Sailing Ship Ropes are essential to the success of a sailing boat. Choosing the right rope for each job on board will improve your performance and make for a more enjoyable sail.
Ropes are used for a multitude of purposes on board a sailing yacht, from halyards to sheets and mooring lines. The key to choosing the right rope for each task is to consider which fibers perform best for that particular application.
Dyneema(r) fibers, made by the Dutch company DSM, are as strong as steel fiber that is derived from polyethylene (UHMWPE) and have been used in sailing ship ropes for some time. This material can be formulated into a range of different core strengths, each with its own characteristics.
The SK75 formulation has higher creep resistance but lower fatigue resistance than the SK78. It also tends to have more abrasion resistance due to the coating it receives, but less stiffness than SK78.
There are a wide range of performance ropes available for cruising boats, starting with heat-treated polyester, and moving up to a blended core that combines Dyneema(r) and polypropylene. The best choice will depend on boat size, performance needs and the types of load and abrasions it is exposed to.
HMPE, also known as UHMWPE, is used in various industries and is particularly popular in the marine industry due to its ability to perform in wet environments. It’s light enough to float, hydrophobic (repels water) and stays tough at low temperatures.
This makes it suitable for a wide range of applications including halyards, sheets and guys. It’s also an excellent choice for sailing lines, with its low stretchability allowing sails to maintain their optimal shape while being exceptionally resistant to abrasion.
These ropes are often covered with a high-tenacity polyester fiber sheath to reduce abrasion and provide easier handling. They are commonly used for keel uphaul on trailer sailers and other similar applications, as well as for mooring bridles and wire rope replacement.
Polyester is a common fiber used in sailing ship ropes. It is durable, flexible, abrasion-resistant and affordable.
The fiber can be twisted, braided or spun and comes in a variety of different strengths, weights and colors. It is also an excellent choice for mooring lines, sheets and halyards.
A common use for polyester on sailing boats is tow and rescue lines. These float so they are pleasant to hold and easy to spot on the water, even in the worst weather conditions.
Another popular application is Docklines. Traditionally nylon was the preferred fibre for these applications but more recent technology has allowed polyester to be a viable option.
Dyneema (SK75 and SK78) is an alternative high-modulus fiber that is strong and has low stretch. It can be super-pre stretched for increased strength and creep resistance and is commonly impregnated with a polyurethane coating to provide UV protection. It is often blended with polyester in the core to enhance performance.
Aramid fibers are a family of highly durable and heat-resistant synthetic polymers. They’re used in sailing ship ropes, bowstrings and racquet strings, hockey sticks and skis, and even on running shoes.
They have high elongation resistance and have almost zero creep (the irreversible deformation of a material under load). However, they do not bend around sharp edges well.
As with most synthetic ropes, they have an outer protective cover that provides abrasion resistance, protection from sunlight and sometimes improved holding in a clutch or jammer. The cover can also be designed for improved handling comfort.
A coated rope is a popular option for halyards, sheets and spinnaker sheets on larger cruisers. It is usually slightly more expensive than a standard polyester cover, but the performance improvement in chafe resistance and handling comfort is often worth it.