Looking forward to the January Rigging Sale we have decided to do a number of blogs examining dreaded Halyard Slip. This problem effects nearly all sailors (unless you have a wing). The next few installments of the Stern Scoop will take a look into what issues cause the slipping and ways to remedy.
So you have a halyard that seems to slip? There are a number of factors we can look at to determine what the issue is...
First is to understand the difference between halyard stretch and halyard slip:
Halyard stretch is determined by several factors, but is strongly related to the material of the line you are using. An extreme example to visualize this would be to imagine a halyard made out of rubber shock cord. The halyard will stretch like crazy (or at least until it snaps). A more realistic comparison would be between a polyester line versus lines made out of “high-tech” materials such as Dyneema or Vectran, Technora or PBO.
Although polyester line stretches less than types of line that preceded it (hemp or nylon for example), it still stretches, relatively, more than new high tech materials. Polyester lines are less expensive but not necessarily the best option for someone who cares about performance. This is important in all conditions but is particularly important in windy conditions where loads are at their highest. You want to flatten the sail to de-power and need to have it be low stretch so it doesn't lose tension and bag out. Polyester would not be the best choice for cruisers who are either short-handed or don’t care to constantly mind the halyard tension, but also for racers who may not necessarily want to have someone leave the rail to adjust the halyard tension in the middle of a race.
Look forward to the second installment of the Halyard Slippage Series soon.