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Halyard Lines: How to Select the Best One
What is the best line for halyards?
It depends. For me as a racer, the best one would have zero elongation, tapered and the lightest available. While that may be true for racers, budget is also a factor. Let’s break it down into scenarios:
Since “flat is fast” or more comfortable while cruising, saving weight aloft is essential. Keeping your halyards to a minimum diameter is a must, as long as your rope clutches can keep a good grip on them.
For Racers: Preventing elongation is a key factor as you may want to set halyard tension to your desired luff curve (for headsails) or to keep the draft in a known position for the day, based on wind conditions.
For Cruisers: Over the last few decades, cruisers have needed to bump up their line size (diameter) to prevent their halyards from stretching; resulting in lines of a larger size, increased weight up the mast, and a need for larger clutches.
Polyester double braid: Are basically the default in the cruising world. Common names: New England Sta-Set and Samson XLS. Today, you can also add the FSE Sirius to the group as an alternative. All of these lines are good options but will stretch under load; requiring some adjustments or a need to increase the line diameter. Great on budget, but not recommended for racing. Common sizing: 8mm, 10mm and 12 mm.
Dyneema/Polyester Blend: Our choice for cruising and performance cruise (and even entry level racing boats). Common names: New England VPC - Vectran blend and Samson MLX (can be tapered), another option is the FSE Globe 5000. We feel that the weight-strength ratio of these modern lines, provide cruisers with an upgrade from the traditional polyester halyards. They save weight and allow some reduction in line size. Common sizing: 8mm and 10mm for most small and midsize cruisers and club racers, 12mm for large sailboats.
Dyneema Core lines: The way to go for racing halyards. Common names: New England Endurabraid and Samson Warpspeed. Our default set up is to tapper (remove the cover) to almost the whole height of the mast (with the sail up), leaving around 4 to 5 feet of cover on the upper end to protect the line from shaving against the sheave, a luggage tag (so shackles can be removed without cutting the splice) and if possible even removing the core on some portion of the tailing end. It is all about saving weight while having a line that will not stretch.
- Set marks on your halyards so the pit can reset (halyards tension) at every mark, if and when the changing wind conditions would require it.
- Do not leave tapered halyards exposed to the sun. You can "sky" them with a retrieving line. Protect your investment. In this case leaving tapered halyards exposed to days under the sun is not advised and will cause deterioration.
Cruising Halyards: Even though Polyester double braids are the default option, our recommendation is to upgrade to Dynnema/Polyester blend lines.
Racing Halyards: Dyneema Core lines.
Note: Always check your halyards in areas of contact with the rope clutch and sheaves to prevent constant damage.
Send us your comments and let us know about your experience with any Halyard Line!
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