Halyards are used to hoist and lower sails on board a boat. They can be all rope, all wire or a combination of both.
Typically, the halyards are worked and secured up inside the mast to a sheave above the desired hoist height. The line then exits the sheave and returns to deck level outside the mast.
Sailboat halyard ropes are made from nylon. Nylon is a good choice for halyards as it is strong, durable, and resistant to water and UV rays.
Nylon is also resistant to abrasion, making it suitable for rigging and flag flying. You can find it in a variety of lengths from 50 ft to 100 ft.
A halyard is a line that leads from the mast base back to the sail. It can be a single rope or a combination of wire and rope spliced together.
Halyards are used for hoisting and trimming sails. They are usually led from the mast base to a sheave or turning point above the desired hoist height of the sail, and then they return to deck level outside of the mast.
The strength of a halyard is largely determined by its diameter and the fibers used to make it. For example, a 3mm V-12 single braid has a Breaking Strength of 2,100 pounds.
Dacron is a polyester rope that’s often used for sailboat halyards, sheets, and control lines. It’s cost-efficient, strong, and resists UV degradation.
High-stretch synthetic halyards have long been a fad, and they’ve helped some cruising sailors achieve better results with their sails. But they also cost more than lower-stretch Dacron.
The amount of stretch a halyard can tolerate depends on the type and size of the sail. For example, a Genoa sheet needs more stretch than a roller-furling jib.
Ideally, a halyard should be as light as possible to reduce weight aloft. This will help your boat sail more efficiently and make it easier to control the sail when you’re at sea.
If your rig is set up to use wire halyards, consider replacing them with wire-free or rope halyards. These are typically more durable and will last longer than wire halyards, which are susceptible to damage from sharp edges.
Polyester is a common choice for sailboat halyard rope because it is durable, relatively inexpensive and provides a low stretch. It also resists UV degradation well and is less prone to chafe than other types of marine rope.
If you have a larger cruising vessel, you may want to upgrade your polyester sailboat halyard rope with a blended double-braid Vectran(r) or Spectra(r) line for greater strength and load capacity. This is especially true if you have a lot of permanently hoisted sheets or halyards on board.
High-tech fibers are available in both double-braid cores and covers, including Technora, Vectran, Kevlar and Stirotex. These fibers are strong and stretch little, so you can use thinner diameters than you would with a traditional high-tech polyester.
For club racing sailors, big-breaking strengths and ultra-low stretch are important for halyards. For family cruisers or daysailors, the amount of stretch you tolerate depends on what type of sailing you do and what sails you fly.
A polypropylene sailboat halyard rope is a great option for light sheets, spinnaker jibs, dinghies and day boats. It’s rot-proof and floats, so it can withstand a lot of water and is easy to handle.
Polyester (Dacron): For decades, polyester has been the go-to rope for cruising-boat halyards and sheets. It’s cost-efficient, strong, and resists ultraviolet radiation.
Depending on the application, you can choose a rope with a moderate amount of stretch or a low-stretch, high-modulus material. Racing sailors flying Dacron sails that don’t stretch may prefer a low-stretch line, while family cruisers or daysailers flying Dacron sails that do need more durability and resistance to UV light exposure should consider a higher-modulus line.
As with any rigging upgrade, you should do your research before making a purchase. In addition to dollars and stretch, look for abrasion resistance and ease of splicing.