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A small capstan fitted to the decks and masts of yachts to obtain the maximum purchase on running rigging. They came into general use after the First World War (1914–18) and were initially hand powered, with a winch handle being used to turn the drum. However, from the 1970s onwards they became the subject of much development and much larger winches, powered by multiple hand-cranked pedestals, known as coffee grinders, were introduced, which had gear boxes that allowed for reverse rotation and different gear ratios. Later, electric and hydraulic motors were fitted, often with remote control air switches. The mechanisms were then further developed with roller bearings and up to four gear ratios. For racing yachts, the weights have been reduced by the use of aluminium, titanium, and carbon composites. Many winches also have a device on top of them which automatically tails the rope off the drum when under load, and so is called a self-tailer. The rope is held in the jaw so that it does not need to be cleated.

In large ships all winches are, of course, powered by their generators.

Jeremy Lines

Subjects: Maritime History.

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