Pip Hare tested this alongside the Wichard Gyb'Easy and a traditional rope preventer for a comparison of boom brakes and preventers
There are a number of solutions on the market to help control a gybe and minimise the effects of a crash gybe, but how practical, effective and relevant are they to the average cruising sailor?
With this in mind I borrowed a Dufour 385 and set out to test the Walder boom brake, the Wichard Gyb’Easy and the Sailfuse and compare them against a conventional gybe preventer set up with a long piece of line.
The day we chose to test these products I had doubts as to how much I would learn as there was very little wind and no chance for them to strain against the force of a fully loaded gybe. However, the benign conditions actually gave me a chance to get to grips with how each of them worked and assess how useful they would be in the everyday routine of a cruising sailor.
Installation and fitting
The first thing I considered was how easy each product was to fit and whether they could be permanently rigged or would have to be fished out of a locker every time they were required. There is often a reality gap between what we know we should do and what we actually do where effort is involved.
Straight from the box, the Walder seemed a monstrous piece of kit. However, once the kicker strut was off and the whole thing installed it started to blend in on our 38-footer and if, as on many cruising yachts, your coachroof is already home to a lashed-down dinghy, I think you would not notice the extra space this takes up.
The Walder boom brake is controlled using tension – leave the control rope slack and it will run friction-free around the boom brake allowing the boom to operate normally at any point of sail. Apply increased tension to slow down movement and wind on tight to lock the boom in place. During the test we found the Walder to be responsive and easy to control.
Upwind or reaching the boom brake will also act as a kicker controlling mainsail leech tension. However, it may be worth remembering that, if wound on hard, the Walder is locking the boom out as well as down. Should the boom dip into the water when reaching it would be doubly important to release and depower the sail.
How to fit
1 Remove the existing kicker strut and hang the Walder boom brake from the kicker fitting.
- Fasten one end of the control rope to a point forward of the kicker position – we used the shroud base, but a solid toerail or deck padeye would do – on one side of the boat.
- Pass the rope through one of the guide arms, thread the brake in the correct direction, lead forward to a block, and then back to a winch in the cockpit.
In particular, I was impressed by the versatility of the Walder boom brake. It was easy to adjust and could lock the boom in position at the turn of a winch. I can see this would be useful even at anchor when the boom could be stowed locked down off the centreline of the boat, freeing up cockpit space.