runaway electric winch

Serge Tremblay <laetitiaii@...>

Just before leaving the boat for hurricane season last month, while sitting in the cockpit of my Mango docked at the marina, the starboard main winch started turning.
 Could not stop it until I switched off the main switch which is  closer to the winch  (the electrical panel in the kitchen) than the breaker  next to the main switches.
A week before, I had used this winch to haul up a friend to check a component of the mizzen mast. Since I was alone, I used the self tailing facility to hold on the halyard.
I shiver at what would have occurred if my winch had run away then... since the halyard I was using is set on a block riveted on the outside of the mast. Would it have resisted to the pull until the 130 amp breaker  was activated?
I will never used the self tailing facility of an electric winch to haul up someone.
I did not have the time to find the origin of the self activation of the winch, is it one of the switches (there are two: one near the winch and the other at the helm) or is it a failure of a solenoid under the winch.
Reflecting on this problem, I have concluded that, since I often sail alone and need the self tailing facility of these winches, I have to protect my genoa against this type of incident.
I first thought of reducing the maximum amp capacity of the electric breaker. It is 130 amp. However I have found that when I use the winches for long loads, such as hoisting a heavy friend with a continuous use of the winch, the breaker will operate and I need to wait a few minutes for it to cool before using the winch, otherwise, the breaker opens up after less than a minute of use. I have concluded, the amp capacity should not be reduced.
On my other boat (a 41 f Columbia without electric winches) I used a ‘textile shackle’ ( erse à bouton) to attach the sheets, as recommended by the great sailor E Tabarly, in order to avoid the low cut genoa being destroyed by a wave falling on the genoa. This shackle is a small line which should break in the event of a pull exceeding approximately 300 pounds. After many years of use on the Columbia, the shackle never broke .  I did not install this on the genoa sheets of the Mango since I was too lazy to try to estimate the maximum load and after thousands of miles, including a crossing, I never saw a wave breaking in the genoa.
But with a runaway winch, it may be a proper security. So I will have to determine the breaking load of this textile shackle. If anyone has an enlightened suggestion?
Looking for the cause of this runaway winch is the first item on my ‘to do list’ for next fall...
Serge, V Opera, Mango #51

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