Boat Rope

YAle double braid ropeThe vast U.S. cordage market allows us to have several competitive options including; Robline, New EnglandSamsonYale, and Marlow Ropes, just to name a few. Each one of these manufacturers provide various rope constructions utilizing different materials to allow the consumer to achieve different functions based on application. All of the jargon like Spectra, Dyneema, Vectran, Kevlar, Technora, Dacron, Double Braid, Single Braid, and Three Strand, can be quite confusing sometimes. Let’s see if we can’t help explain some of the basic differences.

Rope Fibers:

Dacron is another registered trade name for Polyester. Its characteristics are; it’s extremely U.V. stable, chafe resistant, pseudo moisture absorbent, and a little stretchy (comparatively speaking), but soft in the hand and tends to run very freely depending on its construction.

New England Ropes Double Braid

Technora, basically Kevlar‘s replacement, comes from the Aramid family. This fiber is more stable in a U.V. environment than Kevlar (although, it would not be my first choice for U.V. resistance), it is susceptible to chafe, it does not absorb moisture, it is extremely low stretch, and is fairly heat resistant, but it does get stiff and rigid after heavy loading.

Spectra and Dyneema (synonymous products but different trade names) have more use in a wide array of applications. Spectra (or Dyneema) does not absorb water, is very strong, is very chafe resistant, and has a fair U.V. stabilization, it is also very low stretch, but is sensitive to excessive heat. This line material tends to stay more supple than Technora or Vectran, but is never quite as soft as Polyester.

Finally, we have Vectran Samson Ropes Single Braid Linewhich has combined some of the features of both Spectra and Technora. Vectran offers better heat resistance than Spectra and also lower elongation. Although fairly chafe resistant, this fiber will tend to be a bit more rigid than Spectra when loaded  and offers very little U.V. stabilization.

Rope Construction:

marlow ropesDouble Braid, the most common type of rope construction in today’s sailboat market, is a two-part braided  line, one part cover and one part core. Double braid line usually will have a polyester cover and a core made from either Dacron, Spectra, Vectran, Technora, or some sort of blend thereof. It is also possible to find blended and exotic covers. This is becoming more and more popular and Marlow Ropes is leading the charge in this department.

A Single Braid is typically a twelve strand braided line. This construction can typically be found in the core of a double braided line. Single braids can be coated to add U.V stabilization if necessary. Typically single braids are not good to put your hands on because they have a small diameter relative to their load capacity and can be slippery.

Lastly, Three Strand ropes are the more traditional looking right-hand-lain or twisted ropes that we will hardly use anymore in modern applications, unless it is for dock lines at which point Nylon becomes the preferred material due it’s elasticity, strength, chafe resistance and ultra high U.V. stabilization.

The way a rope is constructed, not just its material, plays a big part in how a rope performs, parallel fibers (like that found in New England Ropes Sta Set X) typically stretch the least, braided fibers usually provide some stretch or elasticity, and three strand line usually ends up being very stretchy and has a very elastic effect.

Hopefully this clears up at least a little of the technical jargon associated with rope. To find out what is the best product for your application needs please see your local rigger. You can read more about rope selection and maintenance here.

Leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you.

Click on any a picture to link to manufacturers’ websites for more info.

5 thoughts on “Boat Rope

  1. Dear Sirs
    I have been searching internet for information on how the rope is changed by different kinds of mantel braiding, and unfortunately I have not found any information. So I should like you to reference some information about that. Or perhaps make somebody write about it. I know of this:

    The braid can be (I hope this translation from Danish is correct):
    cross braid
    round braid
    spiral braid

    There can typically be from 6 to 32 strands in each braid. The strands may be having one, two or three parallel strands side by side. The strands can be Z-laid or S-laid.

    The braid can be made loose or hard.

    What do all these constructions details do to the rope behavior?
    Such as flexibility, strength, hand grip, bending diameter.

    1. Thanks for asking all good questions, but I am afraid this is better suited for a rope manufacturer. Because I am also interested in the differences I have submitted your comment to the experts at New England Ropes/ Teufelberger. Let’s see what they say…


      1. Thanks for you reply. I look forward to an expert answer.

        I did found a little more information. I think the English names of the main three used mantel braiding kinds are:

        plain braid
        twill braid
        solid braid

        And I got this reference to Handbook of Fibre Rope Technology

        But even this Handbook do not explain if plain braid or twill braid makes any difference to a rope.

  2. I would find an accurate description and discussion of rope CONSTRUCTION, including a definitive description of non-cored, PLAIT (8 strand or other plaits) to be a helpful supplement to your note above. I tried to describe (without diagrams) to a ‘mate the combines use of Z and S laid strands in plaited constructions, and their relative merits for specific uses (such as docking and mooring) – but he remained somewhat unconvinced. Illustrations or diagrams would be useful too! Thanks advance… Wesley

    1. Thanks for the comment. It sounds like you need to be a guest blogger! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to write some of this down and send it this way. I feel like I need to learn more about different rope construction and it’s preferred uses.

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