A small winch with the power of a bigger one? It sounds too good to be true.
Graham Snook tests the PONTOS COMPACT to find out.
When I heard that Pontos Compact promised the power of a size 45 winch with the 850kg SWL of a size 40, in a package no larger or more expensive than a size 30, I got quite excited.
Unlike the Compact's four-speed larger sibling, it's a two-speed self-tailing winch. Where it differs from other two-speed winches is in physical size and its gearing; quite simply there is no other winch on the market like it.
The first gear has a ratio around 6:1, with a line recovery of 26.4cm per winch handle turn. in second gear it has a power ratio of 45:1 with a line recovery of 3.5cm. A size 30 has around a 14:1 first gear and 30:1 second gear. The difference in gearing is made possible by a planetary gear below the barrel.
I replaced my ageing Barient size 22 (confusingly, with a power ratio of 35.3:1) first with one Compact to give a direct comparison, and then with two.
Fitting the winches posed no problem. Pontos recommends using an aluminium backing plate however the winches i took off didn't have that so I just replaced the penny washers to accompany the six M6 bolts. The bolts pattern was different so i had to drill four new holes but nothing major, as the winches can accept line entry from 360°, and the barrel height was similar so the horizontal line entry was close enough too. The only expense I hadn't bargained for was for a new genoa sheets; my hand-friendly 14mm sheets were tii big for the 12mm maximum of the Pontos.
My first test was just a very simple tug of war between the two winches on either side of the cockpit. I set up a sheet across my cockpit and winched it in as tight as I could (winching with one finger so as not to destroy my boat). Then took the winch handle to the Pontos and was able to keep winching the Compact using the same finger. So far, so very good indeed.
Out on the water
First gear feels slightly odd at first, and much coarser than before, so that takes a bit of getting used to. I now stop winding on the coarse gear earlier, which means there is more winding on the lighter gear. However this winding is a lot earlier, there's just more of it. If my genoa was smaller this would be less of an issue because I'd be able to winch in more with the coarse gear. When the genoa is under a lot of pressure - reefed and beating to windward into 35 knots for exemple, it was still possible to grind in the genoa as needed. The only down side I found was because the winch is smaller, with more than 4 turns on the barrel the tailing ring doesn't have enough movement to move down to grip the line in the tailing jaws. But keep it to three turns and they work well. One area where they have been outstanding is when I use them on my spinnaker or gennaker, and in lighter conditions - the first gear devours line at a surprising speed, while the second gear just allows you to fine tune with pleasing ease.
With the power of a size 45 winch and cheaper than a size 30, they may sound too good to be true, but they are. They may be better suited for spinnakers and halyard winches than a large masthead genoa, even so, I wouldn't swap back and I'm thinking about replacing my other winches too.
High gearing makes the last part of trimming easy
Size 45 power in a small size
Cheaper than a size 30
First gear can be a little too coarse in windy conditions.