My boom brake cost about $14, along with some spare line, a couple of shackles and a turning block - here's how I rigged it up on my Catalina 30
The main component is a Black Diamond figure 8 rappelling device. It's aluminum
, and rated for over 3000 lbs working load. I rig it in line with the boomvang, above it, and lead the friction line through it down to a traveler car mounted all the way forward on my Genoa
track to starboard, and to a turning block on the port Genoa
track, back through a deck
block to a cockpit clutch
The initial lead is slightly forward of the brake, allowing it act as a soft preventer - under high tension it basically locks the boom in place, you ease the tension to predetermined points to Gybe in various wind
There are many advantages and a few disadvantage to this system -
Acts as brake and/or preventer based on line tension
Easy to Gybe single
handed - main is self tending if properly tensioned.
One more line in cockpit
Tripping hazard when going to the mast presented by port and starboard friction lines.
Properly rigged and managed, the friction line and associated fittings see no shock loading, only tension loading and friction.
The main advantage is that once set, the system is fail-safe - it won't allow a Gybe until you are deep by-the-lee, and when the boom comes around it does so slowly and smoothly.
It is much safer than a hard preventer, because it can't break the boom or tear out fittings if the boom hits the water
, and in a round-DOWN (broach to leeward) the boom and main will Gybe rather than pinning the hull
down broadside to the sea, risking down flooding and sinking in the bargain.
Anyone running hard preventers better be prepared to quickly release them in a leeward broach, or cut the line quickly.
I always dreaded running and gybing single handed until I rigged up this system on my Flicka 20.
Afterwards, it became an absolute blast in strong winds and big seas - if my destination
was dead downwind, I would simply broad reach on alternating tacks, essentially slaloming downwind.
Less chance of an accidental gybe with the wind
on the quarter, safer surfing down big seas, less chance of broaching, and similar if not better VMG. Again, if you do manage to get it sideways and Gybe, you'll have much less main sheet out than running, along with tension on the friction line.
I sailed that Flicka 1000 miles from LA La Paz
in 2012, the boom brake worked flawlessly as a preventer - the trip was mostly a starboard tack broad reach.
As always, you should reef the main at the appropriate wind speed for your boat, and strike it altogether and broad reach under reefed Genoa or jib
if things really pipe up.
As mentioned by others, this set-up in combination with a topping lift
also dampens movement and stabilizes the boom with the main furled.
Gybing is all about managing energy, sailing about getting your boat in harmony with the wind and sea. This means carrying the right amount of sail first, and managing it second.
I see far too many boats sailing around Santa Monica bay on their ears when the wind picks up because the skippers either don't know how or are too lazy to reef.
It's tempting but dangerous to carry too much sail downwind, especially short-handed. It's very difficult to reef an overloaded main off the wind, and heading up exposes the rig to the true wind speed plus your velocity.
Point is, managing a sailboat off the wind involves many things. A simple, reliable boom brake is a great addition, just don't neglect basic seamanship because it's suddenly so easy to gybe, or eventually you'll paint
yourself into an ugly corner!
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