TESTED ELECTRIC WINCH HANDLES
Are powered winch handles A gimmick or A godsend? expedition And Adventure sailing company rubicon 3 put them to the test offshore. Bruce Jacobs reports
Who hasn’t looked at that soggy luff tension or imperfectly trimmed genoa and thought –
‘so be it, that’ll do for now’? Apologies to all the racers out there, but there comes a time in every cruiser’s day when adding some extra tension to the main halyard or sheeting in a big sail another inch or two becomes just too much of a slog to make it happen. As one of our older crew members pointed out, the older you get the earlier in the day that moment arrives!
The problem is of course exacerbated for couples cruising without any additional help on board. Hoisting a mainsail solo is a big effort and whether it’s then reefing or trimming, it can all quickly become fairly off-putting.
The electric winch has long been the solution to this and has been around for many years. While they are notoriously power hungry, there is undeniably something wonderful about pushing a button and watching that big, heavy mainsail head up the mast.
electric winch downsides
There are inevitably some seamanship and safety concerns associated with electric assistance: first and foremost you do not feel an unusual load developing. A sail caught in rigging or a line jammed in a block would be felt immediately if you were applying the traditional elbow grease to the job, but an electric motor hides the issue – sometimes until it’s too late and a serious problem has occurred.
They are also expensive, require considerable space below decks for the motor and gearbox and, most frustratingly, are immobile. Unless you are aboard a fancy yacht with multiple powered winches, it is usually a case of one powered winch and get on with it.
Enter the electric winch handle. These have been around in various guises for some years now but could not be described as mainstream. The launch of the French-designed Ewincher, however, piqued my interest and I decided to give the electric winch handle market the ultimate test. Could I get Rachael Sprot, my co-founder of Rubicon 3 and a dyed in the wool advocate of hard work on a boat (often mine) to be persuaded of their value – or even to want one?
The Ewincher being given a rigorous test in the Norwegian Sea