Vertical, horizontal and for kedging, all of them in 100% stainless steel.: we went to see where Italian-made winches are produced by Italwinch
by Niccolò Volpati – photo by Andrea Muscatello
THE WAY WE ENJOY THE SEA IS CHANGING, ANDBOATS ARE CHANGING, but an anchor winch always has been and still is a vital accessory. And perhaps not enough attention is paid to it, because it is felt that it is one of those things that somebody has installed on board. But it’s not that straightforward, and to understand all the implications that it can have, we visited a young company, but one that has a long history and a lot of experience.
Every year, winches in all shapes and sizes are turned out at the Italwinch facility in Monza: vertical, horizontal and ones for kedging, for boats ranging from six to ninety metres, both custom built and production vessels. «All of our products are made in AISI 316 stainless steel», points out Vittorio Roncato, from the Italwinch sales department. And only steel can provide the necessary guarantee of lasting over time.
Anchor windlasses are exposed to the worst conditions. If there is a place on the boat that will definitely get hit by waves and spray, it is precisely where the winch is fitted. So high-quality material is required, and also controlled and certified production processes. «We do everything in house», says Alessandro Fossati, managing director of MZ Electronic, the company that owns the Italwinch brand. «Our windlasses are genuinely made in Italy. Our products have their roots in this region, because even the headquarters of Orvea, the firm that we bought in 2011, are only a kilometre away».
Why are anchor windlasses increasingly important? Sailing or powered boats, that sell most nowadays, are designed to be used a lot, and to spend more time at anchor. So, you can’t neglect mooring lines. Let’s consider Explorers or catamarans. How would they cope with being at anchor with the wind at thirty knots, since they are boats that are created to be away from harbours, both day and night? So it is better not to try to scrimp on this, in the sense that it is worth having an anchor winch and a chain that are of the right size. And, especially if we are talking about mega yachts, it is better to have two anchors.
Italwinch does mass produce, but we also do customised work. Our entry level product is called Smart, a 500 W windlass, which is just the thing for boats of six or seven metres, but – especially because of Orvea’s long experience – the company can also supply to boats that are ninety metres long. The factory covers 2500 square metres, and around twenty people work there, including those who are purely involved in the manufacturing process, and those who do logistics, warehouse management, not forgetting the salespeople, engineers, mechanics and electricians.
When we talk about custom-built products, we aren’t just saying that. «We get the 3D design of a mega yacht’s bow locker and we start to design the best solution for that boat», explains Alessandro Fossati. The winch is also designed, first in 2D and then in 3D. The thickness of the deck is looked at, then the surface exposed to the wind and the load, which that specific boat can handle. So basically, it is done the opposite way to the provision of a production model winch. At Italwinch they start from needs, and then they come up with the right product.
The output, especially in terms of numbers, is mainly based on mass-produced items, but even with those there is an element of customisation that is expected, and which is dictated by the needs of the yard. Even mass-produced items at Italwinch are carefully researched. «We try to make anchor windlasses and kedging winches that will last over time. We are proud when people bring back to the company winches that are thirty years old, and only need a bit of maintenance. If they haven’t given any problems in thirty years, that means we did a good job», says Fossati.
The company pays a lot of attention to the electronic element of the product, not least because MZ Electronic was actually founded as a contractor supplying windlass accessories. And it is still them that make chain counters, remote controls, keypads and everything that a windlass needs. «Our company structure», say Roncato and Fossati, «is designed so that we can resolve the problems that yards and installers have. We go to a lot of sector trade fairs and we spend a lot of time at shipyards and their engineering and design departments. We are always very careful to get to know new needs and we look, together with our engineers, to create products that can meet all of these needs. Together with some yards we are currently working on software that allows information coming from the chain counter to be brought together on a single display».
In fact, the shipyards are aiming to provide a single multi-function display able to control all the accessories of the boat. A second example of close collaboration with shipyards was the production of the new IKI, designed specifically for inflatable boats and boats with little space in the locker. For these solutions, Italwinch has created a special model with gearmotor incorporated in the winch so as to dedicate the space of the locker only to the collection of the chain.
The latest development, which will be presented exclusively at the METS show in Amsterdam in November, will be called NV16 and will be able to use 12 to 16-millimetre stud link chains, and so are designed for boats of up to 42 metres. They have worked a lot on efficiency, so it will have an electro-magnetic break as standard, and tooth coupling in the clutches. Cone clutches have been got rid of, because they always have problems if they take a sudden knock and they may slide. Finally, they have made the bells with slats rather than using the usual hollowed out technique. The hollowed-out bells are cheaper, but those with slats have better grip. NV16will thus be a top-of-the-range product that will have a lot of features that are normally only to be found on custom-built models for larger boats.
(Italwinch, safely anchored – Barchemagazine.com – July 2019)