The main reason I have been reluctant to recommend this “tweak” previously is that I have reservations about the ability of the cleat to take the load in extremis, however, it was seen by a few people at the spring cruising conference which was at our club earlier this year, and at least one other boat now has adopted it, so far without problems, so I thought I would mention it now. I offer no guarantee…
A couple of points to add. First is the proportion of the total load taken by the cleat. Because of the way the cleat is used only 25% of the total kicker load goes through the cleat, not 50%, which seems more acceptable.
Second, if the cleat ever fails the kicker will remain attached to both the boom and the mast, although admittedly it will be very slack.
The cleat I have used (and don’t specifically recommend) is a 211Mk2 (hard anodised version) simply because I had that cleat to hand when I was playing about with different configurations of the kicker. Btw, the 253 may be designed for the purpose, but the way it is normally used puts the whole load through the body of the cleat. I don’t think this would be the right cleat for my setup.
I will have the boat at home this week, so I’ll try to remember to get a photo. I should also have some more real world experience with it over the next few weeks and I’ll give some feedback on it. It worked well at Brancaster in January in about a force 6.
With this system it is sometimes better to release some tension via the 16:1 line before trying to release the clamcleat. I sail with the clamcleat right down at the bottom end of the line, so after reefing I just slide it back to the bottom and then adjust with the 16:1 part of the line if necessary. Regarding different boom heights, there are at least 2 reasons to have an angled line of reefing points (which I don’t have!). First is the obvious point about head clearance, which may be reduced if the kicker is applied quite firmly (with or without a reef), making the boom cross the boat lower during a tack when of course the sail is not being curved – and the boom raised – by wind pressure. The second is to have good clearance between the boom end and the water’s surface when sailing downwind in a blow, even with lots of kicker applied to reduce the tendency of the leech to blow forward, which tends to induce the dreaded death roll. One of the main reasons not to have angled reef points has been the inability of a powerful kicker to be released far enough to accomodate this, so perhaps it is worth continuing to test this clamcleat tweak?