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Mainsheet Traveler Systems Q&A

Loads and Purchase

How do I size my traveler car?
To size a traveler car, Tech Service asks these basic questions.
1. What is the square footage of your mainsail?

2. Do you have a mid-boom or end-boom sheeting system?

3. Do you have unsupported high beam or supported low-beam track?

4. Does hole spacing on track match the hole spacing on your boat? Metric, English, and variable hole spacing are available.

5. Do you race or cruise? For example, if you race, you might be interested in a windward sheeting car.

For a more detailed step-by-step guide see Ordering and for common configurations see Traveler Systems.

What are captive bearings (CB) and captive bearings + (CB+) cars?
CB Cars: Wire retaining clips hold bearings captive (balls stay in place) for easy loading onto track and maintenance. CB+ Cars: These can be used with an old non-CB track (supplied until 2002) without needing to replace it.

How do I retrofit the CB+ car on the non-CB track?
To retrofit, remove the car retainer clip, remove the ball-routing corners, and then use a ball loader to replace the bearings and transfer the car onto non-CB track. Now you can use all the configurations available for modern CB systems: low profile ESP controls attached directly to the car, pivoting sheave catamaran cars, and soft attachments. Look for a + sign at the end of the car to confirm it is a CB+ car.

What happens if I force a Harken CB-only car (not CB+) onto a non-CB track?
Only CB+ cars can be modified. A CB-only car won't roll on non-CB track and can damage your equipment. The balls skid instead of roll and will soon flatten out. 

How high are the loads on my traveler car?
Use the specifications by car part number in the Traveler section and the Mainsheet System Loading Calculator to determine the mainsheet loads on your boat. The typical control line load you need to pull is about 20% of the car load.

How do modular CB mainsheet traveler controls help me?
Cars and end controls come in up to 6:1 purchases, allowing you to choose or change your traveler's mechanical advantage. If you want to increase purchase, a Harken conversion kit contains everything you need to make that adjustment yourself. See Purchase Selection Guide for car/end control combinations and system diagrams.

How do I choose my traveler purchase?
If you race occasionally, a 3:1 purchase allows fast adjustment but requires strength. For example, on an 11 m (35') boat there is as much as 32 kg (70 lb) of load on the traveler line. That's a lot of work for all but the strongest sailor. More common is a 4:1 purchase which, on an 11 m boat, yields a maximum load of about 23 kg (50 lb). For most cruisers, a load of 16 kg (35 lb) is a good number. On an 11 m (35') boat, this translates into a 6:1 traveler purchase.

How do I tell whether I have Delrin or Torlon ball bearings in my traveler car? 
Delrin ball bearings are white or black and are designed for Small Boat and other light-load applications. Torlon bearings are greenish-brown and are used in high-load cars.

Can I put a ball bearing car on my T-Track? 
No. Ball bearings require special track to allow recirculation.

What track sizes and hole spacings are available? 

22 mm Small Boat CB Track 
Metric Track: part # 2720 (low-beam), # 2725 (high-beam) 
Variable Hole-Spacing Track for any spacing: part # 2721 (high-beam)
Retrofit 4" Hole-Spacing Track: part # 373 (low-beam), part # 374 (high-beam) 

27 mm Midrange CB Track 
Metric Track: part # R27
Variable Hole-Spacing Track for any spacing: part # R27HB (high-beam)
Retrofit 4" Hole-Spacing Track: part # 1602 (low-beam)
Retrofit 4” Hole-Spacing Track with pinstop holes: part # 1605 (low-beam) 

32 mm Big Boat CB Track 
Metric Track: part # R32
Variable Hole-Spacing Track for any spacing: part # R32HB (high-beam)
Retrofit 4" Hole-Spacing Track: part # 3159 (low-beam)
4” Hole-Spacing Track with pinstop holes: part # 3500 (low-beam)

Fair Leads, Lines, Dodgers

When I shackle my block to the traveler car, it flops around the deck so my lead isn't fair. What am I doing wrong? 
You have probably attached the block directly to the shackle that is on the traveler car. To stop that from happening we recommend replacing that shackle on the car with a stand-up toggle. Then remove the block's shackle and attach the headpost directly to the toggle. This will hold the block rigid. The toggle attaches lower to the car, so off-angle mainsheet loads apply less leverage on the balls. Cars accept loads to 40 degrees from vertical without binding.

If you are not using a toggle, a stand-up device such as a spring or boot can be used.

My traveler car toggle has ears. How do I attach the control blocks?
Attach your control blocks directly to the toggle ears. This reduces the load on the car so the bearings won't bind. For Small Boat and Midrange cars, remove the shackle on the block and attach directly to the toggle ears. For Big Boat cars, shackle the control block to the toggle ears.

In addition to shackles and toggles how else can I attach control blocks?
Soft-attachment cars offer a variety of rigging solutions. For example, you could loop or lash a lightweight Carbo soft-attach block to your car for traveler control. Harken offers soft attachment cars in Micro, Small Boat, Midrange, and Big Boat collections.

How do I keep fair traveler leads and still adjust them from anywhere in the cockpit?
Swiveling cam cleats can increase working angles, some to nearly 180 degrees. This is an excellent option that will allow a fair lead to wherever you're trimming. Another good solution is the Harken X-Treme Angle Fairleads, which cleat and uncleat at up to 90 degrees from the center of the cleat, helping with poor leads.

How do I make my mid-boom cabin-top traveler dodger friendly?
Use 1849 risers for mid-boom travelers that must clear companionway hatches. Risers fit most cabin tops and articulate for use with either straight or curved track.

Depending on how your boat is laid out and how elaborate you want to make your system, you may be able to lead traveler lines under the cockpit coaming and have them emerge near the helm station. If you make this installation, be sure to have a swiveling cam in the system so that crew positioned forward of the helm can also adjust the traveler.

Can I use a recirculating control line?
Using a single line for both controls is good for end-boom mainsheet systems and helps keep line clutter to a minimum. Note that the line deadends on either block, so it is not truly recirculating or continuous. Keep the bight short so no one gets a foot caught inside it. This system also works well in a bridge deck layout, but not for a mid-boom traveler because the bight has to run across the companionway.

Converting End-boom to Mid-boom Sheeting

How do I change my mainsheet traveler from an end-boom to mid-boom system for cruising?
Changing from end-boom to mid-boom sheeting is not simple. If your boom was originally rigged for end-boom sheeting and you change it to mid-boom, the load doubles. Your existing boom setup might not be strong enough.

To determine if your equipment can handle mid-boom sheeting, first contact the boom manufacturer about the strength of the boom. Some booms can be permanently deformed after the sheeting system is moved forward. There are methods of preventing this, such as using multiple attachment points on the boom to spread the load. Second, make sure your mainsheet system can handle the loads. If you have a Midrange traveler that's on the upper end of its working load, you'll probably need to upgrade to a Big Boat traveler system. Third, if you're sheeting by hand, determine if you need different blocks for a greater mechanical advantage.

Windward Sheeting Cars Simplify Tacking

How does windward sheeting work? 
In light to moderate air, most boats sail upwind better with the traveler above the centerline. This reduces mainsheet tension and stops the leech from closing when the boom is trimmed to the centerline. With a conventional traveler car, you must manually release the leeward control line to bring the car above the centerline. Before tacking, the leeward control will require recleating before it becomes the new windward control.

The cams on a Harken windward sheeting car automatically cleat and release during the tack, letting crew stay on the high side, minimizing movement. You never have to touch the leeward control line because when tacking, the car stays where you left it and a special mechanism uses the mainsheet load to release the leeward cleat. The only thing you need to do is draw the car above the centerline. It's so easy, you'll never want to sail without a windward sheeting car again.

Can I turn my Harken mainsheet traveler car into a windward sheeting car?
Yes. Windward sheeting adapter kits are available to turn standard Harken cars into windward sheeting cars. Call the Tech Team at
(262) 691-3320 to see if an upgrade is possible.

Can I use the Midrange stand-up toggle in my Midrange windward sheeting car?
No. The Midrange toggle will not allow the windward sheeting apparatus to slide athwartships far enough to fully open and close the cams.

How do you use windward sheeting cars in heavy wind?
In heavy air you usually want the car below the centerline. As with any other mainsheet traveler, ease the control line to the position you want. On the opposite tack, a windward sheeting car automatically mirrors the position set.

What kinds of boats use windward sheeting travelers?
Harken has windward sheeting travelers for everything from small sport boats to boats up to 13.7 m (45'). Most existing Harken travelers can be converted with a retrofit kit.


What should I do if my car is running roughly?
The cars and track probably need cleaning with detergent. Also inspect the track for damage and corrosion. See the CB Installation Sheet for further information. The included maintenance information near the bottom applies to  CB, CB+, and non-CB cars.

How do I clean and maintain my cars and track?
Flush them frequently with fresh water. Occasionally squirt a detergent and water solution into the car's center openings and roll the car back and forth to distribute evenly. Flush the detergent with fresh water. This maintenance is very important, particularly when the cars haven't been in use.

Frequently inspect shackles and control block fittings for signs of fatigue. Make sure every installation includes Harken track endstops and arrange the control tackle so cars do not hit endstops under load.

Be aware that using some teak cleaners and other caustic solutions can result in discoloration that is not covered under the Harken warranty. See the Harken catalog for full maintenance and warranty information. 

Slider Cars
Use spray lubricants like McLube spray lubricant only on slider cars and slider track. Do not use with ball bearing cars.

CB & CB+ Cars
Do not use spray lubricant because it will make ball bearings and ball bearing track so slippery that the balls will skid instead of roll. Use McLube OneDrop ball bearing conditioner on traveler track to repel salt and dirt so ball bearing cars roll more smoothly.

Delrin is a registered trademark of E. I du Pont de Nemours and Company or its affiliates.
Torlon is a registered trademark of Solvay Advanced Polymers L.L.C.
McLube is a registered trademark of McGee® Industries.
Sailkote is a trademark of McLube® a division of McGee Industries.

If you would like to link to or reprint this article please contact Advertising@Harken.com

Loading calculators, spec charts, and other basic information is available in the Product Support section. Installing a new traveler system is a big project. If you have any questions, contact Harken Technical Service to make sure you're on the right "track."

Traveler Track Q&A
Genoa Leads Q&A
Mainsheet Traveler Systems
McLube OneDrop

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