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  • #4352

    On my boat i secure the halyards on horn cleats that are mounted on the mast , i don’t have a jib tensioner appart from my muscles 😆 so i cleat the jib off as well as i can , and there is no sag in the luff , however as im sailing i notice that the jib starts to sag slightly , this could be due to a little bit of stretch in the rope , but i think that it might be slipping on the cleat .

    My boat is a fairly old-ish mk 2 and so i was wondering if the newer boats or just more updated boats had changed to cam or clam cleats ? And how successful these were , as it is i don’t see the horn cleats as being that effective for holding halyards , and im trying to think of a way to improve my current system .

    Any feedback would be much appreciated .


    Most boats use a system called a Highfield lever for exacting the tension on the jib, very simple to use and to adjust tension needed. On my boat I use my muscles to tension the main, after pulling the boom away from the gooseneck,ensuring the main is all the way up the mast to the band, tying off the halyard onto a mast cleat, then a final tensioning when i pull the boom down and back onto the gooseneck. There are a few articles around, I believe in the technical section, that discuss various methods. If you intend to sail then maybe a mast hook will be quicker for the main. You could ask a few sailors at the nearest sailing club for their advice, probably quicker to understand.

    Colin Parkstone

    A couple of things to watch out for,

    The main halyard will not always need to be pulled to the top band or the top of the luff groove as you may over tighten the luff of the sail , your looking for the luff to take a ‘Just soft from tight’ shape. No fold along the luff, just behind the mast groove.

    The genoa maybe going soft because the forstay is taking some of the weight, it should be loose and the genoa luff taking all the weight with the shrouds.

    If you find that the genoa has a fold behind the luff wire like the main above, you may have to unpick the ropes that bind the sail to the luff wire so that the sail can take a softer shape from the luff.

    Luff wires, luff bolt ropes and sails all stretch at differing rates and so over time you may want to adjust the tensions on them so as to give the sail a more friendly shape and a longer life.

    Did this to a mainsail boltrope at the club the other day, cut the lower end of the boltrope from the sail and let it ride up inside the pocket. Much better shape and the boom did not need to be sat on to get it on the gooseneck.

    You may find that some sailmakers have the boltrope over length at the lower end, thats so you do the above.


    A rope shouldn’t slip on a horn cleat, and a cam or clam cleat would not, IMHO, be any less prone to slippage.

    It’s perfectly possible to sail a W without using halyard tensioners. Position the foresail halyard cleat at a decent distance from the halyard exit and then you can ‘sweat up’ the tension pretty well.


    No Disgrace
    Thanks for your reply .I currently do sweat the foresail halyard to get the tension but it still seems to come looser whist sailing ? Maybe it is my halyard stretching then ? The problem i have with the horn cleat is that it seems very ‘clumsy’ for putting the halyard on , whereas in a cam or clam cleat it is one movement and then the rope is jammed ?


    Where did you buy your halyard?

    If like me you have bought rope cheap at boat-jumbles, you will know that you get what you pay for. I bought a lovely piece of 5mm rope that I thought was a Dyneema or Excell look-alike, only to find it had a fair degree of stretch and my bar-taut main halyard at the beginning of the sail was a floppy washing line after a couple of tacks. Excell and Dyneema are expensive for a reason, they do not stretch. Having bitten the bullet and bought the proper stuff, stretch is no longer a problem.

    Taking a leaf out of the Hartley book (seen at a show) I pop-rivetted a lacing eye with a small block onto the mast about 600mm above the sheave in the mast heel and self-tappered an open clamcleat about 150mm below that with the teeth arranged to resist a pull down. The main halyard exits the mast and, passing over the clamcleat rises over the block and then down to a horn cleat screwed to the tabernacle. For speed the main is pulled up with the halyard outside the clamcleat, then once it is getting tight I put the halyard under the hook of the cleat so that as I am pulling the sail up the cleat takes the load. I OXO it off on the horn cleat as an insurance just in case the teeth of the clam-cleat get blunt one day and slip.

    The genoa luff is tensioned using an 8:1 Excell cascade alongside the centreboard from a large deck loop screwed to the top of the centreboard casing. The front of the cascade has a steel hook that engages the loop on the end of the wire genoa halyard. The tail of the cascade passes under the thwart and is cleated to a cam cleat just behind the centre main block. Beads threaded onto the cascade save the centreboard and top of the casing from being scratched by the cascade blocks.

    I have experimented with triple blocks (like an un-cased muscle-box) instead of the the cascade but find that the resistance through the individual sheaves mean the blocks tend to twist out of line, is hard to de-tension and anyway, two triples are much more expensive than the three singles of my cascade.


    Thanks for your reply mike , I think that i have seen a similar system for the main on a different boat before .My halyards came with the boat (Not fitted replacements) but they look like pretty cheap braid so i might have a few jobs to do this winter .


    A picture is worth a thousand words:
    Cleat: Holt CL217MK1AN Starbord entry cleat.
    Block: Ronstan RF20101Single block.
    The white rope with red spiral band is the Dyneema halyard.

    I OXO it off on the horn cleat as an insurance just in case the teeth of the clam-cleat get blunt one day and slip.

    What if you need to take the sail down real quick? I think it is a safety feature to have the halyard in the clamcleat only. All it takes is one little tug and the sail comes down. And if you dont trust the cleat, why bother using it? When used with the the right sort of rope it will hold well. The horns won’t get blunt (they already are), it will hold the halyard for decades, unless you try to cleat steel wire in it that is.

    Colin Parkstone

    And move the ball at the head of the sail every now and then so as to not use the same part of the halyard in the cleat!

    Wayfarer Tip Number 3237 !!! 😉


    The other use for the horn cleat is to use it to sweat up the sail, taking a turn around it while making like Robin Hood on the 450 or so mm between the block and the cleat.

    Like friends, one can never have too many horn cleats…

    Actually, Swiebertje raises an interesting point in that if the main needs to come down in a hurry, how do others organise their halyards so that dropping the sail does not involve untangling a rat’s nest of rope? I loosley coil the halyards and tuck them into separate bags clipped to the bulkhead, but I always seems to end up with a tangle.

    Does anyone have a cunning plan?


    Thanks for all the feedback , i think i will be changing to that system for my main halyard this winter . A note on stopping tangles : 1. make sure that the halyard bags only have on rope in them .2. every so often pull the end of the halyard taught ( attach the top to the spi pole eye ) this will pull out and twists in the rope that might make it tangle . 3. Make sure that the rope is the minimum length it can be so that there is the least rope possible to tangle . these are only a few pointers but they do help .


    @wayfarer5560 wrote:

    Make sure that the rope is the minimum length

    When using Dyneema you want some excess length that allows you to cut of a bit at the top every now and then, as Colin explained earlier, to keep ahead of wear at the sheaves and cleat.

    To avoid tangles I throw the halyard in a bailer bucket that is stuck between the mast and the forward tank. I throw it in as it comes down, in my experience it is the neat coiling that causes tangling. If you throw it in as it comes down it should go up as it came down IMHO. I am quite satisfied with this solution but maybe someone can engineer a system with blocks and bungee, for those suffering from neatness compulsion, to take up the halyard below the floor boards ?


    In the past couple of weeks I have chaged from a wire main halyard with a hook-on rack to a dyneema halyard with a clam cleat. It works very well and is certainly less fiddly when hoisting the sail; but yesterday we were racing in a fresh breeze and I applied a lot of kicker. The main halyard slipped and the head of the sail dropped 4-6 inches from the black band. Has anyone else had this problem and does anyone have a solution for it? At the moment I am considering reverting to a wire halyard, which I shall fit at the end of the season (another month or so for me).

    John Hartley

    Colin Parkstone

    New rope may still have the working oil on it that is used when making the rope, give it awash and see what happens then!


    The halyard is actually a re-used 4mm spinnaker halyard, so not new. Might 5mm be better?

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