As with many Harken products, the secret to the outstanding performance behind the SpeedGrip handles are ball bearings. As with blocks, the ball bearings inside the SpeedGrip handles allow for virtually frictionless movement, which is a sure-fire recipe for translating as much of your brawn into sheeting action as possible. Harken SpeedGrip winches feature ball bearings for both the vertical handle and the free spinning cap, which is a huge improvement over other handles that only have ball bearings for the vertical handle (where the cap is molded onto the vertical handle).
SpeedGrip handles are made out of lightweight aluminum shafts, with high-strength plastic handles; they are available in both locking and non-locking designs. I personally like the locking variety, as there is far less danger of accidentally kicking the handle overboard during a fast and furious gybing session. Also, the lock allows the trimmer to leave their handle parked in a leeward sheeting winch, even when she is seated to weather, without fear of a big wave or a clumsy crewmember sending it flying. While other handles have easier-to-use mechanisms for releasing the handle’s lock, Harken’s easy-to-operate lock release is still a snap, both with gloves and without. It should be noted that Harken makes handles in a variety of handle configurations. Also, the handles are available in a couple of different finishes and colors.
A quick word on materials. Some manufacturers build their entire handles out of high-strength plastics. While this can work for some sailors, I find that plastic limits the handle’s utility as a crossover tool. For instance, I have used Harken SpeedGrip handles as a de facto hammer at ties (and even as a bludgeoning instrument, for fish unlucky enough to be hauled aboard), and the weight and strength of their aluminum stock allows them to work great in this capacity. While this is a quick way to loose the nice, sporty-looking anodization, it also saves precious time. The trouble, however, with all-metal handles is that they get cold when the temps plummet. Here, again, Harken has done their homework by pairing high-strength plastic handles (which stay relatively warm) with metal stocks. In my opinion, this pairing of materials delivers the best of both worlds.
I have used SpeedGrip handles for years, both in racing situations and for casual cruising, and, like all the best gear, I find that it’s there when I need it, yet never in my way when I’m trying to do other things aboard. I have used a wide-variety of handles over the years, but I’m always happy to step aboard and see a SpeedGrip at my trimming station. Even if the race goes poorly, I’ll know that precious time wasn’t lost due to a slower-than-optimal performance from the handles!
For more information, visit www.harken.com.