A Better Winch from Pontos

Racing on Puget SoundWhy is it that electronics and navigation technology surge ahead each year, while some types of hardware stay the same for decades? Thankfully, not everyone is satisfied with the status quo and one new company has definitely come up with a better mousetrap for the sailing world. That company is Pontos – with the release of their revolutionary new line of sailboat winches.

Pontos was co-founded by Michel Chenon and Darry Spurling after a “hair-raising” episode in the narrow straits of Bréhat. Along with a top-notch R&D team, the two spent three years perfecting the design of their new line of winches with an overall goal of providing either more power with less effort for trimming, or more speed and efficiency for grinding. The results are the biggest advance in winch technology in decades – the four-speed winch.  Pontos has introduced two four-speed designs – the Grinder and the Trimmer (we’re guessing you can work out what they might each be used for), along with a new Compact two-speed winch (with a lot more power than a standard two-speed winch).

Inside a Pontos Trimmer WinchHow Does a Four-Speed Winch Work?

While still wrapped in an almost identical package to their two-speed counterparts, Pontos four-speed winches use a patented clutch and trigger mechanism that allows seamless, and intuitive, engagement of the two extra gears. Just as sailors are already used to doing on two-speed winches, you simply change the direction of the handle to engage the next gear. The trigger mechanism moves up and down in the drum housing to engage the clutch; as the load decreases the clutch automatically moves back down when you change directions. With the Grinder those speeds are put to use to provide faster tacking, hoisting or furling; with the Trimmer they are used to give us greater power when we need it the most – hoisting or for final trimming under big loads.  

The Grinder Winch from PontosThe Grinder

Unlike any other winch you've ever used, Pontos Grinder winches bring in line faster with less effort. The Grinder is perfect for racers as it helps with high-speed tacking as well as maneuvering in tight quarters under sail. The Grinder’s four speeds are comprised of the two speeds you would normally expect, along with two additional speeds that are geared for high-speed line retrieval where the drum makes multiple turns for every turn of the winch handle.

The four-speed Grinder allows one person to let off the old sheet and bring in the new sheet faster than two people could perform the same operation with a standard two-speed winch. Simply preload the new winch and crank – it’s really that simple and quick. The first revolution of the winch brings in over two feet of line – and for more power just reverse direction. Repeat twice more, gaining increased power with each new gear. No complicated maneuvers or extra buttons to push – just keep switching direction any time the winch gets too hard to crank.  In addition, the Grinder 40 weighs in at about 10 pounds – to get similar performance from the competitor’s, you'd have to buy a winch that weighs almost double.

The Trimmer Winch from PontosThe Trimmer

Pontos Trimmer winches are more in line with the realities of everyday sailing – allowing for easy, incremental tensioning and adjustment of lines under high loads. These self-tailing winches make easy work of tweaking a tight genoa sheet, or hauling up the last few inches of a heavy mainsail and are a great choice for all but the serious racer.

The Trimmer’s four speeds are comprised of the normal high and low speeds you'd expect from your current winch, plus two additional speeds that are geared specifically for the requirements of trimming highly loaded sheets and halyards. Sheet in your sails as you normally would, but for the final few feet of what would otherwise be strenuous grinding, switch to the Trimmer's extremely powerful ultra-low-speed third gear, where the drum only makes a fraction of a turn for every turn of the winch handle – with very little effort.

The Trimmer's fourth gear is similar to its second, so for subsequent sail adjustments you have the ability to switch between super easy cranking for tough trimming, or more powerful cranking should the sail require a coarser adjustment.

All this is accomplished without any complicated maneuvers or extra buttons to push – just keep reversing direction any time the winch gets too hard to crank. The Trimmer winch is a natural fit for performance cruisers, but also for families and older cruisers with larger boats or oversize sails who may have considered the need for an electric winch for the extra power it affords. The Trimmer can provide that power – but without the hassle, expense, and maintenance of an electric winch.

The Compact Winch from PontosThe Compact

An all-around rule breaker, for a winch the same size as a standard #28 two-speed, the Pontos Compact is simultaneously geared both higher and lower than you would expect – creating a unique combination of both higher line retrieval speed and more power. The Compact is the perfect winch for smaller boats - especially when crewed by novices, families, or older sailors – for whom a little more power can make a world of difference.

The Compact is easily able to handle today's larger sails. With its especially low 6:1 power ratio, first gear on the Compact hauls in line twice as fast as a conventional two-speed winch of the same size. Simply reverse direction on the winch handle to drop into second gear, where you will feel the trimming power of the Compact's exceptionally high 45:1 power ratio. This winch is ideal for sailors who struggle with their current underpowered #28, #30, or even #40 winch, or as an original installation on smaller boats for those wanting higher performance, easier handling of larger sails, or for frequent cruising in a wide range of sailing conditions.

Winches and Boat Size – A New Paradigm

The common place to begin when selecting a winch is boat size as well as sail area, since one of the key features of any winch is the maximum working load. It takes greater effort to haul in—or haul up—a larger sail. A large boat with a very large mainsail needs a way to manage that load. However, since gears add leverage, the four gears on a Pontos winch substantially increase the mechanical advantage of the winch. This means we can throw out the old charts and what you hear from others – which is why we are including the Pontos “Winch Size Selection Chart” below, making it easy to select the right winch size based on your boat length and typical sail areas. Once you have determined the correct size winch, the choice of Compact, Grinder or Trimmer will depend on your crew and the type of sailing you do.

Winch Selection Guide from Pontos

All Pontos winches come in black hard anodized aluminum with corrosion resistant components, are sized to retrofit most standard winches, and come with a 5 year warranty. For more information on line recovery see the table here. Line recovery per rotation in the linked Spec Table is the length of line brought in with one rotation of the winch handle.

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about this revolutionary line of new winches sold at Fisheries Supply – but if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our product experts at (800) 426-6930.

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