Racing Ropes and Rigging

edited September 2 in Sailing Webinars

If you're a sailboat racer, you need running rigging you can count on. There are a lot of ropes out there and choosing the right one can be overwhelming. We're here to help narrow down your selection.

If you have any tips or tricks on racing ropes and rigging to share, comment below!


  • Great information and very well done! 🙌

  • I love all race boats no matter how they are powered but I have a special place in my heart for racing with the wind. Rope durability is crucial in a long race. Safety is another big factor in rigging and racing. I prefer soft shackles in my sails because of the safety factor and the ease of use. I was concerned about durability when I first witched to soft shackles but after a few years of use, I wish I had switched over much sooner. Another factor not to be overlooked is line inspection. 12 strand Dyneema with or without a cover should make up the majority of your lines. Light, responsive, and stiff contribute to the qualities of a good race rope.

    Rapid-fire hoists, drops and sheeting can create a lot of heat and friction in a line which is the number one reason for failure. Heat damage should be inspected often. Check for consistency in your lines. Heat frictional forces can be very destructive.

  • All lines age and succumb to wear and tear. One trick I learned that helps me gain another year or two out of certain lines like cruising sheets and control lines. I have several anchor rode mesh bags that I can place the lines into and wash several at a time in my washing machine. I wash the lines in cold water using a lot of fabric softener. I then hang my lines out to air dry. The mesh bags are key to prevent a huge mess of knots. Just make sure to spec your lines so you know when it is the appropriate time to retire them.

  • Don't push line through your rope clutch anymore. Not only can it be difficult, but pretty funny to watch as a spectator. Instead of struggling to push your line through the cams and body of the clutch, use a piece of seizing wire. Bend a hook in the end of the wire and push the stiff wire through the clutch. Its much easier. Hook the wire through your reeving eye or if you don't have a reeving eye, hook through the jacket. Pull the wire straight through the clutch and don't worry so much about giving everyone on board a show of your struggles.

  • Break in those new lines! New lines are typically pretty slick because of a chemical treatment called sizing. This is applied to new lines to make constructing and splicing easier. To remove the sizing for grip, soak the new lines in hot water and rinse several times. New double braid line tends to slip in cleats. Combat this slippage with some 400 grit sandpaper and a few very light passes to give the line a little more grip where needed.

  • I had the West Marine custom shop make me some custom soft shackles to match. These replaced all of my stainless fittings and saved a considerable amount of weight. They have no corrosion issues, are easy to install and best of all they float! We decided to use 12 strand Dyneema. They are 15x stronger than their steel counterparts. Use soft shackles for sheets, halyards, block attachment and gates.

  • I recently had custom lines made and they offered a great suggestion to use glow-in-the-dark markers wound into the covers. This was done in certain spans of specified lines for quick identification. You can use this technique on all your halyards and sheets or just select a few control lines for faster identification in low light situations. These marks can be woven into the cover at a pre-determined location of the rope. This eliminates the need for tied on markers, tape or whippings. They are specific to each line and are there to stay. Might be a bit overkill for some but the details are what set rigging apart.

  • I clean my lines often and use a bucket of warm water and mild dish soap. Laundry detergent worries me because many of those chemicals used can actually break down the micro-plastics. I use my hands and gently massage each line. This also gives me the time and touch to inspect every inch of my lines personally. I rinse in another bucket of cool, clean water and allow the lines to air dry without overlapping each other. I would avoid using a washing machine if it has one of those abrasive agitators in the center. Gentle cycles and mild soaps only if you are using a machine.

  • When inspecting your rigging, your turnbuckles, etc. Always start at the bottom and work your way up. Never climb a mast without inspecting the bottom first. Point heads of your cotter pins and clevis pins facing up when applicable. Never push your ropes beyond their normal life cycle. If you see a fray or wear, don't be too stubborn to replace it before sailing. If your rope is as stiff as a wire, it's time to retire.

    Cool pfa!

  • Steel or Dyneema rigging? Aside from longevity and miles sailed, what other benefits or drawbacks can I expect. My main concern is chafing. If something does start to chafe, do you need to replace other synthetic rigging at the same time? For instance, when I have to change my headstay, do I need to change out other rigging to keep it the same age? I understand that I can use some chafe sleeve in the majority of these situations but what if the boat is trailered every now and then and have to step the mast a few times a year. There is a lot of risk for chafing during stepping and unstepping and a chafe sleeve won't help in that situation.

  • You might be a sailor when even your extension cords at home are coiled like this...

  • @3Sheets2TheWind Synthetic rigging is becoming more and more common these days. 1 x 19 stainless is the most common wire rigging used today and it definitely has some advantages and disadvantages over synthetic rigging lines. The weight of stainless rigging over synthetic is one drastic difference. If you are a "weight wienie", synthetic is going to hold more value than the abrasion resistance of stainless. You will notice 60-80% in weight savings by using synthetic. When talking about comparable sizing, tensile breaking strengths are also 10-50% higher. The low stretch characteristics are as good as anything on the market. While you can utilize chafe sleeves and other methods of protecting your synthetic lines, they are no match for the durability that stainless lines offer. The cost is also much more with synthetic rigging and you may have to re-tune your rigging after a year or two of installation depending on the conditions you put your sails in.

    Take a look at this West Advisor article on stainless rigging and "weigh" your options.

  • There are a lot of factors to take into consideration when selecting the right rigging for your sailboat. Choices seem endless and the differences in performance and durability are vast. Take a look at this article on line choice, line construction and line characteristics that will best suit your needs and your budget. Rigging is one of the most important factors to consider on a sailboat even though it is just one small but significant piece of the puzzle.

  • If you have ultra light sails, the weight of your lines can have a negative effect on how easily your sails fill when there's not much wind. If you are looking to upgrade your spinnaker sheet or your halyard, consider using viper line without a jacket and soft shackles to keep your sails full with minimal wind.

  • I’ve replaced rigging multiple times because it has lived its normal use life, but the failures I've experienced deserve to be noted:

    Toggles made out of bent stainless. I’ve had a few crack and snap mid-bend, stressed by rigging that was a bit too slack.

    Coated lifelines, to me, are a risk factor, coated water stays and shrouds are a headache. So far, I’ve had two fail, luckily with no more harm than a runaway reacher. I am not a fan of coated rigging.

    Wire halyard sprouted hooks. This resulted in a jammed head block, I couldn't lower the main and had to climb...

    The Safety wire snapped and the Moused U-bolt pin backed out. This was probably due to over-stressing during instal.

    Dyneema is awesome, but keep a close eye on the age as well as the condition. I had a shroud tensioner snap with did not result in dismasting luckily. The cause was most likely age, even though it should have been rated at 20 times the required strength. Perhaps there was a chafe I missed. I've read that minor issues can result in failure when signs of wear are difficult to spot.

  • I'm very new to sailing and this is awesome info for me. Different line specs are very overwhelming so I am soaking it in everything I can find. Just wanted to say thank you!

  • For anyone wondering how to put an eye splice in Dyneema line, class 2. Whatever the diameter is, multiply that by 72. That is the amount you need to bury for a class 2 eye splice. You will need a set of fids. I'll link mine below as well as a how to video I found that walks you through it.

    This is for a möbius brummel splice in Dyneema and it is incredibly strong no matter if there is tension or not.

  • @Come_Sail_Away Take a look at this 12 strand splice on a 50,000 lb tow line! After watching your video I was pretty surprised to see the threading technique to secure the bury.

  • Why do boaters always find good deals?

    They love a good sail....

  • Here are great tips on how to choose the right Halyard for your boat. I picked a double-braid polyester Halyard in a bag from West Marine and they shipped it to my door. Came pre-spliced and ready to pull through. It took no time at all.

  • @WindSeeker Best joke I've heard all day... hahah thanks!

  • @3Sheets2TheWind Here is an awesome video explaining the benefits of switching to synthetic rigging. The weight is a huge factor. You can carry enough rigging to completely re-rig the entire boat if needed and still be under weight of most non-synthetic rigging options. It also reduces the weight of loft which reduces the heeling of the boat. The biggest deficiency behind synthetic rigging is that it expands and contracts during hot and cold weather. Cold weather sailing may leave your rigging slack. You need to be aware of that and not stress your rigging. Aside from stretch, you need to be concerned about chafing. As long as you keep inspecting your rigging for chafe, you will stay ahead of your stays breaking. It is much easier to inspect synthetic rigging. Take a look at this video. It's very detailed but very informative.

  • Helpful tip of the day. Inspect your rigging often! Whoops.

  • edited November 23

    An excellent discussion full of some great tips! We are replacing our rigging next year and I think It's time for an upgrade. This is giving me a new outlook on synthetic.

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