How to Choose a Sailboat Winch Handle

Annapolis Performance Sailing experts share with you how to choose the proper length, material, lock and handle grip for your next sailboat winch handle.

Winches on sailboats are powerful and compact internally gear driven tools that allow you to haul in and hold lines under high loads manually, by a single person. But they will only be effective if it is working properly. If you’ve noticed that this part of your sailboat is damaged, it could be as easy as finding caterpillar winch parts online and replacing it as soon as possible. Winches will have their size stamped on the top of the drum, ex. 20, 35, 40, and so on. This number indicates the power ratio.

For example – a #35 winch will provide a 35:1 mechanical advantage. Say you have a winch handle inserted into the top of the winch and you are exerting 40 pounds of pressure as you wind the handle, which is, in turn, winching in a loaded line. The amount load being translated to the line is 35 x 40 = 1400 pounds. Impressive power.

So, you are the engine, the winch is the transmission, and the handle connects you. But what handle should you use to reduce fatigue, and that will be optimal for the load and available winching area?

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