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Old 08-14-2001
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Wire-Rope Halyards

I have a 30-foot sailboat and cruise up to 10 miles offshore, but mostly in a large sound. What's the feeling regarding wire-to-rope spliced halyards versus all-rope halyards for this type of sailing?

Tom Wood responds:
Wire-to-rope halyards used to be the style of choice for most racing boats, and some cruiser-racers as well, because the wire stretched so much less than the ropes available at the time. Now that Kevlar, Spectra, Vectran, and other new lines with blended cores approach zero stretch, this advantage is much less important than in previous years.

Other than their low stretch, wire-to-rope halyards have some disadvantages that make all-rope halyards more desirable. Wire-to-rope splicing is still a rigger's art, and is accordingly expensive. The wire and rope portions both need to be precisely the right length so that the wire has a few turns on the winch drum at full hoist—if the end of the wire frays, you can't just trim a few feet off and have a good halyard. Then the splice comes under full load when reefed, just when you want full strength. Wire also tears up winch drums, especially anodized aluminum. And when the wire begins to fail, it often forms "fishhooks," which are broken strands of wire that stick out to grab the unwary hand.

But don't rush out to change to all-rope halyards without checking your masthead sheaves first. If the sheaves have a deep score to hold the wire, this will chew up a new all-rope halyard in no time. New sheaves are inexpensive and usually easy to replace. Just call the SailNet Spar and Rigging Shops at 1-800-234-3220 for the right halyard and sheaves. Good luck.


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