tailing winch frees both hands for cranking and keeps the line in place (big pros for both cruising and racing sailors). However, it can sometimes encourage laziness by the trimmer. Also, once the sheet is in the tailer and the winch handle is in place, it can be awkward and time-consuming to unwind that last wrap for an adjustment. Many winch handles have been lost during this operation.

With these concepts defined, we will tell you our appreciation of the top 4 leader winch manufacturers.

The Dane beauty: Andersen

Their high-end winches, mainly made in stainless steel, make Andersen units the most visually impressive worldwide. But, of course, not only aesthetics raise their prices, but also the material characteristics themselves. Stainless steel is lighter and will last longer than aluminum. Suppose you have a considerable budget and prioritize good-looking and durability over performance (usually for catamaran cruising sailors). In that case, this is your right option.





Italian legacy: Antal

They have years of experience in small boat performance winches. The specialty of the Italians is the one-speed small winches that don't need the use of cranks. They are also less expensive and easy to maintain. However, we recommend Antal winches for racing sailors that owned boats with less than 30-feet of LOA due to their resistance, relatively lightweight, and a suitable mechanism for pulling different ropes at a competitive market price.





American confidence: Harken

One of the most famous manufacturers worldwide. The titan Harken has products on almost any division of the sailing market, making them a great brand you can trust.

Their winches are great for small and midrange boats because of their excellent grip on the drum for various ropes and the ease of installation and maintenance their units offer, with tons of guides and manuals for any size. Jaws are suitable for different rope sizes but are more abrasive than other brands.

As it is an American brand, finding spares in the US is extremely easy and cheap. Compared to any other brand, it is a significant advantage for the majority of the sailors traveling from or to the States. Finally, the prices of their Self-Tailing winches are higher than the average. Still, the guarantee they offer is well paid. These are top-quality winches we recommend for cruise-racing sailors looking for long-term investments.





British leadership: Lewmar

They are known as the world leaders in winches. Preferred chiefly by cruising sailors, their advantage lies in the ease of assembly and disassembly. This makes Lewmar winches the perfect solution for sailors looking to rig every part of their boats on their own. Their extended warranty is also a significant advantage, as offshore sailboats used to be under more challenging conditions. The EVO series replaced the Ocean old models and improved many of its components, turning Lewmar winches even more durable, with higher-quality and performance characteristics. Spares are easy to find since they carry a lot of manuals, diagrams, and guides. Still, sometimes those arrive from the UK, so if you are in a hurry, you might sit and wait a few weeks before getting the part needed. After all this, we are convinced that Lewmar is the right option for almost any cruiser looking for long-term quality, from the day coastal sailor to the offshore continental adventurer.





We hope our technical advice helps you find the right winch for your boat. If you need any further information, our sailors at MAURIPRO Sailing are ready to talk to you and find the perfect fit sailing solution to your needs: Contact Us

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