Your kicker/vang is arguably the most important of the three control line systems. So, how do you improve its performance so that its that much easier to use?
Lets start simple! If the small black fairlead behind the cleat has a groove on either side instead of a nice shiny surface it is acting more like a mini cleat than a fairlead, and every time you pull on or release your kicker whilst hiking (when the line is being pulled at an angle to the centreline) you will be wearing both the fairlead and your control line even more. So, upgrade step #1 is to ensure that you have a new fairlead. If you haven’t already done it you can just rotate your existing one around, but watch for wear after about 10 days sailing.
The control line you use impacts the performance of your system, and here things get a little more complex. The thinner/more flexible the line is the easier it will run. This is because of rope friction as it runs around the five small blocks. However, we need a line that is a comfortable diameter in the hands and 4mm is the norm here. There is a compromise here between ease of use in terms of grip, free running, and longevity. We recommend Polytech as it has a good balance of all three. So, upgrade step #2 is to ensure that you have a good control line.
Blocks. Here we are referring to the top block and the floating middle block. Changing the default Harken 466 wire block to one of the newer ‘high-load’ 29/30mm sheave blocks makes a step change in kicker/vang performance, and although not cheap should be considered as a long term investment in your ILCA sailing. These free running blocks are really great and properly looked after (just ensure you give them a good wash after sailing) they will last for years and years. If they do ever start feeling a bit rough when rotated put the block in some soapy water overnight and flush with water – this seems to work! Upgrade step #3 – fit one of these high-load blocks - we offer solutions from Harken, Allen, and Ronstan.
The floating middle block is the one that really hasn’t changed for years – until now. The vast majority of people use the black Harken 18mm double block, or one of the even smaller 16mm Harken ‘air’ blocks. We have been asking the block manufacturers for years to release something slightly bigger and better and only Allen rose to the challenge by designing and providing Southeast Sailboats with some 20mm XHL test blocks in 2022. These were used at major championships and provide an incremental improvement over the 16/18mm Harken blocks. So, upgrade step #4 is to consider fitting one of these blocks to your system, but only after you have done steps 1-3, or to put it another way steps 1-3 will make a bigger difference than step 4 by itself. These new Allen XHL blocks are now available with a becket (for normal 15:1 systems) or without a becket (for ’one-purchase removed 12:1 systems).
All of the above can be implemented yourself to upgrade your existing kicker/vang system, or if you live in the UK ship it back to us and we will reconfigure it all for you. Alternatively buy a complete ready rigged system – we offer systems from the basic to the absolute best.