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upffront.com Review the Best Sailing Boat Blocks in 2021

by Phil Anniss 7 Sep 2021 09:00 PDT
upffront.com review the best sailing boat blocks available in 2021 © upffront.com

In this article we take a quick look at what is new and/or interesting in the sailing block world in 2021.

Harken Fly Blocks

Harken continue to develop soft attach blocks. Their latest Fly blocks (currently available in 18, 29 and 40mm sheave diameters) are designed to have high strength to weight ratios, providing plenty of power but in a low-aero package. The 29 and 40mm versions feature a titanium sheave, stainless steel ball bearings and composite fibre-reinforced side plates. They are ideal for use on foiling dinghies, sports boats and for vang cascades and backstay systems on larger boats.

upffront.com review the best sailing boat blocks available in 2021 - photo © Harken

Morfblocks with beckets

Following the early success of their radical, super-lightweight Morfblock range, Morfrac Systems are developing their product line to include becket versions of their blocks. Staying true to their design philosophy, the becket is achieved by using an additional Dyneema® strop which goes onto the same attachment point as the block itself. This avoids any unnecessary weak links and creates a simple, reliable and extremely strong becket, whilst adding very little weight.

upffront.com review the best sailing boat blocks available in 2021 - photo © Morfrac Systems

Karver KRO Open Rings

This is a nice little innovation to highlight! Karver have taken the friction ring one step further by cutting a hole in the side to allow it to be added onto an already loaded line - This is similar in concept to a snatch block but without the complication of moving parts. Originally developed as a fairlead for continuous furling lines, it is a simple, lightweight and very reliable piece of kit that could be used in a multitude of applications.

upffront.com review the best sailing boat blocks available in 2021 - photo © Karver

Allen Ti3 on Block

Allen Brothers, based on the east coast of the UK, is a well-established, specialist dinghy hardware manufacturer. They do literally everything on site - from design to prototyping to mould making, milling, turning and assembly etc - and they are constantly making incremental improvements to their blocks.

upffront.com review the best sailing boat blocks available in 2021 - photo © Allen Bros

They have just updated their extremely popular 20mm tie on blocks to create the A2020Ti3. This development came from the high-performance paragliding market which demanded a more optimised shape for use with a thin webbing strap attachment. However in testing, Allen realised that the new shape was easier to work with, regardless of the type of soft attachment, and performed extremely well. They have three versions: plain bearing, standard dynamic ball bearing, plus a high load version with a stainless sheave.

In the image below it is fairly clear the evolutionary path they have taken.

upffront.com review the best sailing boat blocks available in 2021 - photo © Allen Bros

Lewmar HTX

Lewmar is another company with a long track record in the industry and a reputation for reliable quality. They have years of after-sales experience to draw on to make incremental improvements to their core block ranges which are the go-to product for many OEM manufacturers. Lewmar are in no way the cheapest products on the market but the reason OEM manufacturers use them is that they are very consistent and reliable, which means no warranty claims!!

upffront.com review the best sailing boat blocks available in 2021 - photo © Lewmar

Their Core HTX block range is an evolution of their previous racing line and relies on simple construction using high quality materials to further enhance reliability for frequently adjusted, highly loaded systems. The blocks have aluminium side cheeks, a central plain bearing with side thrust Delrin® ball bearings and a grub screw swivel head locking system.

Ronstan Soft Attach Snatch blocks

Ronstan are also developing their range of soft attach blocks. They have just introduced a nice small range of soft attach snatch blocks in 42, 60 and 75mm sheave diameters. With a soft Dyneema® loop and a titanium dogbone (available as a replacement part), these soft snatch blocks are quick and easy to attach and release, even after being under high loads. Often used as temporary sheet leads, the soft attachment of these snatch blocks significantly reduces wear, damage and irritating noise on the deck.

upffront.com review the best sailing boat blocks available in 2021 - photo © Ronstan

Antal Snatch Looper

Antal have their own soft loop snatch block. This Snatch Looper has been particularly designed for 2:1 mainsail halyards, with a small sheave diameter relative to the working load and available in 46mm and 54mm sheaves.

upffront.com review the best sailing boat blocks available in 2021 - photo © Antal

Antal OPF (One Piece Frame)

However, their core block range is called the OPF Series which stands for One Piece Frame. Antal have developed a reputation for well-priced, well designed, quality hardware which reliably "gets the job done"! They have identified rivets, screws and bolts as weak points in block designs and have built their range around one piece, CNC machined aluminium, hard anodised and Teflon coated bodies to provide a rigid, reliable platform. Antal have developed a complete range, around these simple chassis, including single, double and triple sheaves with fiddle/becket options and various cam cleat accessories.

upffront.com review the best sailing boat blocks available in 2021 - photo © Antal

Ubi Maior

Continuing with snatch blocks, Ubi Maior's top-of-the-range soft attach X3M series is also available in a snatch block option. Available in sheave diameters from 32mm to 120mm with Safe Working Loads (SWL) from 1500 kg to 15000 kg, if you are after a performance snatch block - look no further!

upffront.com review the best sailing boat blocks available in 2021 - photo © Ubi Maior

Just for interest, here is a comparison between the three snatch blocks featured above:

Antal
Snatch Looper
Ronstan
Soft Attach Blocks
Ubi Maior
X3M Snatch Block
Sheave (mm)469.5%429.5%46
SWL (kg)220010.0%200050.0%3000
Weight (g)23039.4%165‑6.1%155
Price0.9‑10.0%125.0%1.25

The percentage variations are assuming we take the Ronstan block as a benchmark:

  • Antal and Ubi Maior have 9.5% bigger sheaves which naturally delivers a higher working load
  • Antal achieves a 10% working load increase and a 10% price reduction relative to the Ronstan, but the compromise is a significant (39.4%) weight increase
  • Ubi Maior achieves a massive 50% bigger working load together with an impressive 6.1% weight saving. However, the natural "quid pro quo" is a 25% price increase over the Ronstan block
  • Ronstan deliver a very small, compact and lightweight block for the working load

Summary

The main trend in 2021 continues to be a move towards more soft attachment options together with continuous improvement and optimisation of manufacturers' core ranges. Advances in design tools, plus application of new manufacturing technologies and improved material selection are delivering small but significant advances in quality, reliability and performance, year on year.

If you have any questions about selecting the right block for your needs, please contact or Shop Blocks at upffront.com

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