Top Techniques for Identifying Sailing Ropes

by Andrew Dowley

Whether you are an old hand at sailing and boating or someone who has just decided that they want to take on some new skills in life, there is one item in particular that it absolutely pays to have a great deal of knowledge about, and that is ropes. As a beginner you might be thinking “ropes are ropes, right?” but you couldn’t be more wrong. It’s important to use the correct rope for each specific task in sailing and boating and the most expensive simply might not be the most appropriate for the job at hand.

Having the right rope or lines on board is a crucial part of boating, and without something as simple as a rope to tie something down you can be in serious distress.

Lines are used for mooring, lashing down equipment, anchoring, hoisting and adjusting sails and hanging up big fish (if you're into that). So how do you work out which rope is the right one for the job, and how do you identify the best ones to buy? Most common ropes consist of two components – a core that takes most of the load, and a protective outer cover that provides wear resistance and U.V. protection. This guide should help you to get started, but don’t be afraid to give us a call or drop us an email with any rope questions before you hit the water.

Different Materials Used

Like many sailing products, rope is still evolving and continuously improving.  Modern rope comes in a wide range of varieties. Some suit particular jobs better than others, and it is best to use the right rope for the job at hand. Many brands are around, they're all very similar so the basics are what you need to know the most about.

Nylon rope has high strength and has the ability to stretch up to 30% meaning it is popular for anchoring, docking and towing. It comes in three, eight and twelve strand with good U.V resistance. Unfortunately nylon rope does not float and goes hard over time. For most docking lines or and anchoring ropes, nylon is a good choice. Nylon ropes have abundant strength, stretches under strain to absorb energy, and is reasonably inexpensive. Polyethylene (or silver rope) has a hairy appearance, a three-strand lay with floating ability and is popular for docking, anchoring and lashing.

Polypropylene rope is usually green or yellow. It floats, is economical, and easy to splice. Most people know polypropylene as yellow floatline rope, and are most frequently used to tow water-skis, wakeboards and dinghies. This is a great rope for support boats at your sailing club. Because polypropylene rope is buoyant, it’s convenient to have around for numerous purposes and comes at a great price.

Double braid polyester rope (known as braid on braid) is the most popular yachting rope and is created with a sixteen-plait cover over an eight-plait core. It is available in many colours, and is easy to use. It is good for sailing sheets and halyards, dock lines and truck tie down lines. Pre-stretched polyester rope is ‘thirty-two braid over eight core’ and is mostly used for running rigging on yachts and cruisers. It is good for lashing when no stretch is required. Kevlar rope is a super high strength braided rope used on racing yachts for its ability to provide thin lines for use high up.

Because your boat’s running rigging is not the best place to skimp on spending, you should purchase quality ropes intended for the right purpose. Quality rope can be used repetitively for years to come.

With high-tech man-made fibers and progressive rope construction, you can now buy rope that is far more resilient than steel with extremely low stretch, and most professional racers have now adopted high-strength, low-stretch, and light weighted riggings in their running gear. Mostly in the form of dyneema. There is really no reason to try and save money on ropes when there are so many quality products that can save you money and hassles for a lot longer.

By now you probably get the importance of knowing your sailing ropes, and because there are just so many to choose from, it is much better to talk to the professionals who are able to provide the best advice, to point you in the right direction, and get you out on the water as soon as possible. Call or email us for more information on the best ropes for your boat whether it's a small dinghy or a large super yacht.


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