Chandlery November 2007 Issue

Wave Survives Alinghi Challenge

Wenger’s commemorative multitool is sharp, but Leatherman Wave packs better value.

One of our campaigns over the last several years has featured knives and multitools as personal emergency tools that maintain and implement a sense of preparedness for the unexpected, even when ashore. Articles in several previous issues (March and August 2004, January and August 2005) have touched on this subject. To provide instinctive access in an emergency, the tools must be personal (worn on the person). So, when we evaluate personal tools, we always pose the question, "Would we wear this tool off the boat?" If yes, then the tool is personal gear; if no, we consider it strictly a multitool.

Leatherman Wave
Leatherman Wave

A few months prior to

Alinghi’s America’s Cup win in July, we received a tool bearing the Alinghi name, built by Swiss Army-knife maker Wenger. A "world-class yachting knife…packed full of the implements needed for sailing," the Wenger Alinghi 176 is a multi-bladed folding tool that features a locking knife blade, pliers and a wire cutter, a shackle key and flat marlinspike, a lanyard ring, and several other tools familiar to the Swiss Army-knife fan. Appropriately, it is made in Switzerland, and it comes with a belt pouch.

At 10.6 ounces (including the pouch), the Alinghi likely would fail the ashore personal-wear test for most sailors. This means you still need a personal knife, whether you have an Alinghi or not. So we consider it a multitool.

The cutting blade, which has a Spyderco-style opening hole, caused some concern for testers: Of the seven people we asked to open it with one hand, only two were able to do so in a single, smooth motion; three managed to open it using more than one movement, and shifting their grip; and two couldn’t open it at all. This could be a break-in issue, but inspection revealed that the edge of the opening hole, polished smooth in Swiss Army fashion, lacked sufficient "tooth" for gripping. We tried creating this tooth by roughing the critical edge with a couple of tapered diamond sharpeners, but concluded that it wasn’t a feasible fix, nor should it be a needed one.

Wenger Alinghi 176
Wenger Alinghi 176

The fold-out pliers don’t open very wide and lack a full, two-handle grip (one side is a spoon-like sliver of steel). And although the wire-cutter lacks a two-stage design for light/hard materials, it cuts adequately for its size.

Only two flat screwdriver blades and one Philips-head blade are provided.

The flat, sailing-specific blade is useful in splicing and emergency sewing. If you’re going to use the shackle key on a gyrating deck, you’ll need to open it (a two-handed operation) before you start. (We discovered an undocumented way of carrying the opened tool in the sheath, so you can use both hands until you need the tool.)

A few of the other blades generally were under excessive spring tension, and so needed extra effort to open; some testers couldn’t get all of them open.

Conclusion

At about $100 retail, this tool offers less value than our August 2004 Best Buy multitool, the Leatherman Wave ($65). The Wave lacks a dedicated shackle key, but its tools are easy to open, and with a little thought, we came up with ways to effectively operate shackles. If you have strong hands, and if you really want to remember this year’s America’s Cup, the Alinghi tool could be for you.

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