Welcome to the UKWA Home Page Forums Cruising Mainsheet Rachet and Cleat Question

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  • #4414

    Dear Wayfarers

    We have a Mk2 GRP with aft mainsheet that goes through a standard pulley (with becket) on transom. Kitting out boat for cruising and think it would be good to be able to cleat off the main so that one can do various things – especially if single-handed. Seen one on eBay that looks good but a very helpful person at TridentUK said he felt cleating the main on a aft mainsheet boat was asking for trouble as if you accidentally drop the mainsheet you will likely tip the boat as you have to go into the middle of of the boat to pick it off the deck when it is still sailing hard. What do you cruisers think about a cleating system on the main? Is a rachet almost as good?



    I’ve only sailed aft-sheeted Ws a few times and don’t really like the system. It’s not that hard to switch to a centre-main. I picked up a suitable swivel/block/cleat off eBay recently for £10.
    I have a ratchet on my own centre main, although I don’t use it very much. The main purpose of it is that in those conditions when you wouldn’t cleat off, it takes some of the strain of holding the sheet. But tbh in those conditions it tends to be quite gusty and you end up playing the sheet a fair bit anyway, in which case I don’t think the ratchet adds very much.

    Bob Harland

    Most cruising boats would have some means of cleating main and jib sheets. I have seen boats with aft sheeted main and a combined block/cam cleat on the transom mounted block. It would be the simplest means of getting a cleat on the mainsheet. I never had much success with ratchet blocks on aft sheeting.
    You can just make out the aft sheeting here on Taronga;

    Many people prefer the mainsheet tailed to the centre and a combined swivel ratchet/jammer.
    This is our arrangement;

    The mainsheet is then always close to hand to release it if caught by an unexpected gust.
    This is a more expensive option. And if more than two people commonly sail in the boat at a time it can make things a bit congested.

    Wind conditions will usually dictate whether the sheet can be cleated off or not. If there is too much breeze to be able to cleat the sheet then you will be glad of the ratchet block. I would consider a ratchet block essential for centre sheeting.
    On long trips it is rather tedious to have to hold the sheet – especially if the breeze is light. Multi-tasking is much easier if the sheet can be cleated.

    These articles may help;


    Many thanks for those replies. I am going to try and see a few more set ups face2face before deciding. I had not thought to go centermain but this is definite possibility



    I prefer the traditional rear main sheet, as a centre main looks like it would clutter the centre of the boat, important when sailing with the whole family. I have a cam cleat mounted on forward edge on each side of the aft locker to secure the main sheet when necessary, which not only takes the strain but frees one hand. It’s very easy to release, and seems to work very well.
    Kittiwake 7536


    If you fit a cleat to your aft main sheet system, make sure it’s default is off. Mishaps happen when a main sheet is cleated accidently. The system in my boat requires me to stand up to cleat, which is fine cruising on a long reach but means that the slightest pull of the sheet releases it. Happy sailing Simon McE

    Andrew Morrice

    Hi Simon

    I’m unable to imagine an arrangement that has the qualities you describe

    “The system in my boat requires me to stand up to cleat, which is fine cruising on a long reach but means that the slightest pull of the sheet releases it.”

    maybe “fundoctor” and I will both get to see Miss Quinn at the upcoming cruising conference, but if not a photo would be a great boon!

    “Boris” W6330.

    Dave Barker

    If the cleat is above the sheet as it emerges from the block the angle can be adjusted so that a significantly upwards pull is required to cleat the sheet. Once cleated a gentle tug from a normal helming position will release the sheet.

    These types of block normally have a range of several angles at which the cleat can be set, depending on the location of a pin (4-option example here:- http://www.marinedna.com/ball-bearing-cleat-fiddle-swivelbecket-plast-size-p-33686.html)

    Colin Parkstone

    How about this for an idea, I think i have put this forward before but here goes !!
    Have the mainsheet start at the boom end, lead to a block on the transom strop then back to the boom end again.
    Then lead alone or inside the boom to a turning block at the gooseneck area.
    Turn 90d down to a turn block at the rear of the mast or on top off the centreboard box.
    Turn 90d to lead to the thwart area and enter a centre mainsheet cleat from below somehow.
    I have seen this fitted to an Albacore dinghy and it keeps the inside of the boat clear of mainsheet ropes.
    Needs some working out with regards to the fittings used and the route the sheet takes but it may be an answer to the problem?


    I have installed a center jammer and a ratchet block at the end of the boom for extra purchase, the mainsheet has a carbine at the end which means its possible to quickly re-rig for conventional rear boom end sheeting just by re-running the sheet through the blocks without the center jammer. The jammer is set up with the cams above the sheet and angled so it doesnt accidentally jam on even when fully hiked out ( most of the time ) and is relatively easy to un-jam. In my experience it is rare that one ever wants to jam the main sheet but has been useful on ocassions when swapping helm/crew duties in light winds without heaving to first of when needing a hand free to eat a sarnie or put on gloves while holding a steady course. It definitely important to set it up so that in the heat of the moment it doesnt accidently lock on during a bad gybe which invariably results in a very exciting if unplanned 360 while trying to work out what the hell just happened !


    I’ve converted to centre main but still have the rear main block with cam cleat for easy conversion back for a breakage or with a boatload of children. Agree, cleating is useful when cruising, ratchet also good for higher winds but no replacement for a cleat. A cleat is handy to free a hand when you need to do something, ie not in high winds or gusts when you would be better to lie-to or heave to. Of course you can hold sheet and tiller in one hand. A ratchet doesn’t free a hand. In more wind a cleat will take the strain for a brief rest, but you must be poised for a trigger-quick release. If you drop the sheet luff up to recover it rather than reach across when hard pressed. The cam cleat for rear sheeting is cleated by pulling the sheet upwards into the jaws rather then the usual down, so set the cleat angle above the natural direction of the tight sheet so it can’t cleat accidentally. The upwards cleating action is a bit safer than down as gravity can’t help the rope into the cleat accidentally.

    Another use for the cleat is to stabilise the boom when moored with the mainsail lowered and the boom on a topping lift or halyard. Handy when restng and you don’t want the boom in the boat, or when using a tent.

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