Running Rigging Rope & Cordage What Type of Rope Meets Best Your Needs?
A line's performance is proportional to its inherent characteristics of strength, stretch, handling and chafe/abrasion resistance. The desired attributes for a given application are achieved by combining the proper fiber or fibers with the appropriate construction technique. Today we use fibers such as nylon, polyester, Technora, Spectra, and Vectran in combination with a laid (twisted), braided, or parallel core construction to perform the varied functions required by yachtsmen. Before selecting a line, it is important to know how to recognize quality when comparing products; it can be difficult to distinguish the quality or type of fiber used. However, an examination of the finished product's construction can help predict performance.



When selecting braided ropes, look for these characteristics:

  • Rope should be firm enough to resist chafe, snagging and wear but flexible for easy handling and splicing.
  • The yarns and strands should lay smoothly and uniformly in the rope so they will work together and wear evenly. Unevenness can be detected by sighting down the rope. If it appears wavy or uneven, don't buy it.
  • The amount of direction of twist in the yarns is essential for top performance in a braid. Look at the individual yarns that make up each strand. Well rounded yarns resist snagging and wear better than flat yarns.
  • Most braids have an inner core with an outer jacket. As the line is used and flexed, the core may tend to work its way thorough the outer jacket resulting in a "hernia." Grip the rope with your thumbs facing one another about 2" apart and violently flex the section between your thumbs a dozen or more times. If the jacket opens and exposes the core, it is approaching herniation.
  • The inner core should lay evenly in the jacket. Lightly grip the rope and run it through your hands. You don't want it if it is "lumpy", or soft. The rope should feel firm and round.
  • The rope should be heat stabilized to precondition it and keep shrinking and hardening to a minimum.



When selecting 3-strand rope look for the following characteristics:

  • Rope should be firm but flexible. A firm rope resists chafe, snagging and wear, and also prevents hockling or kinking. Test the rope by flexing it a bit. It should require effort to open the lay of the rope for inserting the first tuck of a splice. The effort is light for a small size such as 1/4" and great for 5/8" or 3/4". If it opens easily, it's too soft, and will not last.
  • The 3-strands should lay smoothly and uniformly within the rope so they all work together and wear evenly. Sight down a length. If it appears slightly "wavy" and uneven, there is a high or low strand and the rope is "out of lay." Don't buy it.
  • Nylon and Polyester (Dacron) fibers are very fine (smaller than a human air) and, therefore, fragile. Consequently, they should be laid into a rope with sufficient twist in the yarns and strands to form a round, firm, balanced structure that resists snagging and wear. Push your thumbnail into the strand. It should not be soft and punky.
  • The rope should be heat stabilized to precondition the rope and keep shrinking and hardening to a minimum.
  • Most elastic of all fibers.
  • High stretch and strength.
  • Minimal strength loss when exposed to sunlight.
  • Ideal for use where stretch and energy absorption are important, such as in dock-and-anchor lines.
  • Low stretch fiber.
  • Very good abrasion resistance wet or dry.
  • Excellent weathering characteristics.
  • Spun Polyester is fuzzy. Filament Polyester is smooth.
  • Good choice for running rigging requiring moderate to low stretch, good durability and a nice feel.
  • Often referred to as Dacron, a DuPont trade name.
  • Light weight and minimal stretch.
  • Floats.
  • Very susceptible to UV degradation.
  • Melts under high friction
  • Highest strength aramid fiber.
  • Very low stretch.
  • Subject to fatigue if cycled over small radius.
  • Does not creep under normal loads.
  • Black version has superior resistance to UV degradation.
  • Ideal for low stretch running rigging, such as halyards.
  • Very high strength and very low stretch.
  • Light weight; will not absorb water.
  • Low melting point. Susceptible to friction.
  • Very slippery.
  • "Creeps" - gets longer under sustained load.
  • Ideal for low stretch running rigging requiring light weight.
  • Liquid Crystal Polymer fiber.
  • Very high strength.
  • Extremely low stretch.
  • Zero creep.
  • Low water absorption.
  • Good resistance to "Flex Fatigue".
  • Ideal for low stretch running rigging on competitive race boats and mega-yachts.
Technora and Spectra are high-tech fibers whose characteristics of very high strength and very low stretch makes them ideal for running rigging. New England Ropes has made ropes with 100 percent Spectra or 100 percent Technora cores, but recognizes that each has its shortcomings. Careful blending of these fibers yields improved performance. The super slippery Spectra lubricates Technora fibers for longer service life. Technora prevents creep and core slippage associated with Spectra. Special processing techniques control the fiber distribution and tension during and after the blending process. The result is the best performing yachting rope available.
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