How to find the best yacht rope

How to find the best yacht rope

High-quality rigging is part of the basic equipment of every boat, whether a sailing yacht or motor boat. But which is the right rope for your boat? What factors should be considered when choosing? Before we delve any deeper, the first thing to note is that there is no perfect boat rope. The right rope depends on the type of boat and its intended purpose.

Discover ropes now »

What factors should be considered when choosing?

Working load

The working load refers to the average load applied to a rope during use. To get the longest possible life out of your ropes and make sure they continue to perform as they should, the working load should normally not exceed 1/5 of the breaking load. Workload can be calculated here by selecting your ship and entering the wind speed in knots.

Colour

Rope colour is also important for many boat owners. Some of our customers want the colour to match the hull. Others prefer to have sheets in yellow and halyards and mooring lines in a different colour, while others like to colour-coordinate all halyards, sheets, lines and trimming lines with a particular sail, for example green for all the mainsail ropes, black for the headsail, blue for the spinnaker. You can choose from many different colours in our rope shop.

Rope construction

Braided rope

Braided rope

Braided rope is made by crossing or intertwining individual rope fibres, also called strands. There are different ways in which the fibres can be joined together. Halyards and sheets are usually always braided.

1 Double braided

In the case of double braided ropes, the core and sheath share the load and both contribute to the stability of the rope. Double braided Gleistein ropes include the term "Twin" (for example Mega Twin Dyneema, Dock Twin) to indicate this type of structure.

2 Round braid

Round braided ropes are made by crossing the individual strands together to form a hose. Round braids can have a rope core, but may also consist of the round woven strands only.

3 Hollow braid

Hollow-braid ropes are made by crossing the individual strands together in such a way that a hollow space is created in the middle. These ropes have no core, the braid gives it its strength. Round and hollow braid ropes from Gleistein include the term "One" (for example (Dyna One, Geo One).

4 Square braid

Square braid rope consists of 8 strands, which gives it excellent durability and grip. It is also easy to splice and relatively cheap. Unlike twisted rope, it has high elasticity and remains flexible throughout its usable life. Gleistein ropes include the term „Square“ to indicate this type of structure (for example Geo Square).

    2. Twisted rope

Twisted rope

Twisted ropes are produced by twisting two or more rope fibres around each other. This type of rope has a lower breaking load than braided rope, but higher elongation or elasticity. These ropes are therefore mainly used as mooring, anchor and fender lines. Twisted ropes can untwist under load. They can start to kink and lose their shape and strength. To prevent this, it is advisable to tow them behind the boat from time to time. When coiling this type of rope, you should never twist it or "force" it into a shape. An 8 coil is more suitable here than a round coil. 3 and 4 strand laid ropes are ropes where the strands are laid in the form of a helix around the central axis.

What is important when choosing halyards?

Halyards are part of a ship’s running rigging. When choosing halyards, it is important to look for ropes that:

  1. Have a cover braid with high resistance to salt water, UV radiation and high temperatures and abrasion.
  2. Have as little stretch as possible. However, stretch characteristics of halyards for Gennaker or Spinnaker sails are less important, in fact, a stretchy halyard is an advantage.
  3. Are flexible and grippy, and adhere well in winches and in the hand, with no kinking.
  1. Do not chafe or wear in cleats and clutches and do not slip.
  2. Have very high breaking and working loads with a small dead weight and diameter. The weight of halyards is especially important for regatta sailors.

What material for halyards?

In the past, halyards were first made using natural fibres. However, this material proved to be unsuitable as it stretched too much and quickly deteriorated. Subsequent attempts resulted in the use of steel ropes, which stretch much less and are significantly more resistant to the effects of the environment. On some ships and yachts, wire halyards are still in use. The most recent developments in rope production have resulted in the use of synthetic fibres. Polyester is the cheapest material here, and is more than sufficient for less demanding requirements. Polyester is particularly suitable for Spinnaker and Gennaker halyards, due to its elasticity. Polypropylene can also be used for halyards. However, these cheaply produced ropes wear out much faster. They are also often significantly less resistant to UV light & abrasion and have a higher elongation with lower breaking load. For frequent use and high demands, such as those of regatta sailors and some recreational sailors, halyards made of Dyneema are recommended, because they stretch considerably less than polyester and can save weight. More information about Dyneema ropes can be found in our Dyneema Guide.

Halyards

Ropes of different structural types can be used for halyards.

Für Fallen kommen Tauwerke mit unterschiedlichen Konstruktionsmethoden in Frage.

1 Parallel-core-sheath

With this manufacturing method, the core fibres are parallel to the sheath, which should reduce the elongation of the rope. This manufacturing process is common for polyester ropes. The structure requires an inner sheath, which often causes these lines to be somewhat stiff.

2 Core-sheath

Two different braids are used for this manufacturing process. Core and sheath can be made of different materials. A polyester or coated Dyneema core is often used for halyards. The sheath is made of polyester, in part with Technora or Vectran components.

3 Core-inner cover-sheath

Halyard rope with an inner cover has a layer of staple fibre integrated between the core and the cover. This makes the core diameter smaller and halyards run better through stoppers.

How long should halyards be?
Calculate the length for your halyards easily as follows:
Double the mast height + length to cockpit in m = length of halyard

In general, we recommend buying rope that is a little longer than required. This way, you can always shorten the halyard a little every year to make up for sections that are worn through stoppers and blocks.
Sheets

What to look out for when choosing sheets

Good sheets should demonstrate most of the qualities described above for halyards. The material of sheets or their rope sheathing should generally be as abrasion-resistant as possible, since sheets are frequently moved and rub against rollers, blocks, winches and cleats, resulting in chafing. High UV-resistance is also important in order to avoid hardening or deterioration of the material. High breaking and working loads despite small diameter and weight complete the picture when it comes to good sheets. Depending on how you use your boat, for sheets and halyards, the less stretch the better. However, for performance boats, no sheet elongation is desired. In fact, the slimmer or more streamlined the sail and the greater the load on the line, the more important it is to have high-quality, low-stretch rope.

With manually operated mainsheets in particular, the rope should feel good in the hand, i.e. it should be flexible and grippy. When casting off, sheets should not form kinks. Polyester lines are very suitable as sheets, because this material is soft & supple and does not stiffen even under heavy load.

For genoa sheets, winch compatibility is more important, as the fewer turns needed, the faster manoeuvres can be performed. It’s better to have as little twist during tacking, as is the case when sheet and winch are compatible. During tacking manoeuvres, the sheet should run free completely.

What material for sheets?

Sheets can be made of different materials depending on the type of boat they are used on.

Polyester

Polyester sheets can be used on cruising yachts with manually operated mainsheet tackles and overlapping genoas, and keep their flexibility even under heavy load.

Dyneema

Dyneema sheets are mainly used for Performance Cruisers, since they have less elongation and perform better.

Combinations

There are ropes where the Dyneema fibre is combined with polypropylene fibres. This rope has slightly more stretch, but combining material results in a cheaper rope.

What sheath structure for sheets?

1 Endless fibre

These ropes are made of 20-plait polyester continuous fibres. This makes them particularly resistant in winch drums and cam cleats. This production method produces a flexible but relatively smooth rope.

2 Staple fibre

Sheets made of staple fibre yarn or worsted yarn hold well in the hand due to their soft, fluffy texture, but also wear out much faster. For this reason, they are not recommended for use in winches.

3 Grip-fibre

Grip-fibre sheets consist of specially treated continuous polyester fibres or have staple fibres mixed in, resulting in a sheath that is easy to grip but still strong.

What diameter for sheets?

On cruising boats, the diameter of sheets is largely determined by handling and not by breaking load. On a 10-meter-long boat you would usually choose sheets with a diameter of 10mm. On a Performance Cruiser. Even a few centimetres of stretch, especially when using a membrane sail, can have a major impact on performance. In this case, a Dyneema sheet is a must. Gleistein calculates the diameter of halyards and sheets according to the sail area in m²:

Cruise XP Dyna One Mega Twin Dyneema Discover Dyna Lite Cup Gemini X Tasmania Harkon Standard Wire 7x19
10 5 4 5 6 6 8 6 8 8 8 3
20 6 4 6 8 8 10 8 10 10 10 3
30 8 4 8 10 10 12 10 12 12 12 4
40 10 4 10 12 12 12 12 12 12 14 4
60 12 5 12 12 14 14 14 14 14 16 5
70 14 6 14 14 14 14 16 16 6
90 16 8 16 16 16 18 8
100 16 10 16

How do I find the right mooring lines for my boat?

Mooring lines must be able to cope with quite different demands than halyards or sheets. Everything about mooring lines and how to find the right mooring lines for your boat can be found in our mooring lines guide.

Why is it important to take care of your rope?

In some parts of the world, over time the strength of your ropes can be greatly reduced by the weather, and this can vary greatly from year to year, depending on the material and colour of the rope. Other factors can also cause wear and damage to the rope. Compared to ropes with a larger diameter, small-diameter ropes suffer damage much more quickly. To ensure that your cordage retains its properties as long as possible, it is important to follow a few care tips and to check your rigging regularly for defects.

How should ropes be cared for?

Before installing

Before you even begin to install your rigging on board, check where it will be going for sharp edges and other potential danger zones and inspect sheaves of blocks, pulley wheels and rollers on deck and in the rigging to ensure that they are free of bumps and ridges, are intact and run smoothly.

During the season

During the season you should regularly check your ropes, especially the running rigging, for visible damage. It is best to inspect your ropes every 30 cm along. Special attention should be paid to splices and thimbles. Thimbles can become loose under certain circumstances due to rope elongation.

Before wintering

If you winter your yacht outdoors, it is recommended to pull Dyneema halyards from the mast and remove trim lines and downhauls on board. Ropes should be stored in a dry place, e.g. in a cellar, until the next season. Otherwise, green algae formation may occur which is visually very unattractive.

How do I clean ropes correctly?

Regular cleaning of your yacht's ropes not only makes your yacht look beautiful, it also removes discolouration and salt residues, which can prolong its life. If dirt or sand penetrates the rope, this causes internal wear, which is noticeable through loose strands and powdery fibre abrasion. Ropes can, in general, be cleaned in the washing machine. For washing, use only a small amount of detergent, preferably one for functional textiles, and set your washing machine to a maximum temperature of 30°C. We recommend that you put your ropes in a pillowcase or similar so that they do not get knotted in the washing machine or at least not as much. Dyneema ropes should not, however, be machine washed, as they are often manufactured with special coatings, for example to improve adhesion between the sheathing and core. Clean Dyneema, if necessary, only by hand with lukewarm water and a mild detergent. Avoid exposing cordage to chemicals or toxic/corrosive fumes. If contact cannot be avoided, clean ropes under cold running water and then check it for any impairments by rubbing or plucking at the filaments of the yarn fibre.

Mooring lines

What to do in case of damaged cordage?

Chafed areas can be temporarily protected with waterproof tape to prevent the sheath from tearing. If only the sheath of the rope is affected, which often occurs where the rope comes into contact with halyard stoppers, you can simply ask your rigger to replace the sheath of the rope. This saves you having to purchase a completely new halyard. A rigger can also fix thimbles that have come loose from a splice.

If a rope is badly damaged in only one place, this area can be cut out and the two ends of the rope can be attached by an end-to-end splice. However, if the rope has broken due to excessive strain, you should not use it any more. We also recommend replacing the rope as soon as possible if the filaments break easily.

Why should I splice my rope?

A knot in the rope reduces its breaking load by 40-90%, a splice by about 10% only. Some modern splices have no impact on breaking load at all. How much a knot reduces the breaking load depends on the material and the diameter of the rope. The core and sheath of polyester ropes share the loads acting on them, so knotting in polyester ropes is not as damaging as in Dyneema ropes. With ropes made of Dyneema, a large part of the load is carried by the rope core. Dyneema rope core is very smooth, so it can slip in the knot. This shifts the load to the sheath, thus reducing the breaking load, in some cases drastically. In the worst case, the halyard tears. A bowline in a 10 mm Dyneema rope reduces the breaking load by about 50%, a square knot or sheet bend reduces it by almost 90%. You will find a number of ready-made halyards and sheets in our range. We can also splice your rope according to your individual wishes.

Why should you protect rope against UV radiation?

The strong UV radiation on the water causes the colour of ropes to fade and them to gradually lose strength. This is especially true for yacht ropes made of Vectran, Aramid (Kevlar) and PBO (Cylon). Ropes made of polyester and Dyneema are more UV-resistant and usually reach the end of their service life before UV light can affect their tensile strength. But the light causes the sheath to become brittle and hardened. Its colour turns grey. Placing ropes in storage bags when they are not in use will protect from unnecessary UV exposure.

FAQ

Normally very long, at least 20 years, but durability depends on sunlight, amount of use (miles travelled per season), quality of winches.
To prevent clanking on the mast, so-called spreader hooks are available. These are mounted on the spreader using the cable ties supplied to stow halyards away from the mast, thus preventing noise in the marina.
Dyneema and Spectra are both chemically manufactured from high-modulus polyethylene, but Dyneema has a slightly different molecular structure and a higher breaking load with larger diameters. Dyneema goes by the brand name DSM. Dyneema has slightly better wear properties in areas where the rope is used a lot and is more elastic than Spectra 1000.
Spectra is a strong and durable fibre produced by the manufacturer Honeywell. It has the best tenacity of all fibres. The only disadvantage of Spectra cordage is so-called creep, i.e. the cordage gradually stretches under constantly high loads. Spectra does not absorb water.