Please select your home edition
upffront 2018 Millionaires Tape 728x90

A Beginners Guide to Cam Cleats

by Kerri Robson 3 Jul 2019 08:00 UTC
Belcher and Ryan © Victor Kovalenko / Facnor

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.

Composed of two spring-loaded, v-shaped cams with teeth, cam cleats firmly hold lines on dinghies, yachts and small keel boats.

Easy to operate, boat cleats are the optimal choice for securely holding sheets, control lines (such as traveller lines, vangs, dagger boards) and other handheld lines and can accommodate impressive safe working loads up to 450kg (1000lb).

To use a cam cleat, simply pull on the loaded line and the cams will open automatically, allowing the line to slide between them until you release the line, at which point the teeth bite onto the line and hold it securely in place. To release, merely tension the line by hand and pull upward and away from the cam cleat in a singular, fluid motion.

In applications involving constant line adjustment and trimming, boat cleats offer a significant advantage over clutches and jammers, which should be instead considered for longer duration, higher load applications - such as halyards.

Sounds good - but what's available on the market?

Boat cleats are manufactured from three main materials: composite (high tech plastics), aluminium and stainless steel.

Whilst composite cam cleats are a budget-friendly option that provide effective and long-lasting performance, aluminium boat cleats can be stronger, are highly resistible to UV degradation, and can be maintained through replacement of ball bearings and plastic components.

With regards to load, stainless steel boat cleats are the most effective when dealing with high loads and are therefore common on board larger boats and super yachts (and tend to be the most expensive!).

All cam cleats can be optimised via the addition of various boat cleat accessories. Potential add-ons include:

  • Fairlead - Pull and cleat the line at diverse angles (extreme angles possible)
  • Wedge - Improve boat cleat alignment by adjusting the angle of the cam cleat (forwards or backwards)
  • Eye strap - Keep the appropriate rope close to the boat cleat for fast recleating
  • Rope Guide - Redirect a line that is not fairly lead into the centre of the cams
  • Curved Surface Adapter - Mount a cam cleat to a curved surface (such as the mast or boom)
  • Riser - Raise a boat cleat to increase accessibility

As is the case with all sailing hardware, using a sub-par boat cleat can result in decreased performance: lines can slip, sail trim can be imprecise, or you might face difficulty un-cleating. To avoid these situations, it is best to invest in a quality cam cleat.

Harken and Ronstan are both industry leading manufacturers of cam cleats, supplying boat cleats in micro (small), standard (medium) and offshore (large) sizes for a range of rope diameters.

Both manufacturer's product ranges are lightweight, strong and durable: Harken use three tiers of high-efficiency bearings which ensures a (very) stable but low friction cam, whilst Ronstan's multi-coil generates near constant torque, securing cleating of even the smallest lines with minimal rope wear.

Need to upgrade your boat cleats? Explore our cam cleat range, or get in touch using our contact form for further advice.

Related Articles

Karver's double whammy at the DAME Awards
Compact winch and carbon handle applauded in Amsterdam The Dame Awards are the leisure marine industry's equivalent to the Oscars, awarded every year at the Marine Equipment Trade Show (METS), held in Amsterdam each November. Posted on 19 Feb
Local Ropemaker to America's Cup Supplier
How did little Italian rope producer Armare make it to the top? Despite being a small, family-run business, Armare Ropes are operating at the top of their game. Posted on 13 Feb
Robline Rope Cruising Ranges Explained
How to choose which range you need The success of Robline as an international rope brand is based on decades of expertise in manufacturing fibre ropes, the experience of professional sailors in the company, and the intensive collaboration with Olympic gold medallists. Posted on 5 Feb
nke Depth and Speed sensors explained
nke are the standard for the majority of Mini-Transat and IMOCA 60 classes The marine industry has been awash with new and exciting technological innovations in recent years and standing at the forefront are companies like nke marine electronics. Posted on 30 Jan
Tylaska Cone and Plug Fids explained
How to release loaded fittings remotely Tylaska Marine Hardware is an American manufacturer of high quality- marine hardware for the sailing and marine industry. Tylaska's stated aim is to make the best product based upon physics and not economics. Posted on 16 Jan
Velocitek - get your electronics strapped in
Brackets for every possible mounting point Simple, clear and extremely functional. Velocitek electronics are popular among sailors from beginners to competition veterans thanks to their functional design and ease of use. Upffront are big fans of the Velocitek range of electronics Posted on 8 Jan
Tuff Luff head foils care and maintenance
A guide from Tuff Luff's twin-grooved headfoil allows for easy and fast headsail changes. It is a must-have system for any club or competitive race boat. Tuff Luff is owned by Schaefer Marine Inc. who has been in marine hardware design since 1966. Posted on 2 Jan
Soft Attachment Blocks - a guide to the basics
There has been a quiet revolution going on in the last 5 years There has been a quiet revolution going on with block attachments over the last five years. Soft attachments are universally accepted as the preferred method of securing a block. Posted on 25 Dec 2019
Bamar's RLG EVO - Code Zero Furler
Sleek, performance-orientated furling designs investigated Hailing from Northern Italy, Bamar are over 40 years old and on a mission to create sleek, performance-orientated furling designs that aim to 'partially automate sailing operations'. Posted on 19 Dec 2019
Trogear Bowsprits
A good enough reason to drill a hole through your bow Here at Upffront, we talk a lot about asymmetric sails and code zeros, and with good reason! Faster and more manageable, these are a popular choice among many sailors, with one caveat: they require a tack point. Posted on 11 Dec 2019
MBW newsletters (top)