What is a self-tailing Winch? – Detailed Guide

Embarking on the enchanting journey of sailing opens up a realm of possibilities, blending productivity with camaraderie. This captivating pastime not only provides relaxation but also instills a profound sense of accomplishment as you navigate the waters, commanding your vessel. Central to this maritime pursuit is the self-tailing winch, a pivotal tool ensuring seamless control over your boat.

In the forthcoming exploration, we delve into the intricacies of self-tailing winches, unraveling the essential role they play in the sailing experience. Join us as we demystify the nuances of this indispensable device, empowering you to harness the full potential of your sailing adventures. What is a self-tailing winch? Let’s navigate this question together.

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About self-tailing winch

Boats which are about 30 to 40 feet long can exert a pulling force of up to 2 tons. A self-tailing winch can be a very useful tool in this condition. It provides you with the force which is required for controlling heavy boats when there are strong wind conditions.

Most winches require at least two people to help operate them. However, self-tailing winches can easily be operated by a single person. Therefore, they are quite ideal when you are sailing alone. Spinning the winch around is referred to as grinding whereas tailing means pulling and tightening the rope. A winch uses these two actions together to help pull a winch line.

Winches generally require two people to perform these two actions. However, self-tailing winches can execute both tailing and grinding in one go. This is basically a capstan winch which comes with a vertical drum and an open end. The winch line is wrapped around the vertical drum. It also comes with a detachable handle which should only be attached when the winch is being used.

Factors to consider self-tailing Winch:

If you’re looking for a good self-tailing winch then don’t just go for the priciest option on the market, make sure you actually consider the important things. Following are some of the important factors that you need to consider:

1. Size

Before you pick a self-tailing winch for yourself, make sure you consider the size chart to pick one that truly meets your needs. Make sure that the self-tailing winch you choose, perfectly fits in your boat and allows you to easily handle your sail.

2. Sail area

Make sure you calculate the sail area before you decide on a winch. This helps you determine how much area of the sail will the wind exert force on. The greater the size of the sail, the more force will be exerted and so you need to pick a winch to match the force capacity. If you buy a smaller size winch, it will end up getting damaged and you won’t even be able to control the sail.

3. Sailboat length

Another important factor to consider is the sailboat length as this is very important in determining the self-tailing winch capacity that you will need for your boat.

4. Purpose

Lastly, make sure you keep in mind the purpose or application for which you are getting the self-tailing winch. Self-tailing winches can also be used for controlling the breast lines or spring lines of the boat. Also, make sure you also consider how frequently you will be using the winch.

How to install a self-tailing winch?

Follow the steps mentioned below in order to easily install a self-tailing winch.

  1. Begin by soaking the wincher in hot soapy water in order to wash as well as soften it. This will help set the wincher in place inside the boat.
  2. Take the drum off the winch by taking out its top screen and undoing the screws using a wrench.
  3. Now, when you slide in the wincher, it will fit perfectly and it will also be quote tight. Make sure it is as tight as possible because this will ensure that it holds onto the tail tightly and does not budge from its position.
  4. Put the top drum back in its place and put the rubber edge back on the drum’s top. You can do this using a screwdriver. The winch has now been successfully installed.

How to convert a winch into a self-tailing winch?

You can use any one of the approaches mentioned below in order to convert a winch into a self-tailing winch:

1. Install a winch

The most affordable method and also the easiest way to go about this is to install a winch. Make sure you have the right size because otherwise you will not be able to install it. Winches are just rubber conversion rings so they can easily be converted into self-tailing winches.

2. Winch conversion kit

Another way to do this is to use a Winchmate or a winch conversion kit. It is slightly more expensive than the previous approach but it is still a good option. These kits come with their own top drums and feeding arms. This winch allows you to easily convert your winch into a self-tailing winch.

3. Replacement

If the two approaches mentioned above do not work for you, you will have to just replace the winch with a self-tailing winch. This is the most expensive option.


Sailors will find self-tailing winches to be quite useful as they make it easier for them to control the sail. We hope this article helped you understand what is a self-tailing winch. If you have any comments or questions, make sure to put them in the comments section below.


1. How to size a self-tailing winch?

Answer: You can either find the total length of the area of the boat or just the length of the sailing area. Make sure you pick a winch with a capacity that is greater than your requirement.

2. What are the advantages of a self-tailing winch?

Answer: Self-tailing winches allow you to sail your boat alone and they are also quite safe to use.

3. What is the purpose of a self-tailing winch?

Answer: A self-tailing winch provides you with the power to handle the wind on the sail which is way too much for anyone to handle on their own.

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