Aboard a sailing ship, the number of ropes and lines used increased dramatically as the ship grew. A square-rigged ship with a dozen sails used over 2 miles of standing rigging alone and more than a mile of running rigging.
Ropes are still essential aboard a sailing boat but the range of different types now available means choosing the right one can be tricky. Investing in the correct cordage for each job can be the difference between an optimal-performance boat and a sloppy mess.
Polyamide is a popular synthetic fiber that’s used in a wide range of materials, including sailing ship ropes. It is a durable material that’s very resistant to chemicals and heat.
It is a good choice for sailing ship ropes because it has excellent elasticity and will “give” under load to absorb shock loads. It’s also reasonably strong and inexpensive.
Often available in strands or braided, nylon is also a popular choice for dock and anchor lines because it has good stretch and resistance to abrasion. However, some stranded and braided versions are softer than others and can be prone to snagging.
The best way to care for your polyamide rope is to wash it in cold water and avoid hot water and direct sunlight. Drying it too quickly or using an iron is also not a good idea.
Polyester is one of the most popular fibers used for boat ropes. Known for its strength, resistance to abrasion and sunlight, and flexibility, this is the fiber of choice for Anchor Lines, Fender Lines, Lifelines, Hoisting and Winching Lines and a range of other applications.
When choosing a boat rope, there is a lot to consider. It is important to decide what your priorities are – performance, cost, etc.
The choice of knotting method and the type and amount of fiber is an important factors in determining the quality of a rope. Single Braid knotting generates a flexible and supple material that doesn’t kink, while Double Braid produces a robust rope that is easier to handle.
In cruising, you may want to use a low-stretch, high-modulus rope as a bolt-on to improve handling and reduce slipping. These ropes are often made with a blend of a number of different fibers to provide a particular level of flexibility, durability and resistance to UV degradation.
Dyneema(r) is a long-chain, oriented strand polyethylene fiber developed in the Netherlands by DSM. This fiber is used in a number of sailing ropes.
Its strength and abrasion resistance make it one of the strongest fibers available. It is available in several different formulations, including SK-60, SK-75, and SK-78.
The SK78 version offers high tensile strength (35cN/dtex) and significantly improved elongation and creep characteristics. It is also spliceable, making it easy to use in halyards and sail control line systems.
It is available in a variety of colors, and its twisted polyester core reduces stretch for an economical price. Its durable 16-plait polyester cover protects the core from wear and increases its lifespan.
Aramid is one of the strongest fibers available for rope making. It has superior strength and a high tensile modulus over steel wire, fiberglass, and high-strength nylon fiber.
It is extremely resistant to cutting, abrasion, flames, and temperatures. It has no melting point and is a non-conductive material under normal conditions.
There are many types of aramid fibers. Some are woven or braided into high-strength rope.
Kevlar®, Technora, and Vectran are the most common aramids used in sailing ship ropes. They are very strong, abrasion-resistant and have a high tensile strength-to-weight ratio.
The choice of the line material and construction style are crucial to the performance of a sailing boat. Investing time and money to ensure that your lines are selected for their intended applications will improve your boat’s overall performance.