In this article
- Converting manual winches to electric
- Energy efficiency and space optimization
- Electric winch safety facts
- How to choose the right electric winch for you
- Assisted Sail Trim (AST)
Electric winches are becoming increasingly popular because they make shorthanded sailing much easier, allowing crews to hoist and trim any size sail in all kinds of conditions, simply by pushing a button.
At first, conversion can seem a bit daunting. The prospect of drilling new holes in your boat, using more power, and taking up valuable space belowdeck can put people off. Well, it doesn't need to! Modern winch conversions are making it easier to shift from manual to electric operation than ever before.
Below are listed the common questions and pitfalls of winch conversions ensuring, that when the time comes, you'll have all the information you need to make it as smooth a process as possible!
Can I convert my manual winches to electric?
This will depend on the model and age of your winch. Harken have two main winch ranges: Radial (2009 - present) which can be converted from 40.2ST models upward, and Classic which can be converted from size 44 and larger.
Can winches be too old to convert?
Yes, I'm afraid so! Depending on what type of winch you're looking to convert, the years can vary. As standard, you should be able to convert any winch from 1999 onward. Please check with Harken to be sure.
Is a winch's service history important?
Absolutely! Winches must be in good condition prior to conversion. Especially with electric winches, it can be harder to detect whether a winch drum is becoming stiff, or is not spinning as freely as it should. Therefore, it is essential the winch is in good working order prior to conversion, and serviced regularly thereafter.
You ask, "Why are electric winches so much better?" I shall explain…
In short, they make life easier, enabling any crew regardless of strength, size, or physical condition to perform the tasks required. This makes high-load jobs easier (such as hoisting the mainsail when sailing short-handed) as it allows the user to look up at the main whilst hoisting to make sure there are no snags or hold-ups.
Improved safety features
With new technology evolving all the time, you'll be surprised to hear that one Harken winch feature which has been around for years is the disconnect rod. This simple, yet unassuming part, disconnects the motor from the bottom of the centre shaft when a handle is inserted in the winch socket. In the event of a power failure, this allows you to use the winch in manual mode, without the added resistance of turning the motor and gearbox. This safety feature also stops a winch handle from spinning if the button is pressed accidentally.
Further design innovations throughout the Radial range have seen modern winches incorporate a stripper arm that completely covers the rotating winch top. This prevents fingers and clothing from catching in moving parts, a comforting thought when using automated winches.
Other safety innovations include built-in load controllers to prevent overloading, protecting both the winch and its users.
With horizontal (left/right) or vertical configuration options now available for most sizes (Diagram A), it's easier than ever to fit an electric winch, with minimal space sacrificed belowdeck.
Need an example? Check out what we've done with the UniPower winch to reduce the space required.
Diagram A: Electric winches can be mounted horizontally (left/right), or vertically for optimal use of space.
Evolving technology has enabled the new Dual-Function Control Box to incorporate a built-in load controller, reducing wiring and simplifying the circuit. The simplified wiring also allows more flexibility in where the control buttons can be mounted.
Enhanced energy efficiency
Another nifty advantage! Harken electric motors are the lowest profile on the market. By connecting directly to the central drive shaft, the motor uses the gearing to fully power the winch. This makes the motor more efficient and enables greater output per unit of electricity consumed.
Conversely, other manufacturers that fit motors on the bias (see diagram B), cannot fully utilise the gears. Therefore, when you need to go up a gear, the motor simply draws extra power, putting more strain on your batteries.
Innovations such as these have revolutionized the way we look at electric winches and their efficiency.
Diagram B: Central vs biased drive shaft - central mount optimizes gear power, reducing battery usage.
What type of electric winch should I choose?
We've got handy online guides that walk you through the process of ordering winches. You'll need to specify both power type and motor configuration when ordering. Click the link below for further information, or give me a call and I can talk you through it!
Click here for the how-to-choose winches guide
Harken and Jeanneau have recently teamed up to debut a revolutionary new concept called Assisted Sail Trim (AST). If you're a cruiser, have limited mobility, sail shorthanded, solo, or are just looking for a bit of help at the helm, you're going to love this!
The system is designed to enhance a relaxing day on the water by offering sensor-guided, push-button sail control. AST will be exclusive to Jeanneau Sun Odyssey during the 2016 season and comes with three main packages.
- Auto tracking: Adjusts the headsail for a new tack while you steer through the maneuver. Sensors detect wind speed and apparent wind for safety.
- Auto trim: Complements Auto Tacking for easy cruising: Set the initial trim, press the button to engage Auto Trim, and then let the system handle sheeting. The system monitors apparent wind for perfect trim while you relax at the helm. An integrated heel control detects gusts and limits heel to your desired setting for maximum passenger comfort.
- Sail management: Due to debut in the coming seasons, this option can hoist and douse the main or genoa. Load sensors detect jams and allow the halyard to be eased for safe operation.
For more information see the press release on the Harken website. If you have questions feel free to get in touch as I'll be happy to talk it through with you.
Watch Assisted Sail Trim video
Read more on Assisted Sail Trim (AST)
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