Running Rigging Guide

With so many different types of running rigging to choose from, picking the best rope lines for your boat can be a bit overwhelming. Many boat owners base their choice on price, but there are many other factors to consider to ensure you get running rigging that will work well, stand the test of time and deliver good value for money.

Most modern marine ropes are made up of two parts; the core, which takes the load, and a jacket or cover which protects the core from abrasion, heat and UV damage. When choosing the core and jacket/cover, you should strive for the best combination of strength, stretch, durability, grip, firmness, diameter, weight and cost, dependent on the intended use of the rope.

Here, we guide you through the factors that you need to consider when choosing the best rope for your sailing activities…

Running Rigging - Rope - Advanced Rigging


The most obvious thing to consider when buying rope is its strength in relation to the loads that it will be subjected to. Whether you are enjoying a relaxing cruise or racing, you need to be confident that your running rigging will not fail. Most lines will come with a breaking load point and you should always choose something that will deliver more than the intended working load of the line. You should also be careful not to over spec the strength of your rope as you will limit other characteristics such as diameter, stretch and firmness.


Another important factor is how much the rope might stretch when under load. If the rope has a high stretch factor, sail settings will vary according to the ever changing wind strength and the pressure on the sail. So, if you are racing, a low stretch factor will be crucial, but if you are cruising, the stretch factor might be less important. Ropes with a low stretch factor tend to be more expensive and less resistant to UV damage and abrasion, so you have to weigh up your priorities depending on the type of sailing you want to do. You’ll also find that it’s acceptable to have a little bit more stretch in your jib and spinnaker lines than in your halyards where line tension is more important, especially for racing yachts and for furled sails.


It is the cover or jacket that will determine how well your rope will last and it’s important to consider what the rope will be used for when choosing the jacket. There have been many advances in jacket technology over the years and there are plenty of different coatings and blends of heat and abrasion resistant fibres that you can choose from depending on your budget and how much friction the line is likely to be exposed to. Due to the frequent use of winches and clutches on high performance race boats, they will usually use a blend of aramid fibres such as Kevlar or Vectran that have strong heat resistant properties.


Grip is also a very important factor. Making sure that the rope will stay on the winch or hold in a clutch is vital. Equally, this needs to be balanced with having a line that will run freely, especially up and down masts and along booms and spars. It’s also a good idea to consider how a rope might perform in the hands of a crew member who is trimming or hoisting a sail.


The firmness of a rope is usually determined by its construction. A firm, high strand braided rope with a more uniform shape is beneficial where a line will be exposed to lots of friction from winches, clutches, cleats or sheaves and should last longer than a rope with a loose structure. However, you may still need an element of flexibility in the rope and sometimes a looser construction can result in a higher breaking point.


Matching the rope width to your deck gear is paramount. Having a halyard that is too thin for your clutches will cause it to slip and chafe over time. On the other hand, a rope that is too thick may not run freely and may also be damaged by abrasion.


For top race boats, keeping their boat as light as possible is integral to their performance, so they will always opt for the best weight to strength ratio possible and sometimes they will even forgo the rope cover to make weight savings. This lack of cover also has the added benefit of less friction, less water absorption and easier splicing, but there is a higher risk of UV damage, chafing and slipping in cleats and clutches so care needs to be taken to make sure the rope will not easily deteriorate as a result.


As with most things, price is one of the biggest influencing factors when selecting your rope. Typically, the high strength, low stretch and lightweight ropes will be more expensive where-as the higher stretch, heavier and less durable lines will cost less.

Find Out More

As you can see, there are many factors you need to consider when choosing the best rope for your boat and it can be very confusing if you’re not sure what you need. However, help is at hand and it is prudent to seek advice from your local rigger who will be able to suggest the best options for your budget, yacht and style of sailing.

For more advice on the best rope solutions for your boat contact the Advanced Rigging team – Call +44 02380 454 280 or email [email protected]