When it comes to the line that pulls your sails up the mast, you need to get the right line for the job. A good line will have limited stretch, helping to ensure your sails get the full power from the halyard and extend their life.
The choice of rope for your halyard will depend on what kind of sailing you do, the type of deck gear you use, and the budget you have available to spend. In our tests, we found that the more expensive lines had less stretch than the cheaper options.
Double Braided Polyester
Double Braided Polyester is a great choice for most sailboat halyard rope applications. It is a low-stretch, high-strength rope that offers excellent resistance to abrasion, sunlight, salt, and common chemicals.
It is also lightweight which makes it very comfortable to handle and easy to splice. It is also very resistant to UV rays and can resist damage from extreme temperatures.
A sailor’s main consideration in halyards is weight. Sailing lines that weigh less allow the boat to float more easily.
Generally, Spectra and Dyneema-cored lines are lighter than polyester, which means they will take up less space on your deck. They also tend to stretch fewer times than polyester, which can help improve performance and your sailing experience.
A wide range of high-tech halyards are available, with varying levels of UV protection. These can be expensive, but they will improve a cruising boat’s overall performance. They typically come with a polyester cover for additional UV resistance and a soft hand.
12 Strand Polyester
A good halyard rope will transfer wind velocity to the sail without reducing the sail area, improving your sailing speed. It will also reduce the tendency for your halyard to become hung up on the masthead sheave, which can cause a dangerous situation.
There are many different materials used in sailboat lines and marine ropes. Polyester is one of the most common, and it’s an excellent choice for most running rigging applications.
Another popular material is UHMWPE fibers such as Spectra and Dyneema. These have a high strength-to-weight ratio, and they are highly resistant to chemicals.
For performance cruising, a low-stretch polyester double braid works well and is available in a variety of different diameters and styles. Its natural stretch makes it easy to grip, so it’s a good choice for clutches and around winches, and it will last a long time.
Nylon is one of the most popular synthetic fibers for sailboat halyard rope. It offers high tensile strength, elasticity, and good UV resistance. It is available in three-strand twisted and braided line construction.
Nylon has less stretch than polyester and is more durable. It is also very resistant to abrasion and weathering.
Whether you are racing or cruising, a low-stretch, high-modulus rope provides better halyard tension and sail shape over time, particularly for roller-furling headsails and in-mast furling mainsails that are left-hoisted all season.
Performance sailors will prefer a Dyneema, Spectra, or Technora cored line. SK-90 is a newer variant of Dyneema that stretches about 10-15% less than SK-75 and is 10-15% stronger, so it offers excellent line-holding performance.
Typical applications are sheets and spinnaker halyards on cruising boats. General-purpose lines with double braid covers are usually constructed of Dacron or a polyester (less expensive) grade.
Polypropylene, or Dacron, is the rope of choice for sailboat halyards and sheets. It’s strong, cost-efficient, and resistant to ultraviolet radiation.
Polypropylene is often combined with HMPE (Dyneema, Spectra) fibers to improve its strength and reduce stretch. It’s also light enough to float on water.
But there are some things to remember when choosing a polypropylene halyard: It chafes easily, has a poor resistance to sunlight and isn’t as strong as other high-tech options.
So if you’re concerned about stretch and want to get into a hi-tech material within your budget, try using HMPE or LCP cored polyester-covered halyards. These will cost a bit more, but you’ll probably get your money’s worth in the long run. It’s also good to keep in mind that if you have wire halyards, they should be replaced by a good-quality rope. This will make the sail much easier to trim and can prevent you from losing a clutch in a storm!