Exploring Cam Cleats – Part 3: Practical Applications of Cam Cleats

Part 3: Practical Applications of Cam Cleats

In Parts 1 and 2, we unearthed the different types of cam cleats and their essential accessories, unveiling the tools that elevate sailing efficiency and safety. Now, in Part 3, we’re venturing into the various applications which utilise cam cleats and their many accessories.

Different types of cam cleats and their accompanying accessories are designed to cater to specific uses and sailing scenarios. Let’s explore a few different systems and how the cam cleat and accessories play vital roles towards enhancing sail control.

Mainsheet Control

Cam cleats play a crucial role in managing the mainsheet, the primary control line that governs the angle and trim of the mainsail. The main sheet controls the power generated by the mainsail, affecting the boat’s speed, balance, and overall manoeuvrability. Cam cleats are essential in efficiently adjusting and maintaining tension in the mainsheet, contributing to precise sail control. The most typical system for mainsheet control is to use a large swivel base, also known as a mainsheet jammer.

A mainsheet jammer allows the sailor to have precise control, as the lead into the cleat is usually a ratchet block. (Ratchet blocks add friction into the system to reduce the load on the line.) The jammer can swivel to pre-set angles, allowing sailors to control the mainsheet tension from most locations on the boat.

Jib and Genoa Sheet Control

Cam cleats play a pivotal role in handling jib and genoa sheets, two critical control lines that govern the shape and trim of the foresails on a sailboat. Cam cleats ensure efficient and precise control over these sheets, contributing to optimal sail performance and overall manoeuvrability.

Jib and Genoa Systems can vary massively in setup depending on the size and type of boat. Typically the sheet is led from the jib and through a fairlead on the deck, which is mounted in a specific location to ensure when the jib is pulled the shape of the sail is enhanced for maximum performance. The sheet is then led through a block, fairlead or bullseye to optimize the lead into the cam cleat.

  • RS200 jib cleat

Halyard Management

Cam cleats are versatile and invaluable tools for halyard control. Often found mounted to the mast on yachts for quick and easy control of halyards after a spinnaker hoist. Or mounted along the edge of a cuddy/ cockpit from which a crew member can control the tension of halyards.

The most common halyard system which uses a cam cleat is a spinnaker halyard. A typical spinnaker halyard system on a dinghy would comprise of the halyard being led through a turning block after exiting the mast, through a cam cleat and then through another fairlead. This setup allows a sailor to hoist a spinnaker without needing to cleat the line afterwards. This is because of the fair lead in front of the cleat which keeps the line pulled down into the cams.


From the art of handling jib and genoa sheets to the intricacies of halyard and mainsheet control, each cam cleat and accessory play a crucial role in optimizing sail shape, trim, and performance.

You should now be well equipped with a basic understanding of why, when and where to use cam cleats and the variety of accessories to maximise the performance of your sailboat. So, keep following us as next week we explore how best to maintain cam cleats in Part 4: Maintenance and Care of Cam Cleats


Exploring Cam Cleats – Part 1: Understanding Cam Cleats

Exploring Cam Cleats – Part 2: Essential Accessories for Cam Cleats

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