High Performance Ropes on Cruising Yachts

LORDNELSON

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Has anyone experience of using high performance ropes (Dyneema et al) on cruisers around 40 ft LOA? There seem to be some advantages - smaller diameter, less friction - is there a downside (apart from the cost!). Has anyone any experience on the minimum diameter rope one can reasonably use for genoa sheets before the sheets become too thin to handle and haul properly?
 

jfkal

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If you are not seriously racing stay away from them:
1. Cost
2. Lifespan (higly UV sensitive)
3. Yes, you get same strength out of lower diameter plus free blisters and calluses

The real racers even strip the sheating to save weight and replace every three month. That is one way to spend your EUR, $ and Sterling.
 

Twister_Ken

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Two places I've found them useful are for the roller furler control line - not because of stretch, but because they don't compress on the drum and jam. Last year, standard multiplait - jammed four times, this season, Dyneema, no jams. The other use is as a strop to the tack of a number three genoa which sets on a detachable inner forestay.

I think when the time comes to replace main and genny halyards, I might go Dyneema, but not for sheets.
 
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Ehy do you want to use high strength ropes? They are small & light but very hard and difficult to handle and knot plus as mentioned expensive and UV sensative. For cruising the ideal ropes for sail control would seem to be soft and easy on the hands and for halyards max abrasion resistance & UV resisistance. Spectra & dynamee isn't good in these areas. If you want to find out more try the cave research group who do lots of reseach on rope performance (caving rope is low streach but with very tough sheath to resist abraison an rock)

Roly, Voya Con Dios, Glasson, Lancaster
 

alant

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(1) As already stated, they are difficult to handle
(2) They harden & wear badly if taken around a tight pulley turn - when used as halliard , usually wear badly at mast head
(3) when used as genoa sheets or furling hauk in/out lines, they will definitely slip through any 'spin-lock'type jammers.
I have had more problems than benefits with these on cruising yachts.
 

LORDNELSON

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Many thanks for the helpful replys, I started thinking about high performance ropes when considering how
to reduce friction when leading all ropes back to my cockpit, I guess I will have to go another expensive
route - ball bearing blocks; has anyone any experience with these?
 

vyv_cox

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I converted my boat to have all lines back to the cockpit many years ago. In my case this included reefing pennants, spinnaker pole uphaul, vang and main outhaul. Halyards were already led back to the cockpit. Boat is a Sadler 34

The only ball bearing blocks are the tack pennant turning blocks, and that was more for their small size than low friction. Pennants come down the mast, around plain bearing blocks at the foot, through plain bearing organisers and back to clutches. The original halyards exit at the plain bearing sheaves at the mast foot, through the organisers and to the clutches. The internal boom blocks also have plain bearings. When I first made a single line reefing system I shackled two blocks together for this purpose, but it is now possible to buy a special fitting for this purpose.

Friction has never been a problem on any lines. Unless you have an exceptional arrangement I suspect that you will not notice the difference. All my halyards are conventional material, except for the only original one now remaining, which is wire spliced to multiplait.
 

LORDNELSON

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VyV, many thanks for the very useful contribution. The only complication I have is aligning the ropes up over the modest sized pilot house (my boat is a Southerly 115). At present most ropes do come back to the cockpit, the missing ones are the reefing pennants (four because I cannot use single line reefing). However the main halyard does suffer from friction losses so the turning block at the base of the mast might provide some benefit if a ball-bearing block and I thought the reefing pennants might also benefit from ball-bearing blocks - not so much when reefing but more when letting reefs out and one is relying on the halyard pull to encourage the pennants to pull out. I was thinking of Ronstan ball-bearing blocks and possibly some Rutgerson Translantic blocks (large plain bearings) for one or two other, less stressed places. Do you find the ball-bearing blocks need frequent cleaning? That is do they attract a lot of dirt and tend to "gum up"?
 

vyv_cox

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Never had a problem with ball blocks gumming up, levels of rainfall normally encountered seem to be sufficient to keep them clean!

There is noticeable friction when shaking out a reef, normally one of us will go forward to pull the pennants forward at the mast. I think this may be as much friction at the clutch as at the blocks. It is surprising how the smallest pull on pennants translates into massive loads on the halyard.

One area to look at is the turning blocks built in to Kemp masts, both at mast head and foot. Over time the nylon bearing built into the wheel will swell and grip the axle. Every boat I have owned had a Kemp mast and after 10 years of life all needed to be reamed out a little. Quite easy to do on the foot blocks but on older masts the cap fitting needs to come off. Newer ones have the axle ends exposed, so the job can be done more easily, perhaps without removing the mast for someone happy to work aloft.
 

LORDNELSON

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Thanks again, my Kemps mast is 14 years old and does not have turning blocks built in at the base, I have individual blocks shackled on to a sort of edged tray on which the mast end sits. However I will check the masthead blocks/axles when the mast is lowered in December because we have been suprised at the friction on the genoa halyard.
 

charles_reed

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I've gradually been replacing the halyards on my boat with Spectra/Dyneema.

The original spec only called for Kevlar for the main halyard. The one Spectra spi-halyard is now 9 years old and still perfect but has been end-for-ended the once. I probably use a spi for about 20% of my sailing so it's not purely decorative.

In the 6 years the Spectra main has been on, it's been end-for-ended once and shortened (by 100mm) twice. The biggest problem is the effect that jam-cleats have on the casing of this and the genoa halyard. With the latter the chafing at the divert-ring for the roller reefing, means it's shortened about twice a season.

All the halyards, except the No2 spi halyard which is still Kevlar, are now in Spectra/Dyneema.
I've also replaced the plastic-covered SS wire guardrails with Spectra, 40% of the weight of SS wire and 20% stronger. Far more give which saves those nasty bruises in a seaway, but much more stretch. Slight chafe problem where they go through the stanchions, solved by using HDPE tape at those points. The cost is about the same per metre as plastic-covered wire, but you save the cost of end-fittings.

I've found 12mm about the best size to handle for sheets - the main and spi sheets are 10mm and that's a bit on the small side. As the main criterion for sheets is to have a large enough diameter for easy handling I feel replacing them with HT polyester unecessary.
I've also got rid of the old Barton sheaves on the main sheet and replaced them with Harken Ti-Lite sheaves (as you know these dispense with shackles and use Spectra lashings instead).

My summary - the Dyneema/Spectra is tougher than standard polyester (resists chafe better), but hysterisis and elongation is greater than SS wire. There are none of the fatigue problems that you used to get with Kevlar and it's relatively UV resistant.
I've never tested the UTS but I'd reckon the loads given by the manufacturers' have a factor of about 1.54:1.
I'd strongly recommend them to anyone.

This year has been a fairly low-mileage one, only about 2.5K miles, most seasons I'll do about 3.5K to put the usage into perspective.
 

charles_reed

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I think you may have your facts wrong here Roland - my experience over 9 years is that Spectra is MORE UV resistant than normal polyester.

It's a fact that reducing the diameter of sheets going over sheaves will make them run very much more easily. That would be my first choice if I were trying to reduce frictional reistance, rather than going for ball-bearing blocks. However anything less than 10mm rope is very difficult to grasp.

When the LSPE ropes are new they do tend to be likely to snag, but that soon sorts itself out with use and careful coiling.
 

charles_reed

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At last a considered reply

twister_ken I'd agree partially with your comments:
1. More difficult to handle when new, but after three seasons no different from normal polyester.
2. They certainly compress when you take them round a pulley and put sufficient load on them - a load that would cause normal polyester to break. I'd have to disagree totally with the expression "harden", suggesting a change of state.
3. The slip can occur, but I'd suggest that it's a function of the high load exerted and the poor design of most jamming devices. I've found I've had no problem when I changed to the Lewmar, multi-ring jammers
 

LORDNELSON

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Re: At last a considered reply

Charles, Many thanks for your several replies which have been most useful, so, of course have many of the other replies. One of the concerns I have is when one shakes a reef out of the sail - there could be a lot of friction and it would be satisfactory to be able to do the whole job from the cockpit and not have to go on deck to pull the reefing lines through; my sailmaker has suggested sewing blocks on the mainsail where the reefs meet the leach of the sail, therebye reducing the friction where the reefing line would normally have to make a tight turn through the cringle at the end of the reef. Have you (or anyone else) any experience of blocks sewn into the sail like this - I hav'nt!
 
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