Shackles have been the most popular option and have been used by sailors for many years to attach blocks to their boats boats. The obvious benefit of a stainless steel metal shackle is that they are reliable and strong. It's easy to see when a shackle is wearing with dents usually forming in the metal.
Over the past few years more blocks and other applications have appeared where rope is used as an option for attaching your block to the boat.
Quite simply rope has evolved a very long way in the past 5 years, we now have dyneema ropes which are much thinner, stronger and harder wearing. Rope is also lighter than a shackle so this will help you to reduce overall weight making you faster.
Dyneema is now rated at 15 times stronger than steel wire. Quite impressive! This is why we're seeing it being used for rigging and trapeze lines on a variety of boats.
Rope is also much softer than a shackle so will reduce wear on the boat if it's left banging around during racing. A heavy shackle can create real wear on the deck of your boat.
We believe it's for two main reasons. 1) there is a lack of understanding of the advantages of using rope and 2) people are scared to move away from their trusty metal shackle.
Correct installation of your rope attached block is essential. If you don't follow the manufacturers instructions then you're going to have a few challenges and could cause real damage to your block or pulley. All Harken soft-attach blocks sold by Sailing Chandlery come with unique instructions on how best to attach your the item to your boat.
Soft-attachments require a smooth radius attachment point. Avoid anything which could cause wear of damage to the rope being used.
Here are the soft attached pulley and block products Sailing Chandlery have in stock at the time of writing this article:
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