(Multiple) America’s Cup-winning sparmaker and composites pioneer Eric Hall has been at it again... with his perennial mantra: simplicity
For most product designers simplicity is the ultimate goal. The obvious benefits include lighter weight, lower prices and simpler servicing. Alphalock Systems had just those goals in mind in the design of their new automatic halyard locks. ‘The best-engineered products are always the simplest products,’ says Alphalock president and designer Eric Hall.
Hall explains that, to date, locks requiring no tripline have necessarily had systems of multiple torsionally acting springs, latches and ball detents. ‘Although they work fine as intended,’ he explains, ‘their springs eventually wear, the ball detents, which must be tuned for proper locking flipper operation, tend to rust if left idle for a time and their relatively complex disassembly and assembly, especially when reinserting the custom springs, have made servicing them a bit of a chore.’
‘Alphalocks, on the other hand,’ says Hall, ‘have basically only two moving parts, the counter-rotating locking flippers. When servicing them all you need to do is unbolt the clamshell housings and take out the flippers. To reassemble insert the two self-aligning flippers and refasten the clamshells.’
‘Their all-titanium construction ensures tough, long life and, because of titanium’s superior strength-to-weight properties, they are also the lightest products in their category. The counter-rotating lock flipper design is the secret to eliminating all the extra parts. It enables conventional locking slugs and bullets to lock automatically in a hoist-to-lock/hoist-to-unlock action without springs or any other parts.’
The Alphalock line serves several mast and deck applications. Internal locks, with the locking mechanism inside the mast, can be installed and removed externally through their own hole with the mast unstepped or aloft in a chair. The halyard element is a locking ball.
Another application is in bowsprits to lock tack lines of code zeros and similar light sails. They are also used in boom reef line locks.
Headstay locks mount externally, usually on the stainless headstay strop that attaches to the headstay. Whereas most headstay locks require detaching the headstay – requiring great care aloft – the Alphalock is removable for servicing without taking it off.
Block locks, which are popular on multihulls, are attached to the mast by a rope strop with the halyard passing through the lock and back down into the mast through an external entry. These also find application as external boom reef line locks.
Usually installed at the masthead with rope strop, hanging locks allow a light sail to be locked with the halyard passing from the lock into masthead sheaves.
Standard sizes are available with safe working loads ranging from 1 to 7.5 tonnes, with larger versions available on a custom basis. In addition, Alphalock Systems design custom track locking headboard cars, also with simple locking flippers requiring no springs.
The gaff headboard car combines the simple track-locking feature with their unique counter-rotating locking flippers to create a headboard car that requires no going aloft to attach the head of the sail to a car toggle. The car itself has no toggle, minimising its weight and windage. It is not the first of its type but, as with the other Alphalock products, it’s significantly simpler, lighter and more compact. All such gaff car products to date have required a tripline-actuated flipper to hold the car as the halyard bullet is locked or unlocked into the car, but the Alphalock’s gaff car simplifies that part of the system with an automatic upstop.
It’s hard to imagine locks much simpler.
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