Orbit 55 Ratchet Block by Ronstan

This ratchet engages automatically and allows line to run freely upon release. "Gear Up" from our January 15, 2008, /SW eNewsletter/



Until I bought my latest truck a few years ago, one with an automatic transmission, I’d always been a manual-tranny guy, preferring to be more directly involved in the power delivery of my four-cylinder engine. But as time has passed I’ve grown accustomed to the automatic, allowing it to do its thing so I can pay attention to more important things–say, the road, or scrolling through my music selection. Today, I find the same to be true of my ratchet blocks. I was once suspicious of a block that engaged (or disengaged) when I didn’t want it to. That is, until I swapped out the stock mainsheet block on my Laser for Ronstan’s Orbit 55 Ratchet Block. Now I know I’ll never go back.The Orbit 55 Ratchet, which Ronstan introduced last summer, was the initial offering of its new range of composite blocks. The launch (no pun intended) of this block range was a big deal for the folks at Ronstan, who told us they invested an exorbitant amount of time in the Orbit’s engineering and styling. If they were to update their line in a big way, they had to give their blocks much more than a facelift. What they came up with is a design that’s not only metal-free (read much lighter), but one with “twice the holding power” of the equivalent-sized block it would replace. The spec sheet says up to 20-to-1 holding power, but I don’t have the laboratory resources to confirm this, so I’ll have to take their word for it: my new mainsheet has never slipped in the sheave.Also, through what appears to be clever engineering, only the loaded portion of the “floating” aluminum sheave comes in contact with the ball-bearing arrangement. This makes for smooth trimming and blazingly fast sheet runs at the weather mark and late dips (sometimes, I’ve found, almost too fast, but I’ve gotten used to it). The bearings are Acetal (thermoplastic).But the 55 Ratchet is much more than an automatic ratchet block. There’s a toggle on the cheek that allows you to engage it to full-time ratchet. It’s really difficult to toggle the switch back and forth, which, as far as I’m concerned, is a good thing–I shouldn’t be able to inadvertently switch it with my foot.Another great feature is the use of a Dyneema SK75 head instead of the traditional metal head post. This allows for a variety of installment options, especially for mainsheet and spinnaker sheet uses on dinghies, small keelboats, catamarans, and definitely sportboats.For those who need to know, technical specs for the 55 Ratchet are as follows: max. rope diameter: 3/8″; max. working load: 550 lbs.; breaking load: 1,650 lbs.; weight: 2.8 oz; Suggested retail is $61.95, but we’ve found online for as low as $44.


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