Pick the Right Cleat for Perfect Trimming


    It's a fact: we don't pay as much attention to some of the hardware on our boats as we should, especially the smaller stuff, like cam cleats. 

    If you don't have the right cleats for your working loads and line diameters, you're just going to make life difficult for yourself.

    Having the wrong cleat can result in your lines slipping or not uncleating properly. Lines that don't cleat/uncleat easily, that jam when you need to release them, or slip when you don't want them to, all impact your ability to effectively adjust your rig -- never mind making your work harder!

    Does it matter what material the cam cleat is made of?

    We can all agree it's important to get the right cam cleat for your boat, but does it matter what it's made of? It depends. There are different kinds of cleats you should use depending on your type of boat and the kind of sailing you do. Here's an overview:

    • Carbo-Cam cleats: for low loads and infrequently adjusted control lines. These are both lighter and generally cheaper. 
    • Alloy Cam-Matic cleats: for higher loads and fast line speeds. Generally used to tension rigs on high-performance dinghies. 
    • Stainless steel Cam-Matic cleats: for control lines on big boats.

    Is it important to service my cleats?

    Yes. It's far too easy to overlook smaller hardware on our boats. Not servicing your cam cleats can result in corrosion, cams that stick open, or cams that jam shut. The result is unreliable line handling and poor trimming performance. 

    So keep a look-out for signs your cam cleats need attention, such as the cam sticking in an open position or flopping around. This generally means the spring needs replacing.

    It's good practice to service your cleats before the start of every season, and an even better practice to make sure you wash them off after use or extended inactivity. 

    How does a cleat affect my trimming performance?

    It all comes back to not fighting your control lines. If you don't need to hold the lines 24/7, you don't get tired holding lines under heavy loads, or let the line out/in fractionally. Cleats provide you with the advantage of holding lines under load accurately, without slipping and compromising performance. For example: If you are holding a sheet when there's a gust you might momentarily lean forward or and ease out the line a bit and your sail will lose a little power - just the opposite of what you want to do. A cleat eliminates that possibility.

    What performance adjustments can be made to cleats?

    There are a number of things you can do to enhance performance by accessorizing your cleats. This can vary with each boat and sailor. When looking at jazzing up your cleats, we'll be talking about wedges, X-Treme Angle, wire, and Fast Release fairleads. Let's take a look at what they do and how they can benefit you.

    X-Treme Angle Fairleads: As the name suggests, these are ideal when trimming requires the line to be pulled from an extreme angle. X-Treme Angle Fairleads have low-friction stainless steel guides to help guide the line through the exit of the cleat -- ideal for fine-tune Laser outhauls, jib sheets, or cunningham controls.

    Fast Release Fairleads: A great option for spinnaker halyards and pole launch systems where you need to be able to uncleat and let the sheet run freely as fast as possible. 

    Wedges: Help align your sheets at a better angle to the cleat for optimal alignment when under load.

    Don't underestimate the importance of these simple performance adjustments. They give advantages and make your life easier. Why not do them?

    Tech Team top tips

    1. Double spring your cam cleats to make them stiffer and more responsive. This is an ideal solution for spinnaker halyards. 
    2. Do not overtighten your screws when fitting your cleats. It crushes the ball bearings and stops the cam of the cleat from moving freely. The rule of thumb for installation is: Tighten the screw until the cam doesn't move freely, and then ease off slightly.

    For more information on cam cleats or anything else to do with your boat, feel free to contact us at technicalservice@harken.com.

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