Running Rigging for Sailboats-Top 7 Essential Sail Lines

Ok, so you just finished your first outing at sea and your are completely confused as to why you heard the helmsman / captain scream out rope, line, cable , chord, sheet and they all seem to mean different things! I've got good news. These terms can typically be used interchangeably. Sheet is typically the line/rope that helps to control the functionality of the jib or mainsails. Otherwise you are clear to use any one you wish to use at any point and you will not be in the wrong. These terms have, overtime given way to classify the functions easier and so we have designated certain words to really just mean the same nautical hub-bub.

Rope is typically used as to describe the material of certain line but, again it is cemantics. With that being said, we have listed sailing rope that we have found to be the best on the market today. Under each review we give a "Best Use" for each product listed. If you would like to add to this list, feel free to write us a comment!

RatingI.D.NameMaterialCompare Prices
#1SGT knot twisted Manila rope
manila fibreCompare Prices
#2CBknot premium 1/4 double braid polyester ropeCBknot premium 1/4 double braid polyester ropeYacht Braid polyesterCompare Prices
#33\8 double braid / yacht braid premium polyester Halyard rigging line3\8 double braid / yacht braid premium polyester Halyard rigging line
Double Braided PolyesterCompare Prices
#4New England Ropes 1/4" (6mm) Sta-Set Blue FleckNew England ropes
Polyester CoveringCompare Prices
#5SGT knots ProManila ropeSGT knots ProManila ropepolypropylene Compare Prices
#65/16 by 100 feet double braid polyester rope5/16 by 100 feet double braid polyester rope Double Braided PolyesterCompare Prices
#7Ravenox by FMS Elastic Shock Cord Bungee CordFMS accessory utility cord for climbing and outdoor recreation Nylon core, polyester braid coverCompare Prices
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Why do I need running rigging? What kind?

If you want the sailboat to use sails to move, you will need to rig your boat  with the right line! So which line should I be looking for…

Most people go for the polyester over polyester rope (Double Braided) ! They are easiest to trace and they usually come with different colors to identify easier in real time. The reason why poly over poly braids are so popular is because they are resistant to most of the elements you will need to CYA! Like the New England double braids, most of the lines are UV resistant, has a braided cover and braided core, easy to splice, abrasion resistant. That what most running rigging companies  focus on when producing a rope.

(Advanced) How Do I Measure the Diameter of my Braided Line?

line measurements are typically nominal values (approximations) . The things that contribute to the diameter of the line are the actual type of fiber material being used (could even be a blend of fibers), the braid type (measured in plates and strands), then theres the braid angle (how tight/loose of angle ) and linear density ( how much material is found in a given length of line)..These manufactuers measure the diameter in seconds (not typical when running rigging)  and will round up or down so sometimes you will have a “skinny 3/8ths” it will be classified but don’t be surprised if the the diameter isn’t exact when you measure it. 

With new line off a new spool, the diameter will decrease (betting in), as a new line cycle through use, the fibers and the braids/strands start to come into alignment (shouldering up) and you will lose some diameter in the process.

To get the actual diameter (not the diameter the company tells you it is)…

  1. tie and or clamp the line on a table
  2. work the fuzz fibers down (braid in one direction)until the fibers are compact on your line…if your label on the spool is gone and you need to know what size you are working with…milk as much as you can so that the line (jacket) bulk is completely compressed
  3. Make sure the line is under hand tension when you are measuring
  4. use a caliper to measure at 90 degree  angles

If your line doesn’t milk, rock hard and doesn’t drop, it’s coated/pre-set construction , glued. You will not get much braiding out of them so skip this step for the glued lines. Dyneema makes hi-techs like this adn they also make the lines round, so get the flat spots out if you see any.

*Make sure that you pull the constructional diameter out of it..shouldering up.. the line before you measure and putting the calipers on it…Put a lot of tension on it to get a truer measurement..Doesn’t matter whether it is single or double braided. Also remember line diameters on braided lines are approximations at best so don’t be surprised if you buy a line that doesn’t exactly measure up to what the spool says!

What is The Best Way to tie a bowline for sailing?

Majority of time you tie a bowline to a sailboat you will be running rigging (whether it is tieing a halyard, jib sheet, outhaul to your main sail)..you will be creating a non-closing loop

  1. run loop into grommet clockwise
  2. make another loop (clockwise) on the standing line (make sure the loop is spiraling towards you and clockwise
  3. pick up end loop a and pull it through second loop (which is tilted forward), under second loop and back along itself through the second loop once more
  4. pinch the double over part and pull on the long part thats going to go back to you (this part is the lengthy part of the rope)

7| FMS Bungee (We use it For Tracking the main sail)

Best Use: We’ve used this bungee on our Mcgregor 26x. This FMS (by Ravenox) bungee is typically used for when we are tracking. Great for broad reach sailing, keeping the mainsail pretty steady and also if you want to auto pilot the wheel, it can hold that into place also as a self steer chord. That way you can focus on your magnetics, speeds, angles and leisure reading if you are sailing solo. Tie down any thing that you are trying to stow away with these.

This is a very durable/elastic bungee made with a nylon outer covering an elastic core. The nylon helps with keeping the cord from quick wear and tear. This Shock cord is Lock & Hook Compatible and we really like the raw ends (makes it easy to add any hardware you might want to use on board). The cords work perfectly with their hooks so we are happy with that. These come in mostly any size (1/8-1/2) with length up to 1000 ft. It is also nice that that are a certified SD and this company is American Veteran owned.

Improvements: We like that the length stretches about double its normal size and that the the cord is UV and moisture resistant so you will not have to toss them after many uses. We really can’t think of much of what they can do to improve this product. The Web loops can be a little bit better in quality but overall these bungees are wonderful. We would also like to know the tensile strength of these but we cannot figure it out.

Overall Rating: 4.2/5

6| Blue Ox 5/16″ By 100 Feet Double Braid Polyester

Best Use: We typically use these for our halyards. They’ve got great tensile strength at 2600 pounds with lower stretch. The double braid really gives it the durability we need with our halyard lines, it is really tightly braided. You can also use these on most of your control lines and sheets.

The covering is made of 24 plaits and the inner core of the line is also braided. The inner core is polyester and not that tubular hollow cheapo core. Some even use this for their topping lift cord. The length is great and you can ultimately run it back to the cockpit.

Improvements: Overall this a very robust line with great tightness and works great for a halyard. Great for daysailing! We did not find any improvements to harp on . Can’t really beat the price either

Overall  Rating: 4.2/5

5| SGT KNOTS ProManila Rope- Marine

Best Use: We use these SGT ProManila’s for our dock tie downs and pylon wraps lakeside. Makes tying down our McGregor fairly easy. These are absolutely wonderful to use so long as you don’t try to cut them down with a blow torch! Trust us just use either a buyer knife or box cutter,something that cuts thick rope. It will look ugly if you fire up the torch.

This is not manila fiber (natural) , rather a synthetic version of it. Polypropylene is resistant to mostly everything so we really use this rope for pretty much anything that necessitates leaving rope outdoors. Weather/water resistant, UV, you name it. sizes range from 10ft-600 ft.

Improvements: Although we would sometimes rather go natural with manila fiber, this is an absolute steal at the price and gives you the same look with less flexibility. Flexibility can help but we have not felt inadequate in that department with the Pro7manila. It has enough flexibility to get the job done.

Watch the Manila Vs ProManila video below to compare and contrast the differences

Overall Rating: 4.3/5

4| New England Ropes Sta-Set Blue Fleck

Best use: We use N.E. for most of our main and jib sheets. You really don’t get much better than N.E. quality. We really love how soft and flexible the Sta-Set is . These are double braided and extremely flexible. If you are looking for long lasting sheets, go with these. These do not go stiff like many other lines on the market today.

Improvements: Really hard to pin-point anything besides the price but you are getting absolute quality so the price is really what you pay for. These are tough, durable with no stretch or biding. Easy to splice if you are looking to use for other projects. We love this set so do not hesitate.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    3| CWC 347040 3/8″ 600′

    Best use: You can splice this rope and make it into a wonderful +25ft sailboat halyard line. We have done it with our Sun Odyssey 43 and we absolutely love the double braid on it. While it’s 3/8’ths in diamater , it is really one of high strength and is torque free. it utilizes about 2430 lbs of minimum break force. Really solid, heavy duty line. The load limit is roughly 4400 lbs. On the West Marine Site it is 400-500 dollars so we really like how CWC has used the Amazon platform to cut the price 4x!

    Improvements: This line is made in Canada and we really up the grade on since it was not cheaply made. When you receive it you will receive it in a sealed roll as though it just came from the factory.

    Conclusion: You will be saving in the long run if you go with a sealed roll rather than by the foot. If you are sailing on sailboats larger than 25+ feet then get this double braided halyard line. You will be delighted with it.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    Best use: we use these as our mooring lines. They are double braided and we really think they can be used for pretty much any kind of line (including special effects, hand lines) . We really like that it is non-abrasive and well not rip up your hands. You would really need to try to do so with CBKnot. We love that it has a wide range of tensile : from 50′-400′ Ft.  Tensile strength: over 2000lb’s (2031 lbs to be exact)

    Improvements: With high heat resitance, high strength and low stretch, you really cant go wrong. We absolutely love this product for mooring. It helps that it is UV and water resistant as well.

    Conclusion: This product is very easy to eye splice and make into a variety of different pulling lines. We really love with CBKnot has done with this line.

    Overall Rating: 4.7/5

    1| SGT Twisted Manila Rope Hemp Rope (100% Natural)

    Best Use: Docking rope, all natural and multi-purpose. We use this for when we need the rope to be flexible. (times when the slip isn’t so giving that we have to maneuver our boat in such a way to park it).  You can even use it to wrap it around you spool table project! Every Sailor needs to own real Manila Fiber rope at some point or another. It will rip up your hands so make sure to wear gloves when whipping it around.

    Improvements: It does have a pungent oil/kerosene smell but this is what you get when you go all natural. This rope will last you forever.

    Watch this video to give you an idea on how to use your dock lines to choose the right size lines you will need.

    Overall Rating: 4.7/5

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