Please select your home edition
Edition
upffront 2018 Running Rigging 728x90

A Beginners Guide to Cam Cleats

by Kerri Robson 3 Jul 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

Calculating your sail areas
When purchasing new hardware this is often a crucial step Lots of equipment on board is load dependant and apart from length and ballast of the boat the primary driver is sail area. It is therefore unsurprising that a lot of hardware manufacturers use sail areas as a primary specification criterion. Posted on 21 Nov
Ino-ending - The end of the line?
Simplicity is key with these blocks When it comes to the Ino-block range, the manufacturer firmly believes that simplicity is key, and Upffront tends to agree with them. Posted on 13 Nov
A Halyard Swivel, Top Swivel or just a Swivel?
Upffront.com explain the options available There are many types of swivels used on board boats, several of which are mounted on halyards, however, the term "Halyard Swivel" is reserved for one specific application. Posted on 7 Nov
How to change the cover on a Cousin Constrictor
A lightweight alternative to traditional metal clutches Created as a lightweight alternative to traditional metal clutches, the Cousin Constrictor© is a great bit of kit for reliably holding rope under load with great longevity when properly maintained. Posted on 30 Oct
The Facnor Flatfurl Structural Furler
Keeps the foot of the jib/genoa closer to the deck Facnor Furling Systems are a French manufacturer with over 30 years dedicated to all forms of onboard furling systems for ocean racers and cruising sailors alike. Posted on 24 Oct
What makes Superswift rope so super?
Take a close look at this versatile offering from Gottifredi Maffioli Superswift, from leading rope makers Gottifredi Maffioli, is a favourite among performance dinghy sailors and big boat sailors alike. When you take a closer look at the features of this versatile rope, it's not difficult to see why... Posted on 16 Oct
One Design PROtect Tapes
A set of cut pieces tailored to your class PROtect Tapes are a broad range of high-quality protection tapes for dinghies, racing, cruising and super yachts. PROtect Tapes provides a pro-active solution to chafe and wear prevention. It enhances performance and ultimately promotes safer sailing. Posted on 10 Oct
Practical tips on cruising halyard locks
Bouncing to avoid damage Halyard locks are almost universally accepted in racing circles and are becoming increasingly popular with long distance cruisers, as they recognise the significant benefits. Posted on 2 Oct
Baby Karver Furler KF 0.9
The smallest furler manufactured by Karver, for boats under 30ft Launched this year, this is the smallest furler manufactured by Karver. With a Safe Working Load (SWL) of 900kg, it is suitable for small cruisers and sportsboats up to a maximum of 30 ft. Posted on 26 Sep
Karver KJ Jammer
Releasable under (low) load combined with the reliability of a high load jammer French hardware manufacturer, Karver has been active in the French offshore sailing scene (IMOCA and offshore multihull) since its inception in 2004. Their reputation is based on developing a range of innovative products. Posted on 18 Sep
MBW newsletters (top)