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Harken or Ronstan Kicker/Vang?

A question that we get asked a lot.  Is the new Ronstan kicker/vang lower assembly any better than the Harken assembly?  I have provided my thoughts in previous newsletters but I thought it was about time to ask Micky Beckett his thoughts – he has sailed with the Harken assembly day-in/day-out for over a decade, but has recently switched to the Ronstan lower.  Why?  Read on…


“Ronstan have recently introduced a new class legal vang (kicker) base unit, as an alternative to the existing Harken unit which has been around for some time. The immediate difference is a more compact set-up, with the 4 turning-points and cleat contained in a much smaller piece of hardware. The matt-black finish looks quite smart too.

The achilies heel of the Harken block was always the single block that the primary line ran through, which was insufficient for the load it was carrying and so contributed to the lion’s share of the friction – which for a system that is often used as a 15:1 setup – there is already plenty of. This has been replaced by a wider diameter block which provides a much lower-friction turning point. The other main change is that there are there are two small blocks to carry the secondary line out of the unit through the cleat, rather than having a single block then a fairlead which would cause a large amount of friction when you pulled the kicker line at any kind of angle to the boom (e.g just before rounding the leeward mark).

These two changes do amount to the vang being a lower friction system, which is a good thing. There are occasional moments where the two side blocks for the secondary line protrude out and interrupt the outhaul or downhaul which run next to it, which whilst inconvenient isn’t disastrous. Equally there has to be a crossover in the threads of the secondary line due to the changed position of the blocks; annoying but not prohibitively so.

On balance the block is, not surprisingly, an improvement, and in the time I’ve been using it hasn’t showed and signs of breakage or undue wear.”Micky Beckett

The only thing that I would add to what Micky has said is that I have found the Ronstan unit to be much easier to uncleat than the Harken, especially when you have a lot of kicker on.  I had a ‘scary moment’ a few weeks ago coming into a crowded windward mark on the port layline, where the combination of my weaker/golfers elbow left arm struggled to uncleat it whilst I was concentrating on the line of starboard tack boats just ahead!!

We stock the Harken and Ronstan lower assemblies and also have a wide range of fully rigged kicker/vang systems using both the Harken and Ronstan lower assemblies.