The WinchRite is billed as a cordless winch handle, but in reality is offered as an alternative to fitting electric winches. Although at first sight it looks bulky and cumbersome, in practice it’s surprisingly ergonomic to use and certainly appears to be powerful. Two hands seem to be required initially, one to locate the device in the winch handle socket, the other to hold the handle. Operation is two-speed, with the motor speed selected by a rocker switch under the handle that’s easy to find with your fingers.
We tested the Winchrite by hoisting a heavy offshore specification double taffeta laminate mainsail weighing 36kg – significantly heavier than a Dacron sail of a similar size and with a luff length of 13.75m (45ft) – a similar size sail to that of many 38-42ft cruising yachts. The unit had no problem hoisting the sail in well under two minutes and in tensioning the luff. That time is still somewhat longer than it takes one fit person to bump the halyard up at the mast, but it the WinchRite has the benefit of requiring no effort and not needing anyone to go forward from the cockpit.
Maximum torque is quoted as being an impressive 130Nm/1150inlb – that’s equivalent to putting 50kg of effort on to a standard 10in long winch handle. We certainly found you need to keep tight hold of the handle when the load really comes on the unit. That said, if it does pull out of your hands, your fingers slip off the ‘on’ button and it immediately stops spinning.
The unit has a lithium-ion battery and is supplied with 12V and mains chargers, plus a tote bag and a storage cradle that can be located in the cockpit.
Initially we hadn’t really expected to like the WinchRite, but having used one it’s easy to see situations in which it would be a useful, easy and economic alternative to fitting electric winches (see our Essential guide to electric winches). Before buying one, however, it may be worth checking whether your deck layout can be improved to reduce the amount of effort sail handling requires (see: Easier sail handling: 5 steps to a better deck layout).