Please select your home edition
Edition
SWC newsletters (top)

Cleats, Clutches and Jammers - What's the difference?

by Kerri Robson 14 Jun 08:00 UTC
Rope Clutches © Ronstan

When it comes to purchasing new sailing hardware, there are a plethora of options available. However, whilst some hardware has a clear place and purpose on a boat - such as hanks, locks and blocks - when it comes down to choosing between a cleat, clutch or jammer it can be hard to know which to go for.

The following guide will examine cleats, clutches and jammers in turn, to enable you to determine the best option for securely holding a line on your boat.

Cleats:

A cam cleat features two spring-loaded cams which pinch and hold the rope between metal teeth.

Ideal for small boats, cam cleats can accommodate relatively low loads, and are often the primary rope holding device on dinghy's and small keel boats, or used within a purchase system on bigger boats.

To release the line, simply pull the line upward and out of the cleat. This mechanism allows the rope to be adjusted easily, and the line can be quickly released under load.

Cam cleats are therefore well suited to dynamic lines - such as sheets and control lines - and can be quickly released in an emergency.

When to Choose a Cleat:

  • For lines that are constantly adjusted or trimmed by hand
  • For dynamic lines on small boats - e.g. control lines or sheets
  • For relatively low loads

Clutches:

A rope clutch uses a toothed cam which is controlled by a handle. When the handle is down, the cam is engaged and the toothed plate keeps the rope in place. To fully release the line, simply open the clutch handle.

Clutches are ideal for controlling medium loads, and are therefore used extensively on medium sized boats. As a rule of thumb, choose a rope clutch when you would use a cleat, but the load is higher; with a clutch, it is possible to lock off a halyard, main, jib or even spinnaker.

Like a cleat, a rope clutch allows easy trimming and adjustment (lines can be pulled in with the clutch closed) and, in an emergency, a fully loaded line can be quickly released without the need for a winch. Having said that, in most situations it is better to take the loaded line onto a winch as a precaution, before releasing the clutch and also to minimize wear and tear.

As a clutch is more complex than a cleat, there are more moving parts - and so more maintenance is required. Explore our guide on the Spinlock rope clutch range.

When to Choose a Clutch:

  • For lines that are regularly adjusted
  • For lines on medium boats - e.g. halyards
  • For medium loads

Jammers:

Finally, a jammer works in much the same way as a clutch, but the handle cannot be released whilst under heavy load.

Instead, the load in the line must first be taken to a winch and tensioned so all the load is now off the jammer, and only then can the handle of the jammer be pulled out and the rope released.

As a result, no adjustment is possible, making jammers a good option for permanently loaded lines such as halyards on larger boats.

Arguably slightly more work than a clutch, a jammer is a good choice when the load is high and you need a completely strong, secure and reliable option - sometimes a jammer is the only option that can accommodate high loads on larger boats!

Although there are some safety implications of not being able to quickly release the line, there are relatively few moving parts which results in lesser maintenance of the jammer.

When to Choose a Jammer:

  • For lines that are permanently loaded for extended periods of time
  • For lines on bigger boats - e.g. halyards
  • For high loads

Think you've cracked it? Browse cleats, clutches & jammers, or alternatively get in touch via our contact form for further advice and support.

Related Articles

nke Marine Electronics packages
Introducing the 'Cruise' package from upffront.com Due to nke's impressive product range, we also introduced a number of marine electronics packages crafted by Upffront.com. We created these packages to simplify the tricky world of marine electronics, and the result was six turn-key packages. Posted on 19 Jul
LOOP® Products - An Introduction
A whole array of rope-related products: blocks, soft shackles and more LOOP® Products are a German firm who pride themselves on hard work and innovation. Formed in 2005, LOOP® Products is the brainchild of Kohlhoff GmbH - a deck hardware specialist and wholesaler of top brands since 1991. Posted on 12 Jul
Genoa Reefing System Specifications
How to provide all the information needed for a new system So, you're in the market for a new genoa reefing system... either your existing furling unit is extremely old - and spare parts aren't available any more - or you're choosing to switch from a forestay with hanks for more comfortable cruising. Posted on 8 Jul
A Beginners Guide to Cam Cleats
What's available on the market? Your sailing system is only as strong as the weakest link. Often overlooked, high performance boat cleats are a crucial part of a larger, functional sailing system. Posted on 3 Jul
Soft solutions versus Tylaska's Snap Shackle
Which comes out on top? Soft connectors have tonnes of benefits: generally lighter, stronger and more durable than their metal counterparts, soft connectors require zero maintenance (they're corrosion free!) and are kinder to your deck, mast and other fittings. Posted on 28 Jun
Composite Backstays - Your Quick Performance Fix
Lighter, stronger, kinder and safer A properly designed and adjustable backstay system is key to sailing fast and safely through changing weather conditions. Switching from a wire or rod backstay to a composite backstay is one of the simplest ways of achieving a quick performance upgrade. Posted on 24 Jun
Performance Soft Shackles
Stronger and lighter than an aluminum shackle Designed in 2017, the Kohlhoff LOOP® Connectors provide a durable, strong, super-lightweight soft shackle which is perfect for splicing onto sheets or halyards. Posted on 21 Jun
Getting to Grips with Winch Handles
Considerations, current trends, alternatives... A winch handle is just a winch handle - right? It's true, but when buying a new one, there are a few things you need to consider. Posted on 17 Jun
Andersen Winch servicing
How do I find the manufacture date and version number? Andersen Winches are a big name in the boating business. Designed and manufactured in Denmark, Andersen Winches have earnt a reputation for building first class, high quality winches. Posted on 7 Jun
MBW newsletters (top)