At first, despised the winches that came stock on every new J/70 when it first debuted. The darn thing was always in the way; and many a crew had leg bruises to prove it. As class legal and class mandated, however, there was no getting removing them. Instead, teams got creative with soft, protective covers and used them sparingly, if at all.

Change comes slow with such established one-designs, however, and thankfully, the engineers at Harken have come up with a solution, with a low-profile ratcheting winch that’s proving to more than a simple replacement.

“The SnubbAir can replace winches, but in other applications it could act more like a really large ratcheting foot or cheek block or even a ratcheting line diverter in the pit,” says Greg Hartlmeier, lead engineer on the project. “The SnubbAir provides lots of line-holding power even without a winch handle. That muscle could become very popular on an A Scow or a powered-up sportboat where the spinnakers can be more than a handful. Even better, you can just flip the sheet off the drum and jibe. If you need even more holding power, wrap the sheet around the SnubbAir twice or use a winch handle with the optional adapter."

“The Classic Harken plain-top B8A winch has proven to be a great product on boats all over. But take one walk down the dock at a J/70 event and you see the whole array of creative ways crews try to pad or cover them up. We started to think that changing out the B8A in that application could improve crew performance - and reduce the amount of bruising the trimmers endure," said Jim Andersen, Harken's U.S. Sales Manager. "Give credit to J Boats. They wanted to keep the winches and maintain the ability for mixed and different sized crews to continue to sail the boat at a high level. They recognized that some form of load holding assistance was necessary. That leads us to SnubbAir."

According to a product announcement released in January, following J /70 class approval, the SnubbAir comes with four integral threaded studs placed to match the bolt pattern of the B8A winch on the J/70 deck. “Early experiments indicate that start-to-finish, swapping out the two winches for SnubbAirs takes less than 10 minutes. All washers and Nylok nuts required for mounting are included.”

The SnubbAir can be ordered with an optional winch handle adapter that lets crews use any conventional winch handle. It weighs less than half of the B8A plain top winch and is 30 percent lower to the deck. It features two races of Delrin ball bearings like a block, which assure it operates with very little friction.

"We named it the SnubbAir because it's a modern spin on an old-school snubbing winch," Hartlmeier said. "And its low profile, wide drum diameter and large hole in the center make it look a little like our Grand Prix Air winches."