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January 22, 2024 6 min read

Dinghy Rope Buying Guide

When you are looking for new ropes for your sailing dinghy the choices are endless and can be very confusing. Just looking at our rope rack in the warehouse we have over 150 reels of rope made from different materials for different applications across a number of thicknesses and colours.


This dinghy rope buying guide aims to give you an introduction to the types of rope that are commonly used on dinghies and provide you with some information so you can make a choice on what might be best for your boat and type of sailing.


It's important to say that every day we help customers over the phone talking through options and providing our recommendations based on our experience. You can phone the team on 01268 222912 to discuss your ropes.

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Control Lines

First up on our rope buying guide we are going to look at control lines.


Our dinghy control lines can be some of the most used across the boat and can take a lot of stress and strain.


There is one main consideration when thinking about control lines, that is would you like them to be continuous? In some cases this isn't practical or possible, but if your boat set up allows continuous control lines we highly recommend them so you don't have to worry about hitting the end of the rope.


If your boat does allow for them then there are two main products which we recommend, Kingfisher Evolution Breeze or Marlow Excel Control. Both of these are available in 4mm and 5mm diameters and allow you to splice both ends together and into each other.

If your boat doesn't allow for continuous control lines then you need to think about the pressure which is going to be put onto your control line. In most cases, with most dinghies this isn't much.


There are two choices for rope material, polyester or dyneema. Polyester will stretch a little more and won't be as strong, dyneema will have larger breaking loads and will stretch less. All of our rope pages provide the stretch percentage and breaking load so you can think about the load on the rope, and what that stretch might do to your sail controls as an example.


Most dinghy control lines are either 3mm, 4mm or 5mm in thickness. The most popular choice for dinghy control lines are:

  • Evolution Performance - a polyester general all round rope
  • Evolution Race - a polyester cover with 12 strand dyneema core
  • 8 Plait Pre Stretched - a polyester twisted rope that is treated and pre stretched at the point of manufacture

Our rope buying guide recommendation would be to look at the use of your rope, if you are using the rope for a kicker you will likely want to go for a dyneema product as that use has a high strain. If you are kitting out an outhaul you are going to want either a pre-stretched rope, or rope with dyneema core depending on the pressure. If you're simply lashing your water bottle to the boat you can use a basic rope.


The mistake many sailors make it to over specify the rope they need. We constantly have sailors coming to us saying their friend from the sailing club said they need dyneema, when we talk about the use of the rope we can usually provide another product that's perfect at a lower cost.

Halyards

Most dinghy halyards take a bit more pressure than other ropes with a sail pulling on them and stretching the rope, in this section of our rope buying guide we'll focus on sailing ropes with less stretch.


For a halyard rope you should be looking for at least an 8 plait pre stretched polyester rope, as suggested by the name the polyester within this rope has been treated and pre stretched to reduce stretch in its day to day use. As an example, small dinghies such as the RS Feva will come with an 8 plait pre stretched polyester spinnaker halyard.


The most popular halyard option is ropes with dyneema, either a 12 strand dyneema if there isn't going to be much wear, or a rope with a dyneema core and harder wearing outer jacket.


A 12 strand dyneema rope is only going to be made from pure dyneema so a small diameter can be very strong, if you are using a dyneema core rope with an outer jacket then you'll need to have a thicker diameter rope to meet the same stretch and break strain characteristics.


As an example, a 12 strand compact braid rope in 3mm diameter will give you a breaking strain of 900kgs and a 1.2% stretch at 20% of that break load. A 4mm Evolution Race rope which has a dyneema core and hard wearing polyester outer jacket would give you a breaking strain of 820kgs and a 1% stretch at 20% of the break load. You can see from this example that by going up in mm thickness you still don't get to the breaking strain of the 3mm rope which is pure dyneema.


Another consideration when choosing a new rope halyard is the wear it's going to get and the friction. Some halyards such as spinnaker halyards are up and down at pace through a number of blocks and pulleys - this will cause friction and heat on the rope making it wear faster. There are rope materials such as technora which will be able to cope with larger friction and heat.


The most popular chosen ropes for halyards are:

  • Compact Braid - a 12 strand dyneema rope
  • Evolution Race - a 12 strand dyneema core covered with a hard wearing polyester outer jacket
  • 8 Plait Pre-Stretched Rope - a polyester rope which is treated to have less stretch

Sheets

The sheets on your boat can be the most adjusted ropes, especially in dinghies such as ILCAs and Toppers.


When choosing a sheet you want to think about thickness and what might cause the least friction but also think about comfort in your hand.


Having a smaller sheet will allow it to move through the pulley system with ease but on a 25 knot day that smaller rope is going to start to cut into your hands far easier than a thicker sheet might.


Our most popular sheet rope is Evolution Sheet, a rope with a braided polyester cover and lightweight multi-filament polypropylene core. This combination makes the rope lightweight, strong, flexible and it also floats without taking on water.


If you want a rope that's going to be soft on your hands I strongly recommend Maffioli Swiftcord, this rope is a single braided dyneema SK78 rope which has an added non flip fibre. This is a popular choice for high performance dinghy and catamaran sailors for their constantly adjusted sheets.

Shockcord

No rope buying guide would be complete without a mention of shockcord elastic. You won't find many boats without a length of shockcord being used, whether that's to retain the dagger board or to pull the outhaul inwards in light winds - you won't be surprised to hear that shockcord is one of our best selling products from the reel.


Shockcord comes in a variety of thicknesses and two types are available, our ever popular standard shockcord and also our dyneema shockcord. Dyneema shockcord has the elastic centre but also comes with a 100% dyneema SK78 braided cover which provides additional abrasion resistance. 


Dyneema shockcord is far stronger as you would expect and is a popular choice for trapeze line retainers. Our sponsored Nacra 15 sailors prefer this because in the event of a pitch pole it can be the difference of still having your trapeze connected and finishing a race, or having to go ashore to replace the shockcord and missing valuable points.

Still Not Sure?

Thanks for taking the time to review our rope buying guide. Still not sure which rope to choose? Every day we help customers over the phone talking through options and providing our recommendations based on our experience. You can phone the team on 01268 222912 to discuss your ropes and what might be the best choice for you and your boat.