There are many different types of rope used for running rigging, sheets and braces on sailing boats. They can be made from many different materials, including polyester, Perlon, Nylon, Spectra and Dyneema.
Halyards are usually multi-layered ropes with a core made of Dyneema or other high-strength synthetic fiber. This core is then protected by sheath layers made of softer and more UV-resistant fibers.
A sailboat halyard rope is a rope that pulls the sail up to the mast. It can be a short 20-foot length of basic 5mm line on small sailboats or an 80-foot length of high-tech double braid on larger performance boats.
The choice of rope material is a complex one, with many factors to consider. For example, a cruising boat might prefer a low-stretch polyester halyard that will not stiffen with age.
Another consideration is how well the halyard will wear. It will be subject to constant use and exposure to sunlight, so it is important that it be inspected and cut off and replaced as needed.
Higher-tech materials like Dyneema, Spectra and Kevlar are available for halyards, but they have not been widely tested in the field yet. Until then, you should consult the accompanying tables to help you choose the right halyard for your requirements and budget.
Sailboat halyard ropes are available in a variety of materials, from basic double-braid polyester to high-tech materials like Spectra and Dyneema. Your choice will depend on several factors, including the amount of stretch, cost, weight, and ease of handling.
Ropes made from synthetic fibers, such as polypropylene, have many advantages over their natural fiber counterparts. They are more resistant to UV damage and wear and tear, and they stretch less.
In general, cruising boats prefer low-stretch ropes, which are designed to span long distances under high loads. Polyester ropes are a good choice, particularly for spinnaker and gennaker halyards.
The ideal halyard rope should be light and have low elongation, which is necessary for proper trimming of your sail. Ideally, the halyard should also be of a type that will not wear out quickly. Using wire halyards on keelboats for a while was popular but they have a few drawbacks, most notably that they deteriorate over time.
The breaking load of a sailboat halyard rope is an important factor to consider when replacing or upgrading. This is especially true if you are rigging a permanently hoisted roller-furling headsail.
A halyard is an internal rope or wireline that leads from the mast base to a turning point (sheave) above the desired hoist height of the sail. It then exits the sheave and comes back down to deck level outside the mast.
This rope will be subject to a tremendous load while luffing, raising, and tightening the halyard, all of which adds to the total load on the halyard. It is a good idea to have the halyard inspected and replaced regularly to avoid problems with the line, which may lead to costly repairs or replacements.
It is also important to choose a halyard that has a high break point and has low stretch and creep. This can help save weight and minimize fatigue in the hands of crewmembers.
Halyard ropes have to meet a variety of requirements: They should not stretch or degrade from UV exposure, be lightweight and comfortable in hand, have the great load-bearing capacity, and be able to handle the strain of cleating and winching. These characteristics are achieved by selecting a line that has a good core and cover material.
Dyneema(r), Vectran(r), and Spectra(r) fibers, as well as various blends of these and other high-tenacity fibers, offer excellent performance in this role. They are often used in the mainsail and jib halyards to reduce sail elongation, increase control and performance, and improve the handling of heavy rigs.
Using a low-stretch halyard can make a significant difference in the performance of a new mainsail. In fact, many new cruising boats are built with a low-stretch polyester double braid for the main halyard and spinnaker halyard to save weight aloft.