Ropes used to be more stretchy

Two smiling  teenagers in wet sailing gear and posing with their Mirror dinghy

Prior to the introduction of 'low stretch' ropes made from kevlar, dyneema/Spectra or vectran etc. in the late 1980s & 90s, ropes were either natural fibre, such as hemp & cotton (e.g. as supplied with the kit), or polyester etc. and used to stretch an annoying amount when put under tension. Pre-stretched polyester ropes were better, but would still stretch more than you wanted. The longer the length of rope under tension, the more it would stretch. There were only a few ways of minimizing the problem:

  • Keep rope lengths to a minimum (e.g. this kicking strap arrangement)
  • Use pre-streached polyester rather than natural fibre
  • Use thicker rope than was strictly necessary
  • Use wire were possible (e.g. this kicking strap). Using wire halyards was permitted, and a few top sailors used them, but they brought their own problems, requiring metal sheaves rather than the normal plastic ones and hook up racks rather than cleats (though some cleated the halyard tail). If the splice between the wire and the rope tail would not go through the mast head sheave, you couldn't lower the gaff fully.


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