Latest News: Forums Technical Main Halyard

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  • #4511


    The main halyard on Bobbin is the usual wire/rope running through the mast track. When I come to take the sail down the join in the halyard does not easily come through the pulley in the mast. There is a unused pulley underneath the double for main and genoa (pics to come) that looks to be for the spinnaker halyard but I am not sure. Also I have a second highfield lever to take the mainsail up to the top black band on the mast. When we took her out on Saturday it took a while to get the sail down, am I doing something wrong?



    NO, you are doing nothing wrong. However, if you need a lever to top the sail there is something wrong with your sail. My guess is you have old sails and the bolt rope has shrunk. To solve this take the stitches out that fix the bolt rope at clew, let it slide up until you can hoist the sail without significant tension all the way up to the black band. Then re-attach the bolt rope with some new stitches a little higher up the luff. Today most sailmakers deliver their sails with some extra length of bolt rope to allow for shrinkage. If your sail does not have the extra length, don’t worry as long as the bolt rope is less then a foot short. if it is more then a foot short, you could add some new bolt rope to the lower part of the luff and stitch both it’s ends to the sail. The two parts of rope don’t need to be connected as long as their bitter ends are stitched to the sail.

    There should be no or very little tension on the luff for a nice, deep, low winds sail trim. Or as Mike Mac puts it: leave those speed wrinkles in the luff. If luff tension is needed we use our Cunningham hole and purchase to do it. I have avoided the bolt rope issue all together by ordering my sails with bungee cord instead of bolt rope :mrgreen:

    Now, if you are not going to tension your luff, why bother with steel wire? Do as most of us do and replace it with 4mm Dyneema rope. That also avoids the eye/splice/knot half-way up the halyard. Dyneema is just as strong as steel and has very little stretch but it does wear on the sheaves, whereas steel wire wears the sheaves! Because Dyneema wears we tend to buy our halyards three or four foot too long. That allows us to cut off four inches of the top every six months or so to force another part of the halyard on the sheaves and cleats. That way it should last as long as a steel wire halyard.

    Normal luff tension should allow you to get rid of the finger breaker (highfield lever) and a Dyneema halyard allows the use of a simple clam-cleat. When positioned on the mast below a block it auto cleats the halyard while hoisting. The halyard comes out the bottom sheave, goes straight up along the mast, through the clam-cleat and then through a (flip) block that allows you to pull in any direction.
    The picture above shows my set-up with the halyard clam-cleat hiding behind the compass bracket. Above it is a small block that allows me to pull in any direction. The white striped line is the Dyneema main halyard.

    What I have described above is nothing new, most of us have a set-up similar to this and all new MK-IV boats are delivered standard with this main halyard set-up. Steel main halyards are a thing of the past, from before Dyneema was invented.

    Please note that the above does not apply to the Genoa halyard. The Genoa halyard is heavily tensioned and hence needs to meet different criterions.

    Colin Parkstone

    George, sounds like you have an older mast with halyards going up the luff groove.
    If you are hoisting or lowering the sail with Genoa tension on, the prebend in the mast will hold up the sails progress up the mast.
    Try hoisting with the tension OFF and see if the sail goes up and down better.
    Candle wax or sail spray on the bolt rope may help 🙂


    Thanks for the advice. The mast is the older type with the luff groove. I am going to have a go with genoa down etc. Definitly going to change to all rope halyard. I don’t think it’s a problem with the sail as I have tried it with more than one and they all have the same problem. Maybe something in the way in the mast track?

    Dave Barker

    I might be tempted to treat myself to 5mm dyneema – my crew wouldn’t thank me if I chose the 3mm stuff!

    Colin Parkstone

    Think hard about the 5mm rope, in some cases its to thick and I think its a bit of an overkill as the 4mm has enough strength and will go down the holes a bit better.
    Yes your need a good size cleat for it but 4mm will turn round a horn cleat if you like the things, They have a liking to grab wayward ropes and jam them when you dont want them to but they do have a place on a boat as long as its out the way!


    I changed from 5mm dyneema down to 4mm, much better in almost every way.

    Dave Barker

    I’ll have to give the 4mm a try.

    My concern is that there isn’t much “spare” thickness for abrasion allowance, but if it runs more smoothly and we keep an eye on it (for wear) it might well be an improvement.

    Colin Parkstone

    Move the knot at the sail end after a while so the rope will not lay on the pulleys in the same place each time the sail is hoisted.
    Do not cut the halyard as you can after a few seasons turn the whole rope in the mast and use the cleat end at the masthead.


    The only damage I’ve noticed on the 4mm halyard is where it had chafed on the spreaders whilst the boat was stored with the mast up. The design of my adjustable spreaders seems almost perfect for gnawing through a taut rope!
    Many ways around this- lead the halyard round the front of the mast first, don’t make it off so tight, make it off further aft in the boat, tie on a messenger and haul that to the masthead… (this also saves your halyard from UV).


    That is a brilliant and elegantly simple idea, why didn’t I think of that?

    By tying a messenger rope and pulling the halyard all the way to the top of the mast my expensive Dyneema won’t go green and crunchy in the boat park. If this was Facebook I would “Like” that.

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