Wiktionary.org offers this defintion of the word vang.
Although the etymology is all very interesting. The latter is the one we are the most interested in. Below is a good video describing the benefits of the boom vang and when to use it.
The Boom Vang, in its simplest form, is a block and tackle arranged in such a fashion that it applies downward force (also upward force, see rigid vang) to the boom. This will allow the sailor to control the tension of the leech at all points of sail, regardless of the boom’s sheet tension.
RIGID VANGS – Most modern day cruisers and racers alike will use a version of this called a rigid vang. A rigid vang, a.k.a. hard vang, or boom kicker, gets its name because it not only is able to haul the boom down but also pushes it up. This is very handy for a few reasons. The ‘main’ reason (pun intended) is it allows the user a quick way to de-power the booms sail if needed and also helps to support the boom much like a boom topping lift. The last part makes reefing, dousing and storing of the boom all a bit easier.
In taking a look at who’s making these rigid vang systems we find no shortage in manufacturers: Boom Kicker, Barton Boom Strut, Bamar Rigid Vang, US Spars/Z Spar Vang, Selden Rod Kicker, Hall Spars Quick Vang, Vang Master, Forespar Yacht Rod, and Sparcraft Vang. Those are just the mechanical vang makers of the world (and I’m sure I’ve missed some).
On the hydraulic end of things, there are far less manufacturers. If your boat is already equipped with a hydraulic system of any kind you’ll likely recognize one of these brands: Navtec, Sailtec, Selden, and Harken, which are all makers of high quality hydraulic systems…including vangs.
Let us just focus on the ones that we know best and sell the most of here at The Rigging Company!
Forespar Yacht Rod is a tried and true system and our most popular model yet. It may not be the lightest or sleekest out there, but this vang has earned it’s rank among one of the most dependable in the rigid vang market. It is well suited for just about any racer/cruiser or dedicated cruising boat out there. The yacht rod uses a dependable coil spring as the return. Forespar vangs are adjustable, utilizing a very coarse adjustment (about every 4″) via a fast pin which allows the user a tool-less way to adjust the spring pre-load or boom kick height. The vang is constructed of one smaller anodized aluminum tube and one larger painted aluminum tube with cast anodized ends. Pricing is around the $870 – $1600 range, and they are available in just 3 different sizes. Mast brackets, block and tackles, boom lugs, all sold separately.
Hall Spars Quick Vang has also been around for a long time. Although Hall USA has recently announced its closing of business, I think shoppers will still find an inventory of these super high quality vangs with various distributors throughout the US. The Hall Spars Quick Vang has always had a great reputation, and their most recent iteration is even better. Typically, this vang is found on racer/cruisers and dedicated racing boats. Although there is no reason this couldn’t be found on a cruising boat in my opinion. This vang also offers a coil spring as the return mechanism. The springs pre-load can be finely adjusted to set the boom’s kick height (hex keys required). It consists of completely anodized aircraft grade aluminum tubing with solid aluminum machined ends. These systems can vary in price from $1000 to $2800 and are available in 7 different sizes/configurations. Purchase block and tackles are always included, varying from 8:1 to 60:1 depending on boat size and sail requirements. As with all of these systems, mast brackets and boom lugs are purchased separately.
Selden Rodkicker vangs have also been around a very long time and are rigged on many different styles of boats. It is likely they are equipped on more boats than any of the other manufacturers, from the club racer/cruiser, to the dedicated match racer, to the varying ranges of production cruising boats found in today’s sailboat market. Selden’s approach is slightly different in that it uses a gas spring (much like your gas strut on your hatchback) as the return. They also use a very attractive rectangular extrusion instead round tubing like Forespar and Hall. Selden’s Rodkicker vang does not offer any spring height adjustment. The ends are made of cast anodized aluminum (like Forespar). Price wise these are some of the most affordable systems on the market, ranging from just under $300 up to $1600 (hence their popularity). The Selden vangs come in 4 different sizes, and offer a soft and hard spring option within each size (they also offer the no spring option, but what’s the point?). Purchase block and tackles, mast and boom brackets must be bought separately.
Hydraulic Vangs – Amongst the various hydraulic vang manufacturers you will see very similar design, functionality, and construction. It seems that Navtec, who also recently closed their doors, was the grandfather of all sailboat hydraulic system and cylinder design. The three big players left (see links at the top of this article) all have their own unique features and benefits, but are for the most part based on the same (Navtec) design. Whether we are talking about a double acting push pull vangs (reserved primarily for larger yachts with heavy booms) or gas return vangs, the gist is the same. There is a stainless steel piston rod with an aluminum piston that rides inside of an anodized aluminum cylinder/body. This is all accompanied by a series of seals that will need to be serviced/replaced once in while to keep things….sealed. The big deal is that all of these hydraulic vangs require the boat to be plumbed with hoses, a reservoir and a control panel that houses the pressure gauge and pump at a minimum. Besides just a basic vang cylinder (no plumbing, brackets, lugs or panels) costing as much as the most expensive mechanical vang mentioned above, these systems HAVE to be professionally installed thus making them the most expensive, but also the most robust option, by far.
~Some Final Thoughts~
All rigid vangs especially when properly installed and maintained will last a very (very) long time. Keep in mind, typically anything using fluid (and or gas) and seals will require service/ repair over time. One thing that all vangs require, regardless of whether choosing a simple block and tackle, mechanical, or hydraulic system, is for them to be installed properly; ensuring a properly mounted mast bracket and boom lug, rigging the vang in the correct orientation (not upside down), all the while achieving the appropriate boom to vang angle (approximately 30-45 degrees). This will ensure functionality, longevity and ease of use.
Thanks for the read. See you next time.