Side Cleat Debate

Following discussion at the 2021 AGM, Pete Coop (Comet 610, Winsford Flash Sailing Club) has sought the Association Committee’s support for the following proposal to conduct a trial of a mainsheet jamming cleat mounted on each side deck of Comets rigged with a centre main.

Peter’s Proposal


The Comet dinghy has a loyal following and has adopted various changes to modernize the boat in the last 10 years e.g., the white Xtra sail etc.

This has kept the boat modern, fresh and relevant to the ever-growing market of singlehanded sailing.

The majority of single handers have now moved to centre main with side jammer options. Many of our junior sailors are experiencing dinghies with this set up and some of them (one day), will be the next generation of Comet sailors.

As the demographic of the Comet is mainly the older generation anything that offers an option of more comfort, and less strain will be attractive to some sailors.


  1. On a longer beat in stronger winds it gives the helm some respite – 2 sailors have already given me feedback that they have mild arthritis and would welcome this option. Some of our WFSC  lady helms have said they also find it very tiring on the arms.
  2. Cleating the main for short periods allows you to adjust the kicker, outhaul and downhaul.
  3. Gybing – before each gybe you can transfer the mainsheet over and cleat it – this means that when you complete the gybe the main is where you need it to be. This technique also prevents the main flying out of your hand and extending to its full range on a windy gybe. If the main were to go out fully it could result in a capsize.

Pete and Charlotte Coop together with Andy have put together the following 3 videos to help to further explain the fitting of the cleats and their use.


  1. If you move forward (beyond the 90 degree line from the ratchet block) you will be sat on a cleat – not the most comfortable experience.
  2. For those who wanted to adopt this option – there would be an approx. cost of £50.00 (2 cleats, 2 self-tappers and some epoxy)
  3. If the winds were very shifty it would not be advisable to cleat the main – you could get caught with an adverse gust or big shift which would potentially cause a capsize.
  4. Should the trial result in cleats not being accepted by the class the deck cleats would need to be removed and holes filled with epoxy then gelcoat in order to make your boat class compliant.

Andy having seen, listened to and considered the proposal has provided the following responce.

Technically speaking, the position for them is bound to be a compromise but we agree they should be positioned square with the dinghy at the front end of the non-slip area (see photo). As for fixing, we think they will be ok with self-tapper screws of the right type and drill size, but I discovered a clever rubber plug with a threaded insert which also looks good. Obviously, if your Comet has a hatch, large washers and nuts should be used.

Cost-wise, our suppliers are already warning of big rises for next year but for the Allen cleats with the necessary wedges and fixings the cost would be about £60.

Sticking with centre mainsheet, I would like to try a swivelling jammer as an option on new Comets, this would also require a rule change.

I’ve looked at a few different types and found only one which looks suitable. This one is from Selden and uses an arm that is adjustable for angle up and down which is quite critical in a small dinghy. These require a bracket to fit them to a Comet which will be black anodized. (Not bare as in the photo). These are going to be quite pricey, £150 + without the ratchet block, £210 + with. On a new Comet with the new rig, I have to compete with the looks and spec of new dinghies like the Streaker, Lightning, Solo and even RS Aero, but still offer good value for money, so this addition would help.

Changing tack to rear mainsheet, I had always considered a cleat on the mainsheet block to be the preserve of a cruising Wayfarer, but I have investigated different blocks and actual sailing trials might start early next year. It’s critical that the mainsheet doesn’t jam accidently but playing around with a rigged-up Comet here at work it looked half promising.

As I’ve mentioned before automatic ratchet blocks with a becket aren’t made anymore so new Comets have the ratchet block on the boom so this is what you would have to do if you wanted a cleat on the lower block.

The Trial

The Association Committee has voted in favour of the trial of side deck jamming cleats going ahead, as laid out in the above proposal, with the following conditions:-

  1. The trial will be open to any owner of a Centre Main Comet to join.
  2. Dispensation will be given to anyone participating in the trial to sail a Comet which, in respect to these jamming cleats, does not comply with the Class Measurement Rules, in any event in the CCA calendar (Open Meeting, Championships) from the start of next season (2022) up to the end of the National Championships.
  3. Anyone wishing to participate must submit their name and sail number to the Association Secretary, Liz Hossell () and they must contact the Comet builder, Andy Simmons, for instructions about installing the cleats on their side decks in order to comply with the corresponding changes to the measurement rules should the motion mentioned in part 5 below be passed.
  4. All those participating in the trial are asked to provide feedback on their experiences of sailing with the jamming cleats; by completing the questionaire returned to them upon regestration . This should be returned to the NewsEditor () who will transfer the data to the website before the 31st of July.
  5. Pete Coop will agree with Andy Simmons the exact details of the motion and changes to the Class Measurement Rules to accommodate these side deck jamming cleats and he will submit this motion by the 31st July 2022 in time for it to be included in the agenda for the 2022 AGM.
  6. If the motion is defeated at the AGM, then the cleats must be removed immediately after the end of the National Championships.

It is stressed that any member can participate in the trial which will last from the start of next season up to the end of the National Championships, but it must be understood that if their cleats are not installed according to Andy Simmons’ specification and the installation does not comply with the proposed changes to the measurement rules, then they will be required to alter the installation if the motion is passed at the 2022 AGM.

The Trial Feedback

Please ensure that your comments are related to the following questions.

  1. What Rig do you normally sail with?
  2. How often did you use the side deck jamming cleats?
  3. Did you find the cleats of benefit in (i) light winds, (ii) medium winds, and (iii) heavy winds, and if so, in which strength were they of most benefit?
  4. What do you think are the main benefits of the cleats?
  5. What do you think are the main drawbacks of the cleats?
  6. Overall, do you think the cleats helped you to sail better or do you think they were a hindrance?
  7. Please add any general comments not covered by the above questions.


Replies received

Name Sail No. Qu. Reply
Charlotte Coop 877 1 White Xtra (reefable)
2 I have used the side deck cleats for 6 months.  Sailing twice a week (approx. 5 races per week)
3 I found most beneficial in all wind strengths.  Most beneficial in medium winds, so I can concentrate on my hiking and adjust my control lines.  In very heavy winds, it helps me keep the mainsheet in tight when going upwind.
4 Allowing me to concentrate on hiking and steering.

Allows me to respond more easily to wind shifts.

5 I do not use them when it is very gusty with wind shifts.

When light winds, I sit in front of my cleats, and sometimes sit on them by mistake.

6 They do help me sail and make sailing more comfortable.

Small hindrance of sitting on them

7 Great to be able to try them, and I would definitely want to keep them on.
Pete Coop 610 1 White Xtra (reefable)
2 Every week
3 I find them beneficial in medium to heavy winds
4 Allowing appropriate and timely adjustment of the 3 mainsail control lines. Taking a break going upwind on longer races. Helps me with heavy weather gybes – locking mainsheet on the opposite side just before the Gybe resulting in more concentrating on steering and pulling the boom across.
5 For me very few – in light winds if you want to sit forward they are in the way but I just sit inside the cockpit if I go forward therefore the cleats do not bother me.
6 Sail better.
7 I have loaned my boat for a full day’s racing to a member who is currently experiencing a medical condition involving him not being able to grip for more than a couple of minutes – he said the cleats were essential for him to get around the course especially when he did 3 races – 9 laps!

I absolutely want to keep my cleats on and believe it gives people choice combined with offering an option that all modern single handers now offer.

Carl Ellis 690 1 Standard
2 I use the cleats pre gybe and to support general sailing points in a variety of winds.
3 I use the cleats in all winds. I find there are benefits in all weather but I am a relatively new sailer (12m) so don’t go out in gales. I have sailed the winter season and pre March I would of benefited from the cleats during those cold months where my hands were exceptionally cold. I sail on a lake that is renowned to have wind shifts which you do need to be aware of while cleating but that’s sailing and being ‘on point’ I have found no significant issues you wouldn’t find from sailing another class with the likes of cleat option’s including the swivel jammer (on my Duo)
4 I suffer from tennis elbow and a shoulder injury. Although relatively mild symptoms I have found having the cleat option of great benefit to ease my aches. Being new to sailing and researching the market its good to see the Comet class looking at innovation to maintain competition and options to support and attract custom.
5 The out lay to me was negligible against the benefits. The issue re position and compromise re comfort /seating has never caused me an issue. Drilling the holes for fitting was a commitment and I must say the only down side is should I have to remove them – to fill in the holes and I will miss the option/support they provide.
6 I must say my sailing has come on but that is in part due to my early development and progression having kick-started sailing only last year. I do believe the cleats have helped my circumstances as explained and my attraction to the class. On Sunday sailing at my local club in relatively light winds 7-8kts I use the cleats to support some strain on my shoulder which enabled me to compete and conclude the session with enjoyment and reduction in physical stressor.
7 Concluding my first year in sailing and being above average size in height and dare I say weight some suggest for the Comet I do find having options to cleat enables me to cleat and tweak other lines and auxiliaries- kicker, outhaul, down haul, dagger board and other snags (we all faced) while learning a new trade 🙂 Can I also add a personal thank you to Peter Coop and Andrew Simmons who both helped in answering my queries for center main/ cleat switch. Also thank you to Comet class for supporting the trial. Should the cleat trial decide the cleats are to be withdrawn I abide by class conclusions but would urge if responses are few or minimal either an extended trial period or review of other options available as cleating the main sheet has really helped me and I suspect others.
Ken Baker

(Whilst Ken has not adhered to the letter of the questions, his comments are pertinent to the trial and I feel that they are worthy of inclusion. Ed)

695 1 White Xtra
7 As a user of cleats and jammers and Centre main of many classes of boats previously owned and sailed over 30 years, I was very pleased to accept the offer of a trial of fitting deck cleats as proposed by Peter Coop and supplied by Andy Simmons. In the past year since I took ownership I have converted my Comet to Centre Main sheeting. With my new White X sail and the fitting of the side cleats l have a very modern sailable boat. I find that I can use the cleats in most medium to heavy winds for beating to windward. Yes there could be windshift that catch me out, but that can be the same if un cleated and not anticipating such like. In heavier winds I am usually either to the rear of the cleat or outboard of. I find I’m very rarely sitting on the cleat. In light winds then I’m squatted in the front of the cockpit and the cleats are not in use and they don’t come into play. The main benefits of the side cleats for me is the ability to sail for longer periods. For multi races on the same day. Without the pain to joints; wrists, elbows, etc. That can occur and can last for a few days. They allow me to therefore continue to sail and enjoy more than light wind conditions. Yes for releasing a hand to adjust controle lines, adjust the dagger board, to get weed off the rudder. Take a drink even. I cannot say I have found any drawbacks to side cleats. I would say they’re cheaper than a block cleating system. Where I have experience of mainsheets being trapped around them and unable to release. If capsized the deck cleat would be accessible to release.I wish to offer my support to Peter and Andy. in their aim to offer the option of the cleating, to a center main sheeting system. This side deck fitting gets my overwhelming support. I am hopeful that the membership of the association will vote this through as a progressive development of the
Comet dinghy.