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Windlass Selection Guide

Electric Anchoring Windlasses are standard equipment for most new sailing yachts and motorboats nowadays.

Upgrades on older yachts are increasingly popular, with the advent of improved DC electric charging systems and the tendency towards longer anchor chains.

The Jimmy Green Team can advise you on all the options regarding your anchoring system, whether you are looking for a suitable matching component to replace a part of the existing setup or starting afresh.

Team Jimmy Green can help you match a new or replacement windlass to your existing chain and anchor, advising you on all aspects of the selection process, including the calibration of the gypsy and all the accessories required to finish the installation.

Team Jimmy Green can also provide you with all the necessary information to determine the optimum new windlass for your yacht, including suggestions for your corresponding anchor rode setup, i.e. chain, warp, combinations, connectors, shackles and anchors.

The correct model of anchor windlass is critical for hassle-free anchoring manoeuvres over the long term.

  1. Windlass Selection Criteria

    Decide between Horizontal and Vertical = the orientation of the axis of the gypsy wheel.

    Horizontal or Vertical Windlass Selection

    Vertical features:

    • Vertical rotation in relation to the deck
    • Reduced volume above deck with the electric motor and the gearbox located in the chain locker
    • Aesthetically pleasing, low profile, reduced deck footprint models are available

    Horizontal features:

    • Horizontal rotation in relation to the deck
    • Installed on the deck with a relatively large footprint
    • Recommended for chain lockers with a reduced height or volume
    • Electric motor and the gearbox in a protective casing and easily accessible for maintenance


    The deck footprint of a horizontal windlass is larger due to the entire unit being above deck. The vertical setup reduces clutter on deck by hiding the motor and gearbox in the chain locker. Space in the chain locker is a critical consideration.


    The windlass is designed to retrieve the anchor chain and warp from the seabed, allowing gravity to pull it down into the chain locker. However, when all the chain and warp are onboard, there must still be a minimum 30cm drop from underneath the deck to the top of the pile. Therefore, a horizontal windlass may be required where the storage locker is shallow.

  2. Determine the pulling or lifting power that you will require

    Windlass manufacturers calculate how powerful an electric motor you require in quite different ways.

    Lewmar recommends that the windlass maximum pulling power be greater than four times the total ground tackle weight, i.e. four times the weight of your anchor, chain and warp.

    Maxwell recommends that the windlass minimum pulling power be 3 x the total ground tackle weight, i.e. 3 x the weight of your anchor, chain and warp).

    Lofrans recommends that the total ground tackle weight plus 10% should be no greater than the specified working load limit of the windlass.

    However, the simplest way to ascertain what Lofrans recommend is to use their online calculator: Lofrans Windlass Selector

    All three windlass manufacturers publish boat length guidelines for each model based on average displacement.

    Selecting a windlass at the lower end of the length range for each windlass model is advisable if your yacht is relatively heavy for her length.

    Windage, weight and your intended anchoring usage should be considered.

    Specify a windlass that can handle unexpectedly high loads if you plan on extended cruising and living at anchor.

    Lofrans Vertical Windlass Chart

    Lofrans Verical Windlass Size Chart

    Lofrans Horizontal Windlass Size Chart

    Lofrans Horizontal Windlass Size Chart
  3. As previously mentioned above, you can use this online tool: LOFRANS WINDLASS Calculator

    You will need to know the yacht length, the chain size and calibration, the chain length and the anchor weight.

  4. Lewmar Vertical Windlass Size Guide

    Boat Length Overall from 6 metres up to 25 metres

    Lewmar Vertical Windlass Guide

    Lewmar Horizontal Windlass Size Guide

    Boat Length Overall from 6 metres up to 25 metres

    Lewmar Horizontal Windlass Guide

    Maxwell Windlass Size Chart

    Maxwell Windlass Selection Guide

    4. Select from four different top-quality manufacturers: Lofrans, Lewmar, Maxwell and Quick

    Chain Locker Criteria:

    The fall between the chain/warp and the underdeck must be a minimum of 30cm to ensure the chain exits the gypsy easily and drops into the locker quickly. Otherwise, the windlass performance will be impaired.

    The fall is the vertical distance between the underside of the deck in the chain locker and the top of the anchor rode when all of it is naturally stowed.

    The anchor rode means the chain or the chain and warp as appropriate

    Ensure that the chain naturally disperses from directly under the Hawse Pipe; otherwise, it may need an extra device to achieve this effect.

    Anchor Rode Security:

    Do not rely on the windlass as a high-load-bearing strongpoint.

    Instead, secure the chain to a chain stopper, cleat or bollard on the bow when lying at anchor.

    A Chain Snubbing strop or bridle is an excellent method of achieving this objective and simultaneously introducing a shock-absorbing element to the anchoring system.

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