Converting to Lines Led Aft: Part 5, The Clutch Bank

Lines left on the mast rely on a setup of winches and cleats on the spars where the different lines can be tied. When you convert to lines led aft, you are no longer able to use the setup on your spars for managing the lines and instead must setup a new system where the lines are led to. In this case, the lines are led to the cockpit, so we need to setup a clutch bank and a winch in the comfort of the cockpit that will be able to manage the lines.


Clutches work similarly to cleats, but require no knot tying skill to operate. Instead of needing to tie a cleat hitch in record time while worrying about many other lines, all you need to do is flip a lever and the rope is held in place! Rope clutches work with friction to lock the rope inside its grip when closed, yet allow the rope to pass freely when open. 

Rope clutches also help organize all the lines led to the cockpit. A line will be permanently reeves through the clutch, so you know you can always find it exiting the clutch. This helps minimize the confusion of cockpit spaghetti as the rope will be found in its clutch which will have a label on it to help further identify itself as the line you are looking for. 

Clutches also have another advantage, they allow many lines to share a winch! With a standard setup, the line is led to a which and then tied off to a cleat to secure it in place. This means that the winch will be permanently occupied for as long as that line is in service. This leads to the need for many winches to manage and control all of the lines of the running rigging. Clutches are mounted before the winch and offer the ability to simply lock off the line and remove it from the winch. This in turn allows for another line to be wrapped around the winch, reducing the number of winches needed and the cost associated with multiple winches. 


The last thing you need to focus on before you start drilling holes is where everything will be placed. The clutches need to be in line with the last turning block, which in this case is the bracket on the mast. They also need to be in line with the winch. The angle of deviation between the clutch and winch should be no greater than 15 degrees and no closer than 8 inches. On top of all of these requirements, you also need to find a place that can withstand the structural loads placed upon the new hardware.  

When converting a yacht to a new setup, you need to bear in mind that the yacht was not engineered for this new setup and you need to double check everything to make sure that the structure will be compatible. If it is not, you need to either modify your plans or reinforce the structure to the required specifications. 

I would rather have located the clutch bank farther forward, but that section was hollow with an inner and outer skin. A bit aft, and a strong carlin was running from the companionway to the hatch. This area sounded solid upon percussive examination and was chosen as the desired location for the clutch bank and winch. They may be a bit close together, but they are certainly in sound wood and the loads will be well managed.