GP14 Sailing Forums Forum Rear main – ratchet block?

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    • #24465

      I’ve eventually got out for a sail in 8049, which has been a slow going project for a while. GRP with rear mainsheet on a track. I’ve read various thoughts about converting to centre main, but think I’ll stick as I am for now and enjoy the space. However, I was wondering if its recommended (or not) to fit a ratchet block as used on a Laser? With the mainsheet just free running through the block as it is, keeping hold of it is fairly active and I feel like a ratchet block would take the edge off that.

      Any thoughts appreciated.


    • #24466
      Oliver Shaw

      I concur absolutely, with both trains of thought.

      Yes, most definitely,  to keeping transom sheeting,  if that is what you personally prefer.   It is also what feels most natural to myself.   But,  more importantly,  for almost everything  except racing it has immense advantages;   although I fully accept that a system which involves the helmsman facing forward for tacking and gybing,  with a sheeting system led to the centre,  perhaps has the edge in the very special (and perhaps artificial?) environment of racing.

      But for everything else,  transom sheeting works better.  It leaves more room in the boat when sailing with more than two persons aboard,  and does not obstruct you moving across the boat

      And crucially,  in a gybe manoeuvre in heavy following seas,  it allows to you to look where you need to be looking  –  dead astern  at those following seas  –  in order to choose your wave or your “smooth” for when you actually make the gybe.   Then,  the helmsman can grab the two parts of the sheet in one hand,  while holding the tiller with the other,  and at the chosen moment can whip the boom smartly across.   With true centre sheeting (rare in GP14s) that is simply not possible,  and with the ubiquitous split-tail mainsheet led to the centre there is far more “give” in the system when pulling from that point,  so it is inefficient in that particular manoeuvre.  And of course the crew should not be looking aft,  so cannot perform the gybe at the optimum moment;  and anyway you have no crew when you are single-handing,

      Of course when racing you often need to gybe in close proximity to other boats,  and at very close to a specific geographical location (the gybe mark);   it is therefore mildly helpful to be looking forwards while you gybe.   But when not racing neither of those considerations apply;   there is rarely any need to gybe at a predetermined geographical location,  there is no need to do so in close proximity to other boats,  and you can afford to choose your moment for the seas.

      I do of course recognise that the ubiquitous split tail mainsheet led to the centre is a very efficient system in terms of minimising the sheet load for any given amount of lateral pull on the boom.

      A great many owners who both cruise and race have their boats set up so that they can switch between the two different sheeting systems,  and choose “centre sheeting” for racing and transom sheeting for cruising.

      As regards to a ratchet block,  again YES.   It is  very good half-way house between a standard block and a jamcleat.   The standard dictum is that you never,  ever,  cleat the mainsheet on a dinghy or unballasted boat,  but I confess that I do routinely use a jamcleat on the main,  and have done so ever since I discovered that many racers using sheeting led to the centre appeared to use it.  But then after a lifetime of dinghy sailing I ought to know what I am doing.  But even so,  I have capsized three times in the 18 years since I returned to dinghy sailing,  and every last one of those occasions was because I couldn’t get the sheet out of the cleat quickly enough.   (And  yes,  the angles were indeed so set as to make release immediate,  and entry required a deliberate act.)

      But a ratchet block has long been seen as the safe alternative to a jammer;   not quite as effective,  but significantly safer.

      Hope this helps,



    • #24476

      Many thanks Oliver, I’ll keep an eye on the bargain bin in the local chandlery for something reasonably priced. (on the offchance anyone happens to have one surplus in their boxes of bits, please do message me I’m sure we can come to an arrangement!).

      All the best


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