Deciding what rope to buy can be complicated. Only because there are so many different manufacturers, products, and not to mention the vast array of terms associated with rope. Let’s try and simplify this process a bit. For the sake of keeping this short and sweet we’ll narrow it down to one manufacturer. Then we can talk about what products said manufacturer provides and which one you should choose for the various applications.
New England Ropes VPC
If money is tight, then let’s start with the priorities. Typically it’s; Halyards, then reef lines, then sheets, and then the rest of the line-up (in that order). When considering new halyards or reef lines, look for a strong, low stretch line. Halyards and reef lines don’t need to be especially free running with the exception of the spinnaker gear. Typically halyards want to be low stretch as they need to span long distances under load. A good choice for most cruising boat halyards is a product called New England Ropes VPC. It has Vectran/ Polyester blended core which provides the low stretch we are looking for and is reasonably priced. It also has a nicely braided Polyester cover which provides great protection from sun damage, chafe, and gives you a good ‘grip’.
New England Ropes Sta Set
For the spinnaker gear as well as the sheets or anything that requires an especially free running line, I recommend New England Ropes Sta-set. Sta Set is all Polyester, core and cover, which again does exceptionally well with U.V. and chafe resistance, as well as it runs freely, and has a nice soft feel. Although Sta-set has more stretch than VPC (preferred for spinnaker gear) it is not noticeable in the right applications ( for example jib sheets).
New England Ropes V100
If you are looking for a bit’ more performance you may want to look at New England Ropes Endura (Spectra Core) or V-100 (Vectran Core). These are very low stretch lines and offer the ability to strip the cover off as seen on many racing boats. If you do decide to taper your halyards (or strip the cover) for performance reasons, here are a few guidelines to maintaining them. First, make sure that they are tapered at the right length. Speaking as a former ‘mast man’, there is nothing worse than ‘bumping’ a halyard and right when you get to the last 3 feet or so (when it is the most difficult), you are trying to grab on to some thin and slippery core fibers. This is an expensive process and should be done properly or not at all.
New England Ropes Endura
Secondly, make sure that the rigger installs reeving eyes or soft eyes (or Flemish eyes….or necessary. Now that you haveremoved the lines, you can take them home and throw them in the laundry. Once washed, dried and de-tangled, it is recommended to coat any exposedpull eyes) on the end of the rope so that the halyards (or any lines that may require special reeving, i.e. reef lines) can be removed when the boat is not in use or replaced when core fibers (as found on stripped cover halyards) with a product called Yale MaxiJacket or the like. This will help provide protection from harmful U.V. rays and chafe. If you have never dealt with MaxiJacket before I would call a local rigger and ask for any tips on applying the coating, it can make quite a mess!
Tapered or Strip Cover Line
Keep in mind that there are other manufacturers out there which provide similar products to the ones we have just discussed. So take your pick, some of these other reputable names are Samson Ropes, Marlow Ropes, FSE Robline and Yale Cordage. Whether you are a racer, cruiser, or little bit of both, you should take the time to make sure that you have the right rope for the application. If you are a do-it-yourself-er, there is no shame in asking some questions. If money is tight focus on your priorities and save up for what’s ‘needed’. If you are going to hire a professional, don’t be scared to ask them about their process. Regardless of where you stand, take the time to make sure it is done right the first time and you will be able to worry about other things like, do we have enough beer, when should we ‘tack’, or how high is that bridge ;-0)
Read more about rope terminology here.