Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Equiplite NSM Connectors

I expect a lot of people are familiar with Equiplite's soft shackles. For a while now they've been making a number of different lightweight, super strong shackles and blocks. The most commonly used ones in my experience are their J-lock style non-swiveling connectors. They function just like a J-lock but they don't bang up the rigging and they weight much less.

Now Equiplite has come out with a line of non-swiveling connectors with an eye at the racer/cruiser market for whom cost is a factor and the working loads tend to be less extreme. These NSM connectors (I don't actually know what NSM stands for I imagine it's non-swiveling molded but Ian is insisting it's "not so mucho") feature a molded plastic thimble that the sheet splices to instead of the aluminum one found on the standard high load model.

Basically you splice your line around the thimble - you need a pretty tight splice or it will come off when flogging - and then pass the Dyneema loop through the grommet / ring and hook it around the small end of the thimble. The Velcro is only there to keep the shackle from coming apart when it's not under load.

The main advantage of the new shackles is that they are much cheaper than their higher load brethren. Equiplite says these are to only be used with covered lines. I don't think that's really the case, you could certainly use them with an uncovered line, but their point is that they're not that strong.

You shouldn't expect to take a 3/8 or 7/16" jib sheet on a boat like a Farr 395 and strip the cover off the end and splice to this and expect it to hold. You'd likely be using a 5/16" shackle and while we've installed the high load ones for that application these new NSM shackles just wouldn't be strong enough.

I've put together a chart comparing the NSM and standard Equiplite J-lock style shackles in terms of their working loads and cost.

Line DiameterWorking Load (lbs) Price
Standard
NSM
Standard
NSM
6 mm (1/4") 5,000 880 $110.50 $46.80
8 mm (5/16") 5,000 2,200 $115.70 $62.40
10 mm (3/8") 6,600 3,100 $128.70 $76.70
12 mm (1/2") 10,000 4,000 $178.75 $98.80
14 mm (9/16") 13,500 5,300 $184.25 $126.10


As you can see these new connectors are a lot cheaper but you sacrifice a lot of strength. My impression from talking to our Equiplite rep is that they haven't tested the full limits of these and obviously aren't going around recommending them on go fast race boats that are pushing the limits of weight and strength.

For a racer/cruiser who is looking for a jib sheet shackle that won't break the bank and won't scratch up their rig - I think this is a very viable option. As long as you are careful about the loads involved and don't try to minimize the size these new NSM connectors should work great.

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