We have all encountered clutches that won’t hold a rope properly, but figuring out the best solution is not always obvious, writes Rupert Holmes


The first step is to examine the existing cams. Are they the correct size for each line? And how badly are they worn? Wear can have a massive effect on the amount of load a clutch can hold without the rope slipping. And once the line does start to slip the rate of wear accelerates rapidly.

Fortunately replacement cams are available for all the major brands of clutches, generally at a small fraction of their replacement cost. Unless a boat gets very little use, if clutches are more than 10-15 years old there’s every chance the cams could do with replacement.

On raceboats and very large cruising yachts it’s also worth checking that the cams are matched to the type of rope used. Needless to say, the higher the load the more important your clutch’s holding ability becomes.

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Clutch manufacturers have done much work to develop new materials such as ceramic coatings that hold very high tech lines more firmly.

Sometimes replacing lines can cause problems: your old halyard might have had an outer cover that had been abraded into a rough surface through years of use. New, modern rope is likely to be shiny and more slippery and less easy for the clutch to grip.

However, the problem can also manifest as a result of upgrading to Dyneema lines – the lack of stretch increases peak loads on the halyard. The solution is to splice an additional length of outer cover tube over the rope, extending for a couple of feet each side of the clutch.

This adds extra diameter that gives more material for the clutch to bite on. It can also be made of a material such as Technora, which has a rough surface that adds more friction.

Ever wondered how to make rope? Check out this video of a traditional ropewalk device

Adding extra clutches

There are many reasons for adding extra clutches, including setting up mainsail reefing that can be handled from the cockpit, or easily rigged boom preventers.

Before starting work, however, it’s worth reassessing the existing systems – you may find re-rigging other lines will free up spare clutches while making those systems operate more smoothly.

In a deck layout from 30 years ago a kicking strap, for instance, would most likely have had a 4:1 purchase before being led back to a clutch. Today, it’s far more common to see that purchase being increased to 16:1 or 24:1 using a cascade arrangement with two low friction rings, which means a winch is not needed for tensioning and a decent cam cleat will happily hold the load.

Equally, it used to be common for clew outhauls to be taken to a clutch, but adding a 4:1 cascade should enable it to be taken to a cam cleat on any boat under 40ft. Spinnaker pole downhauls can also generally be taken directly to a cam cleat.

The Boa Base fits neatly into the footprint of Spinlock’s clutches, enabling a set of textile clutches to fit beneath a set of standard ones

Double-decker clutches

If additional clutches are needed, but deck space is in short supply, then Loop’s Boa Base may be exactly what’s needed. This is a brilliant idea that enables two layers of clutches to be stacked vertically by adding housings compatible with Cousin Trestec Constrictor textile clutches underneath standard units, thereby potentially doubling the number of clutches that can be fitted in a given space.

The Boa Base uses the same fixings as Spinlock’s double, triple and quadruple format XAS and XTS/XCS series clutches, which simplifies installation. They also work very neatly with stacked ‘double decker’ deck organisers.

Prices start from €124. Find out more at: upffront.com