In the pantheon of sexy gear reviews, winch handles rank somewhere around biodegradable toilet paper and that fish shaped zinc you hang off the side of the boat...
But winches are the workhorses of a sailboat -- your ability to manipulate them quickly and efficiently is usually one of the key aspects of success on the water. With that kinda cheesy rationalization in mind, we're taking a look at Lewmar's new Lite Touch Winch Handle.
The Lite Touch was first introduced to you here on the Stern Scoop back in November, 2008 as a tongue-firmly-in-cheek coming attraction. Now that we've had a chance to hold one in our hands and mess around with the "lite touch" button, we're revisiting it with some more info.
The Lite Touch is a composite (read: not metal) handle, making it noticeably lighter than Lewmar's One Touch handle. I like the One Touch and have used it on a couple of boats -- I've never found the weight to be an issue, but if you're really a pound here and a pound there kind of person, this is your pony.
It has Lewmar's PowerGrip handle -- which is a fancy marketing way of saying that it has a regular spinning collar grip, but they paid some engineer 120K to slap on that yellow knob to let you get a second hand on top to really bear down. That isn't to say that it's not a handy feature, but it's not all that unique as Dax and Harken also have a similar version.
Different from the One Touch is the manner in which you lock-in and disengage the handle lock from the winch. Again, I like the One Touch handles because you can disengage the lock and pull it out of the winch by grabbing virtually anywhere on the handle. The Lite Touch has the same locking mechanism, but the trigger to disengage it is relatively small in comparison and not as easy to disengage from a force perspective.
So yeah, I don't particularly like the Lite Touch button to disengage the lock -- I'll point out that this is just my humble opinion from years of working with winch handles. I felt like it forces you to turn your wrist sort of unnaturally and cant your arm up to disengage it. A standard thumb switch keeps your hand level along the handle with a natural turning motion on your arm.
Honestly though, it's sort of a personal preference thing -- at the end of the day, you're going to use it three or four times and get a good feel for how to quickly/comfortably disengage it.
Oh, the handle also floats... for what that's worth. In a pure racing situation, the chances that you'll stop racing to go pick up a handle that's barely floating along the top of the water (provided you can actually see it) are pretty slim, right? But, if you ever go cruising or take the kids out with you, it's a nice feature to have -- it's amazing how easily kids help to prop up the marine industry by "Ooops!"ing something over the side.
I didn't find any real problems with the Lite Touch -- it's a sturdy, light composite handle with a unique disengaging mechanism. It's pretty tough to screw up a winch handle at this point and Lewmar certainly hasn't missed the mark with this one. I think this is one of those "come to the shop if you live near Annapolis" or "find a guy with one to take it for a test drive" kind of handles because people are probably going to really love it or kinda not love it at all.