What Is A Self-Tailing Winch? How Does It Work?

It is important to have control over the sailboat on the unruly waves. The self-tailing winch can serve you the exact purpose. But the question what is a self-tailing winch? How does it help people, and how to get it?

The answer to all these questions has been unveiled right next to the paragraph.

Sailing is an adventurous act you can partake in. You can enjoy riding a sailboat on the river or the sea shore. It is not a wonder why people love sailing as it is a fascinating sport. Surrounded by water and ship gliding up and down, all sailors have a breathtaking experience. Even riding a sailboat in itself gives a controlling vibe.

You can also enjoy this sailing sport. As a beginner, learning to ride a sailboat can be somewhat complex. But, some tools are there to help you out in this case. One such includes a self-tailing winch.

What Is A Self-Tailing Winch?

The self-tailing winch is a kind of winch that comes with crossbred jaws above the drum to produce strong holding power allowing the winch to crank off by one hand and another hand free. In terms of non-self-tailing winches, you have to tail that manually to produce sufficient friction.

It is relatively hard to control a sailboat when riding alone on a sea shore. A 30 to 40 feet boat needs the pulling forces of up to 20 tons(read more about pull calculation here). And it partially goes up when there are rough weather conditions. In such a situation, a winch is the right tool to keep near hands to pick the right way.

A winch is a handy kit to serve you with heavy force against strong winds. It allows you to control sailboats in rough, windy weather. But always, you can’t use the same winch system to serve you all purposes. Sometimes, one man can’t operate the winch. Some heavy-duty boat winches need at least two people to handle that perfectly. But a self-tailing will allow you single-handed operations without anyone’s help.

So, exactly knowing about this kind of winch, we should first know about grinding and tailing.

Grinding involves spinning the winch, whereas tailing involves pulling and tightening the rope. These two tasks need to be performed together on a winch. And that is why two people usually work together to handle a large boat winch; one involves spinning and the other tailing.

But it’s possible to perform both tasks at a time when you will use a this winch system.

A self-tailing winch is a single-handed winch system where a single person can operate it. It has one open end and a vertical drum with its capstan-type. The winch line is wrapped around the vertical drum. Moreover, the winch has a detachable handle. So, it becomes handy during single-handed operations.

A precaution is to attach this handle carefully to avoid any incidents.

Things Inside Self-Tailing Sailboat Winches?

Was a self-tailing winch the right fit for you? Did you measure its purpose and your needs? Sailing area or sailboat length is a measurement for picking a self-tailing winch. Let’s see what more things you should know about a this winch.


A wrong selection may be a waste of your money. Self-tailing winch produces heavy force if required during the windy atmosphere. If you need a greater power at the winch line, a it will be the wise selection. But for boat sports or leisure, it may be unnecessary. It will also be unwise when your boating is after a long gap just for recreation. The wise thing will be to know your purpose. Read what harken marine says.

Sail Area

Finding out the sail area of your sail is necessary. It is because the sail area of your sail corresponds to the area pushed by the wind. The greater the sail area, the greater the wind area is formed by the wind. Hence, it requires more weight. Winch and wind should correspond with each other for a perfect combination. Getting a winch that doesn’t suit your sailboat can lead it to break down.

Sailboat Length

The sailboat length is also important for selecting the right winch. If you carefully look at the sailboat, you’ll notice that the sufficient room of your windjammer gives you enough space against the wind. When your boat is serving weighty purposes, enough sailboat length is necessary. So, you should carefully choose your boat winch for the perfect size for your boat. Ideally, the winch should have a suitable capacity to carry the load of your boat’s length.

How to Use a Self-Tailing Winch?

Once you understand the strategy behind using the self-tailing winch, it will be easier for you to operate on it. Below are the steps you can try out for better performance.

  • You may notice a vertical drum with a this winch. Wrap up the winch line around the drum to make the winch line turn. Make sure there are three turns of the winch line around the drum. Be cautious if they are clockwise. While doing this, try to use your thumbs to pull them and ensure the point is towards your body. This way, the winch line will be perfect in line and will work better when in use.
  • You can bring the winch line above the metal tailing arm for more power and better performance. When you pass it through the tailing slot, it will produce more power and pulling force.
  • The usage of such winch can go beyond just sailing. It helps control the spring line on the day with a heavy breeze. What you need to do is to keep it in line before starting a new journey.

Can You Convert Winch to Self Tailing?

If you want to use a winch for low-handing purposes and are willing to spend merely a small amount of buck, the self-tailing winch line is not for you. These winches are relatively expensive and serve for heavy loads, especially during windy atmospheres. So, if you do not need such a heavy-duty winch line, it will do nothing but waste your money.

But still, if you need such a winch line, technicians suggest converting your standard winch into a self-tailing. For that, you have to adopt some methods to transform it.

You can use the winchers or a winch converter kit. This way, a standard winch will perform like self-tailing winches in a non-self-tailing winch system.

Winch Converter Kit

The winch converter kit is one alternative for converting the standard winch into a self-tailing winch. It consists of a feeding arm with a new drum. You have to use this drum to adjust it.

This way, you have to replace the old drum of your non-self-tailing winch. Leaving the old drum, alternatively, you have to use the new drum and the feeding legs. It will produce more force and tackling power. And you no longer need to buy any new winches for this pursuit. Your old standard-size winch will serve you with full strength.

Looking back, you’ll see that replacing just a few necessary parts gives you a diverse benefit. And when done, you are just ready to rock.


Winchers are the next best alternative to getting a self-tailing winch from a standard winch. They are plastic-molded rings that you will fit over the winch top. The molded rings hold up the winch line and allow piling up the winch drum. It begins to roll out until the winch line reaches underneath the wincher and makes friction. It lets the winch line self-tail.  Standard winches are portable and user-friendly. The only disadvantage is that they don’t come with a feed/stripper arm to control the winch line. Technical users always ensure that the line is in control.

How Do You Fit a Wincher?

Installation of wincher is not like rocket science. You have to work on some screws, and there you go.

  • Firstly, soak the wincher in hot and soapy water. That will clean it thoroughly and make it soft enough to fit easily in place.
  • Remove its top screen, undo the screws and take off the drum over the top.
  • Now slide the wincher in and tighten it incredibly. The tighter it is, the stronger it will be to grip the tail.
  • And then, place the top drum and screw the rubber edge on its top with a screwdriver. That’s it; the self-tailing winch is now ready to go.

The Last Words

Self-tailing winches are very popular in the sailing world. If you like to have the boat alone, you better begin with it. It will help you control the sailboat during heavy cloudbursts.

Very frequently, it is seen that sailboats have gone out of control due to heavy storms and offshore winds. When you are alone on-boarding, a this winch becomes the only alternative to rescue the boat.

The most significant distinction of such winch is that it allows a single person to operate it in a remote sea zone. A single man can handle it, keeping the other hand free. So, it will not be a hamper for a sailor to control the boat if no one is there to assist him.

Self-tailing winches can hold the winch line in whatever place the sailor wants to place it. These winches are ideal for a single person to sail.

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