Simple ways to optimize running rigging

Published on December 6th, 2022

Erik Shampain explains how to select the right line for the right job with a few pro tips on shackles and tapers.

The wall of cordage at your local rigger can be intimidating, but showing up with an understanding of your needs will help your friendly rigger guide you in the right direction. There’s always the right line for the right application. Courtesy Erik Shampain

It’s easy to underestimate the benefits of good running rigging. There are many rope products on the market, and there is a time and a place for most of them. Let’s take a look at lines that need the most attention and why, as well as basic rules for using low-stretch line, using lightweight or tapered line where most beneficial and using rope that is easy to work with.

Let’s start up front with the headsail halyard. Luff tension greatly affects shape and thus performance of the jib or genoa, so having a halyard that is as low-stretch as possible is paramount. Saving a little weight aloft is also key, so find a lightweight rope as well.

It’s a little against the norm, but for club racing boats that aren’t tapering their halyards, I really like some of the Vectran-cored ropes. Products like Samson’s Validator and New England Ropes V-100 are easy on the hands and easy to splice.

For a little more grand-prixed tapered halyard, talk to your local rigger about using a DUX core, or other heat-set Dyneema, with a Technora-based cover. Lately, I’ve been using a lot of Marlow’s D12 MAX 78 and 99. Tapering the halyard saves weight aloft as well.

I like soft shackles for jib halyards. There, weight savings aloft generally outweighs the little extra time a bowman needs to attach the sail. This is especially true in sprit boats where the jib is rarely removed from the headstay.

Pro Tip: When not racing, use a halyard leader to pull the halyards to the top of the mast, getting the tapered section out of the sun. For extra protection, put all the halyard tails into an old duffle bag at the base of the mast when not in use. – Full report

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