What is a Self-Tailing Winch? and How to Use it (Inclding 2 Best Self-tailing Winch)

Sailing is one of the best hobbies a person can have. It’s very satisfying to feel your boat gently gliding through the water, the water splashing against you. 

And controlling your sailboat is also very satisfying because you feel in command.

However, Learning how to control a sailboat can be difficult if you are new to sailing. 

There are tools available for you that can make it easy for you. A Self-Tailing winch is one of these tools.

What is a Self-Tailing Winch?

Self-Tailing Winch

 A self-tailing winch makes it possible to operate the sailboat on its own and perform grinding and tailing in a single action. But what do you mean by tailing and grinding? 

The process of pulling and tightening the rope is called Tailing, whereas spinning the winch is called Grinding. These two actions must be coordinated for the winch to pull the winch line. 

Generally, both of these processes require two people to perform, one for grinding and one for tailing, but both can be completed by one person also. And it can be done by using a self-tailing winch. 

A self-tailing winch is a capstan-type winch with an open end and a vertical drum wrapped around by the winch line. 

The self-tailing winch’s handle is detachable; it only needs to be attached when the winch is in use. 

How to Choose a Self-Tailing Winch?

After learning the meaning of a self-tailing winch, the next question arises as to how to choose a self-tailing winch? We have a few factors that will help you choose one. These factors are as follows:-

Sailboat Length: Firstly, determine the length of your sailboat, as you’ll need this so that you can figure out how much winch capacity you’ll need.

Sail Surface Area: Calculate the surface area of your sail. Doing this is very important because the surface area of your sail corresponds to the amount of area pushed by the wind. 

The more surface area you have, the more areas a wind can push your boat, resulting in more weight. 

If you purchase a winch that does not meet the specifications, it may result in the breakage of your winch.

Purpose: This factor is one of the most important because there are various types of self-tailing winches for various purposes, and knowing your purpose is important. You need to consider how frequently you will use the winch.

Top 2 Best Self Tailing Winch

Harken Winch: Radial Self-Tailing Size 20 – Aluminum Single Speed

Lewmar 49515057 15St Evo Alloy Gy

How to Convert your Winches to Self-tailing?

There are three approaches.

Installing ‘Winches’ is the simplest and most cost-effective way to convert your winches. The Winches are simple to set up. 

However, ensure you get the correct size; otherwise, it will not work, and the installation will be difficult. Winches are nothing more than rubber conversion rings. 

You install them on your existing winches, eliminating the need for an expensive replacement. They are reasonably priced. Installation can be a pain, but it should not be too difficult.

A winch conversion kit, such as Winchmate, could also be used. A conversion kit is also a good option if you have the money. 

The Winchmate conversion kit can assist you in converting your winches, and it contains a completely new top drum, including the feeding arm. 

Converting your winch in this manner results in a true self-tailing winch, giving you complete control over your lines.

The more surface area you have, the more areas a wind can push your boat, resulting in more weight. 

If you purchase a winch that does not meet the specifications, it may result in the breakage of your winch.

And last but not the least, you could just replace the winches with self-tailing ones. Replacement is the best option out of the three, but it can be very expensive.

How to Install Self-Tailing Winch


Overall a self-tailing winch is very useful for Sailors. In this article, we have learned about a self-tailing winch, how to choose the best one, and converting your winches into a self-tailing one.

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As an avid off-road enthusiast, I know firsthand the importance of having a reliable winch. That's why I created WinchAdvice – to help fellow off-roaders like myself make informed decisions when selecting their next winch. So whether you're an experienced pro or a beginner just starting out, my website offers valuable advice and guidance on all things winching.

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