What is a Self-Tailing Winch? || Complete Guide In 2023


A Self-Tailing Winch wrap the tail around in a jam cleat around the above-located drum of the winch.

The winch will automatically pull the tail up when you crank up the drum.

In simple terms, this is a winch that can be operated easily by an angle person, eliminating crew members’ needs.

source: jimmygreen.com

They are used by sailors and mostly alone sailors.

who love their hobby and need some fresh air and water around them.

Winches are so easy to use, but they can be extremely dangerous, especially sailing.

The danger, in a sense, is if you are using a standard winch without tail jam, then dropping of wire cable can rip off your finger or hand.

But if you are using a tailing winch, you don’t have to worry about any rip-offs.

These winches are capstan winches, which have an open end and a drum wrapped around by winching wire.

Sailing And Tailing

Winches have thousands of uses, and for sure they are more than I know counting cause I am a bit weak in math’s.

Sailing And Tailing
source: dreamstime.com

But there are not too much maths involved in winches.

They are simple machines working on pull and drag methods with quite simple techniques.

They are highly efficient, and with time the technology has made them evolve a lot.

Sailors are the ones using tailing winches because this type of winches helps them reduce the cockpit member.

Sailors use tailing winches for the jib, and this is the place where tailing winches are most used.

If you are also sailing your boat, you have to find a winch that can withstand your needs and save your time.

Tailing winch is a perfect choice for you, but still, you need to have some perfect consideration.

There are a few necessary points, so just have eye products you are into buying.

How To Choose A Self Tailing Winch

You do have the necessary information about self-tailing.

And these points will get you to choose a distinguished product.


self tailing winch size
Source: marinesuperstore

This is the size chart for winches.

The first row is about size the next row is about the sail area of different winches like genoa mainsail spinnaker and staysail.

So have a look at the table and choose which size will fit your boat.

Sail Area

Determining the sail area is one of the most important things.

Because the surface area of the sail area will help you know how much area is pushed by the wind.

Wind and winch should be correlating to lock up the perfect combo and make you sail.

How you use It

This is a point you may think about how many uses a self-tailing winch could have.

You know they are good for sailing the boat, but they take good space they should be used more than just sailing.

Wise people use them to control the spring line or breast lines on breezy days.

This helps to retain it on the dock with power, and also, I don’t have to hold it forever because it is a self-tailing winch.

Ways To Convert Manual Winches Into Self Tailing Winches

Buying a new winch just because it is not self-tailing is not a good decision, especially when you are low on budget.

Ways To Convert Manual Winches Into Self Tailing Winches
Source: improvesailing

Self-tailing winches are quite high on your pocket, and they can be hard to afford if you have less than a few hundred bucks.

But there’s always an alternative, and we are up with a few best methods as an alternative.

Instead of buying, you can convert manual winches into self-sailing winches, and for sure, they do not cost a lot.

Winches Converter kit

The winches converter kit is a great tool that helps you to convert manual tailing winches into self-tailing winches.

This kit comes with a feeding arm and a new whole drum that replaces the old drum, which is manual working.

In this way, you don’t have to buy a whole new winch. You just add the essential part, and there it is, a whole new self-tailing winch set on the boat.


Winches are more cost-effective but short time used tools that also help you change your winches to self-tailing.

These are rubber conversion rings that help hold the tail of the wire and make your winch function like a self-tailing winch.

How To Install Winches

There is no huge calculator to be made, you just have to tighten and loosen a few screws, and it’s all done.

  • First, take the wincher and soak it in hot soapy water. It will wash it and soften it so you can fit it in the place perfectly.
  • Take out the top screen of the winch and undo the screws to take the drum off.
  • Now your wincher should slide in, and they should be incredibly tight. The tighter you place it, the harder they will hold the tail.
  • Replace the top drum and flid the rubber edge on the top of the drum with the help of a running screwdriver. And you are all done; your winch is now a self-tailing winch.

Frequently Asked Question

How do you size a sailing winch?

The best way is by Length of a sailing area or total Length of area.

Owners should choose heavy load capacity winches for boats with heavy displacement and high righting moment.

Why do you use a self-tailing winch & what are the advantages?

Self-tailing winches hold the line in place, and thus a person does not need a crew member to help them sail the boat by holding the tail.

Holding and winding the tail can be dangerous, so the best thing about these winches is that they are easy to use and not harmful in any way


Self-tailing winches are well known in the sailers community, and people who sail a lot as a hobby know how much they need to have a self-tailing winch.

They reduce the need for an extra man and are safer to use. So overall self-tailing winches work is to hold.

The line or sheets and haylands to place where the sailor wants it.

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