Has the time come to change rigging and do you want to abandon the old steel spiral, so elastic and a victim of elongation, and switch to textile? And again, have you decided to remake your sheets and halyards by taking advantage of the fact that technology has made great strides in recent years? We recommend that you continue reading.
Together with the technical offices of Armare and Gottifredi Maffioli., two of the most important companies internationally when it comes to ropes and rigging (suffice it to say that their products are aboard the America’s Cup catamarans Emirates Team New Zealand and Oracle, respectively), we will guide you in choosing the right material for both running and fixed rigging. Whether you want to “race” in regattas, or sail while making less effort in cruising.
CHARACTERISTICS ACCORDING TO USE
To begin with, let’s clarify the characteristics that cables and lines will need to have depending on where they will be used. As for the fixed rigging (shrouds and forestay), there will need to be a material that can offer the best stability under constant loads, with high modulus toughness. If you stretch the rigging, you will take really big structural risks. The halyards also have to withstand significant and stable loads for a long time; they suffer abrasion at the rubbing points of pulleys and diverters. They should not be stretched. The top of the rollafiocco always stays in the sun and is the one that gets the most wet with seawater. The important thing is that it remains soft over time and that the sock is weatherproof. Headsail sheets must withstand high and discontinuous loads. They must not stretch and must resist continuous abrasion caused by sliding between blocks and winches. The sock must be soft, since you maneuver it almost always with your bare hands, but it must also maintain a good grip on stopper and winch. The mainsail sheet bears a heavy load, but thanks to a series of hoists, it is usually well distributed over several points on the line. Since you never disarm, you should consider a sheet that will withstand weathering.
THE RIGHT HALYARD
Whether you own a fast racer-cruiser, or have a less “racer” boat but with which you intend to race, changing sail clearance from time to time, as far as genoa and mainsail halyards are concerned, the recommended material is Dyneema SK78 for the core and a good polyester sock: compared with a traditional polyester braid core, Dyneema provides better elongation resistance and much higher workload. “The polyester/cordura sock,” says Stefano Finco, general manager of Armare, “is very abrasion resistant and stable in stoppers because it creates an ideal grip, even in the latest generation of choke tubes.” The Dyneema core, adds Massimo Dell’Acqua of Gottifredi Maffioli, “allows halyards of smaller diameters to be fitted, with the same effectiveness, resulting in weight savings overall and at the top: this gives the boat greater stability. But be careful that a decrease in diameter (usually a 12 mm in polyester is equated with an 8 mm in Dyneema) will have to be matched by an upgrade of the stoppers.” For spinnakers, gennakers, and MPS-type sails, whose halyards are subjected to lower loads, the choice may fall on double polyester braid cores and without the pre-stretching, solutions that are slightly elastic but have lower costs.
SHEETS, SHEETS AND MORE SHEETS
Let’s move on to the sheets. Here, too, the combination of fibers can result in multiple solutions: for jib sheets and carrier sails, Dyneema SK78 core is still the best performing solution, given its light weight. “Modern headsails nowadays are increasingly stiff, and so they in turn need stiffer sheets,” explains Dell’Acqua, “so that they transmit all their power to the boat, minimizing dispersion. That’s what the stiffness of Dyneema is for. Plus, compared to a polyester line, it is much lighter and therefore weighs less on the jib and spi cleats as well, which is a key feature when sailing with little wind.”
The sock once again will be polyester, perhaps, Finco advises, “with the addition of black Technora. This is a popular sock because it is compact and resists winch abrasion even during fast maneuvers. The combination with the Dyneema core, a material that swells with use, will ensure that the shape of the line is maintained over time and prevent water absorption.” As for the mainsail sheet, for both the classic and German style circuits, the double polyester braid core continues to be a good solution since, as we have seen, the loads are distributed along the entire line due to the large number of chords.
TEXTILE RIGGING, WHY NOT?
It has long been predicted, and now it is really happening: textiles, as far as rigging and so-called standing rigging (fixed shrouds and forestay) are making inroads into the market, no longer just in the racing world. Textile fibers not only have advantages in weight but also in practicality. “You won’t have any more problems with rust or beating on deck,” Finco explains. Let’s start with the fixed rigging, shrouds and forestay. As anticipated, you will need a material that can resist elongation under constant load. This is where Kevlar and especially PBO (commercially known as Zylon) come in, which is distinguished by toughness, modulus, high abrasion resistance and remarkable stability under continuous tension. “After the initial elongation, it will not undergo further deformation,” says Matteo Micheli of Gottifredi Maffioli, “so it can replace a classic steel rod, which is much heavier. However, it has the disadvantage of being not very resistant to UV rays and humidity, and it also does not present any clues that would presage a possible breakage, so it needs constant monitoring.” According to Stefano Finco, “PBO rigging should be replaced every four to five years but, in fact, it easily lasts eight because the boats that mount it do not sail assiduously.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF TORSION CABLES
Turning to removable rigging (forestay, adjustable backstay and steering wheels), the choice still falls to Dyneema, in its most current configuration, the SK99. Explains Micheli, “This is a very reliable material, which also performs better in terms of deflection resistance, and is therefore suitable for rigging that is not under constant tension, such as flaps, foresail stays, and flywheels. It is even the almost ‘obligatory’ choice now when fitting Code 0-type shutters and the like. Torsion cables are required here: torsional capacity increases in direct proportion with the diameter of the line, and a Dyneema solution allows for a much larger diameter for the same weight compared to a traditional line.
You will have to be particularly careful, when installing the cable, to uncoil it properly, otherwise coils will form and, since these are unidirectional fiber cables, they will lose much of their effectiveness.” Also according to Finco, “torsional cables” have become very important: “For Armare that of torsion cables is a growing slice of the market: the advantages are enormous, because having a cable that wraps around the sail is much more practical than a traditional furler. What’s more, you can also have up to three sails with different cables and ready to use, which saves a lot of time in case of replacements. Our cables are made of PBO, Kevlar or Dyneema SK99 as needed.”