Which Rope Should I Use?
Excerpted from Ocean Spirit Magazine

The guys at BoatUS know a lot about rope—as skippers of their own boats and as buyers specifying its construction. They know how it's made, the best ways to use it, and which manufacturers can be trusted to produce consistently high-quality rope. They share their expertise with us...

Lines for All Boats

Standard and Premium Nylon:
For most docking and anchor lines, standard nylon is a fine choice. It has great strength, “gives” under load to absorb energy, and is relatively inexpensive. It's also easy to handle and resists the harmful effects of sunlight better than other synthetics.

Premium nylon is even stronger than standard nylon, experiences far less breakage when subjected to repeat stretching, and is preshrunk and coated with Seagard™ Marine finish for significantly improved abrasion resistance.

Treated rope lasts longer because there is less friction between the fibers. We recommend premium nylon for heavier weather docking and anchoring or when you want extra security.

Our BoatU.S. specifications for premium nylon is comparable to all similar line, and resists repeated near-destructive surges better than all we tested.

At 75% breaking strength (we suggest normal loading should be no more than 25% breaking strength), our rope averaged 40 cycles before it finally parted —- eight times longer than other ropes.

This means your lines will stay on duty even when stressed well beyond the service intended, resisting big wakes, strong winds, and other challenges.

Of course, chafing gear is still recommended. But if it slips or wears through, you will want the best abrasion resistance possible.

Because polypropylene rope floats, it’s handy to have around for multiple purposes such as tow lines and dinghy applications. Made of synthetic fibers, polypropylene is almost as strong as nylon but is considerably less resistant to the sun’s UV rays.

Sailing Lines

Your boat’s running rigging is not the place to economize. If you purchase quality rope designed for a specific use, you’ll do more than improve your boat’s performance: quality rope, properly cared for, can be used repeatedly for progressively less demanding jobs, giving it a long and useful life.

With today’s new high-tech synthetic fibers and advanced rope construction, you can buy rope that’s 10 times stronger than steel with extremely low stretch. Many racers and cruisers have switched from wire to all-rope halyards; others have also opted for high-strength, low-stretch, lightweight ropes for their running rigging.

All-rope halyards have several advantages over wire. Hand-over-hand hoisting is much faster than cranking an all-wire winch; it’s safer, too. Wire is hard on your hands and gear. Rope is easier to splice, it won’t scrape paint or anodizing from your mast, and you don’t have to decide whether or not to rely on a worrisome rope-to-wire splice. The primary disadvantages are that rope is thicker, so it has more windage aloft (but half the weight!), and even the ultra-lowstretch fibers elongate more than wire. Quality rope costs more than wire but is easier to install, lasts longer, and can be recycled in a less demanding capacity.

Colour Coding

To avoid hassles out on the water, colour code your lines so that they are easily identifiable to your crew.

Some recommended uses are:

• Mainsail sheet and halyard—White
• Jib/genoa—Blue
• Spinnaker—Red and green for guys
• Vangs and travelers—Black

For powerboaters, color coding can help distinguish the different lengths of dockline.

Used for sheets and halyards. Long-wearing polyester is easy on the hands and gives a good grip on winch drums, even when wet.

Portland Yacht Braid
Easy to splice. It features a braided outer jacket as well as a braided inner core for extra strength and abrasion resistance. Portland is extremely flexible and runs more smoothly through fairleads than spun braid.

A “fuzzy” textured Type 77 Dacron® sleeve over a braided polyester core. Tends to be slightly larger in diameter when not under load. Be sure to select a diameter that will fit through blocks, eyes, and leads when the load is light.

Ultra Ultra Low Stretch™
The lowest stretch polyester double braid on the market, it’s stronger, lighter, and more economical than wire. UULS features a low helix braid of 100% polyester with a 24-carrier cover that controls the core element. Nubby surface texture provides good grip when wet or dry, and allows an easily performed splice.

High Tech
Used for halyards, sheets, guys, and control lines where you need higher strength and lower stretch than all-polyester lines.

Its core is a blend of Hoechst Celanese Vectran liquid crystal polymer and Olefin. The sleeve is a tri-strand, abrasion-resistant polyester filament. This combination results in a stronger line that provides real holding power on winches and in stoppers.

A 100% Vectran double-braided core with a Maxijacket™ coating for ultimate performance. Braided jacket is 100% SeaGuard™ polyester for abrasion resistance. Very high strength, low stretch will not creep like other high-tech fiber ropes.

Is the highest performance all-Kevlar® core double braid on the market. It’s made for high-performance sail control under big loads where strength is critical.

Maxibraid Plus™
Is a unique double-braided rope that is pound-for-pound 10 times stronger than steel, and has extremely low stretch for better control. Its core is 100% Spectra fiber, impregnated with a molecular-adhesion coating to enhance durability and to increase bending fatigue life. The sleeve is smooth filament polyester braid.

Vectrus Single Braid
Is 100% Vectran single braid with a coating to enhance abrasion and UV resistance.

Yale Light™
Is ideal for spinnaker sheets. Spectra core with polypropylene jacket. It has an above-average power-to-weight ratio, and it won’t gain weight because it won’t absorb water.

It's used by Olympic and championship sailors worldwide because it gives the highest strength and lowest stretch of any doubled-braided floating rope.

Rope Care Tips

  • Inspect lines for signs of pulls, loose areas or serious abrasions before using them.
  • Chafing tape or chafe guards, as well as swivels and shackles, help minimize abrasion caused by cleats, chocks, and blocks.
  • The lower limit of the indicated working load range should be used where life or limb is involved or for exceptional service conditions such as shock loads. Never exceed the listed working load range. If your rope is old or worn, make additional allowances to assure safety.
  • Rope that is strong enough under a steady strain can be broken with a sudden jerk, so never stand in line with rope under tension. If the rope fails, it could recoil with considerable force, especially if it's made of nylon.
  • Any rope will benefit from an occasional bath in warm fresh water. The water lifts out dirt and makes the rope more supple. Some skippers squirt a little fabric softener in the water and then rinse the rope a second time. This also helps to eliminate squeaking.
  • All rope is prone to UV deterioration when exposed to the sun. Whenever possible, store rope out of the sun and away from heat, chemicals, and moisture.
  • Store your rope on a reel or coiled to prevent knots, kinks, and tangles that reduce strength.
  • Avoid kinks by padding sharp angles for safety. Sharp angles greatly affect the strength of rope.
  • Reverse rope ends and alternate ropes to prevent isolated wear and extend rope