If the picture above looks familiar, you’ve probably experienced the upper limit of a rope covers durability before!
This is an asymmetric spinnaker sheet made from New England Endura Braid Euro. It’s a great line, very tough cover, but it still failed after just 2 seasons. What gives?
Asymmetric sheets are very tough on covers. They tend to have higher loads than a symmetrical spinnaker sheet, and are also trimmed more actively. Things really get interesting in a gybe, when the line speed is MUCH higher. In a gybe on a boat this size, you’re moving around 65′ of line every time you gybe, and the faster the better. On a boat like this with a pedestal grinder, you can pull the sheet around quite quickly, so it makes for snappy maneuvers.
What this means for the rope cover is lots of heat and abrasion. Most assym sheets start to feel a bit crispy in the middle, and that’s because the friction over the drums is generating enough heat to melt the cover. The bigger the boat, the higher the loads and the more line to move, so the covers get abused more.
The solution is better covers, specifically using heat and abrasion resistant fibers. At the very top end we have PBO covers, which handle the highest head and load, but can retail for over $40/meter for the 10mm size. No, I’m serious, stop laughing! It gets better too, since they’ll break down in the sun and wear out quickly. Oh, and it leaves gold dust all over your boat and crew. Anyway, the good news is there are lots of better-than-polyester covers that will cost less than a used car. There are kevlar blends like Yaletail, and Runnertail (technically Twaron but who’s counting) but in the last couple years the default go-to special cover has been Technora blended with polyester. New England makes a rope called Poly Tec which is available as a cover or a built rope with Dyneema core. I’ve been using this for the last 4 seasons and have been very happy with it, and have never heard a complaint about it from owners. Marlow Ropes makes a full suite of specialty covers, but their version is Tech 50. The 2 covers are quite similar, so it usually comes down to which is available in what color first. In addition to durability, you’re going to find that the grip on winches is more consistent, and they handle great!
So, let’s pretend your boat has taken your nice Dyneema double braid sheets and turned them into the mess you saw in the first picture. The cores are ok, but the cover looks like a shriveled churro. We can take the cores out of the old line, and put a Technora blend cover over the top for less money than new sheets. The cores still have a few years of life, so this is a great way to keep them going while get a nicer hand to the line and better grip on winches.
For the above sheet, the owner opted to swap both covers for Poly Tec, and gave them distinct colors while we were at it. The sheets were end-for-ended as well so the old loaded end of the sheet is now the tail and vice versa. The sheets look new, and should perform that way for many seasons. Win!
It was a good idea in this case for a few reasons: the sheets were relatively new, the cores were in good shape and the core material was Dyneema. If you have a damaged cover with similar parameters we can save it! CYR also stocks regular polyester covers for a repair at considerably lower price point, although it’s worth considering why the cover failed in the first place (*usually T10 halyard with XAS clutch) It doesn’t make sense for every line though. If the line is particularly short, the cost of labor doesn’t usually add up to less than a new line, and if the core is damaged, or Vectran/Poly/PBO it’s not usually a good idea to recover it. If you’re in doubt, drop by the shop and we’ll look it over. Plenty of samples to look at, and the odds are very good I’ll have rope in for the same repair to show you!