Clutch Testing, engagement and load slip for 10mm line

Sails and cordage keep evolving with every new fiber, construction and treatment.  With each generation sailors get a stronger lower stretch product that performs better than the last version.  For riggers, we’ve got ultra low stretch rope cores, and incredibly touch and sticky covers that can handle the increased loads. This is key to handling new sails that have high carbon contents and other low stretch adaptations.  With low stretch sails, the dynamic loads of sailing get transferred into the lines. If your core is stretching, the lowest stretch sail in the world won’t hold it’s shape. If your core is low stretch but your covers can’t handle the increased load, the results are either cover failure or slip.  We’ve got some great solutions for problems like that, but one of the hardest areas to get good performance out of is the rope holding clutch.  To see what the best solution would be for the typical Chicago Yacht Rigging customer, I set up a simple test on the rigging bench and tried out a variety of common clutches.  To paraphrase the great Mr. Fry: I’m shocked, well, not that shocked.

The baseline for most of the testing I do is aimed at my most common type of customer’s boat; racing boat, 35-40′ long.  I wanted to use rope that represented what I’m likely to see when I visit a boat that needs clutch help, so selected 10mm V100, a fairly common vectran cored, polyester covered double braid.  After that test was done, I also tried an upgraded cover with 10mm New England Poly Tec.  The Poly Tec cover is often specified where the line sees either high abrasion or needs to be high grip, so it made a lot of sense to try here in a clutch.

The testing method was a bit tricky to decide on. In a perfect world, I’d have a large static load like a weight providing constant pressure on the rope. This would best represent tensioning a halyard, with a loaded sail on the other end.  Our test equipment instead has a winch on one end of the bench and a hydraulic cylinder on the other,  with the clutch in between.  To do our test I anchored one end of a line to the cylinder, ran it through the clutch, and then tensioned the other end on the winch.  Each line was knotted in place, so that I could move the knot and therefore move the point on the rope where each clutch was used.

What I wanted to get out of the test was how much slip there would be  when the winch side load was released (initial slip) and how much slip  it would take to then reach the target load. In any clutch there is always going to be a certain amount of slip as the cam, teeth, jaws or rope sleeve engages, but less is definitely better than more here! The process was easy: first stretch the rope and engage and disengage the clutch several times to remove the stretch and set the knots. Then load the line to 1000lbs. Following that I’d release the line from the winch to see how much of the load was lost, and how much the line would slip while that happened. Then I would tension the cylinder to simulate the load continuing to be present on a halyard.  The test would be repeated for a several cycles, and then I’d take the average number for three different values:  how much load remained when the winch was eased, how much the line moved as the winch was eased, and then how much slip through the clutch it would take to get the load back to 1000lbs.  It’s a hard test on clutches as the load behind the clutch would not be constant, as I only had about 4′ of rope between the clutch and the cylinder. This meant the load would drop considertably with the smallest amount of slip, leading to big drops in tension.  The measurement of slip to get the tension back to 1000lbs was going to be the more important number here, as it would measure the transition from near zero load to 1000lbs, so we could see how much rope had to pass through the clutch to engage to our target.

The other part of the clutch was full load releasing, to see how much the line was worn. If you’ve ever read your clutch instructions, you’ve probably noted that every line is supposed to be winch tensioned before the clutch is released.  This is ideal, however it has very little in common with how crews actually treat the clutch during racing.  In our projected 35-40′ boat racing around the buoys, you can imagine that the genoa halyard clutch would get dumped at least twice in your typical buoy race, after the spinnaker set. Lastly the top two, middle two and bottom two clutches were tested head-to-head for a video that provided a visual example of how they compared.

For products to test, I wanted to be as comprehensive as I could so had every brand and type of clutch I’d sold that would be appropriate for our imaginary mid size racer cruiser with 1000lbs on the halyard.  I started with the venerable Spinlock XTS/XCS.  This is by far the most common clutch we encounter as it’s been standard equipment for years from the J Boats, Beneteau and other factories.  All of the XTS and XCS clutches function the same: a stationary base plate, opposed by a rotating cam above. As the rope slides through the clutch, the cam rotates down to the baseplate, and the gap between the base and cam get’s smaller and tighter until the rope stops moving.  However, all XTS/XCS are not created equal. The model numbers always end with one of two numbers: 0610, or 0814.  The 0610 indicates that the clutch is sized for 6-10mm line, and the 0814 is for 8-14mm line.

Web XTS_1

 

What this means in practice is that best rope holding for the smaller cam is going to be with 10mm line, and for the larger cam with 14mm line. It’s incredibly common both for OEM and customer purchases to get the 8-14mm model, with the thought that the bigger range will be more versatile. This is a mistake, as the typical 10mm halyard on our fictional boat will be quite small relative to the cam on the 8-14mm clutch, and so we’d expect a lot of slip. To that end, we tested the 0610 cams, the 0814 cams, and the 0610 ceramic cams. Wait, the what? Spinlock has also started making a ceramic coated cam for these clutches, with the goal of improving initial slip, ultimate slip and rope wear, optimized for blended cover lines like our 10mm Poly Tec sample. We tested the Spinlock XTS with the 6-10mm cams, and the XCS with 8-14mm cams, and then the XCS with the 6-10mm ceramic cams. The XTS and XCS use the same cams, baseplates, handles, just with different fasteners and metal side plates (XCS) vs plastic (XTS). For the purposes of our test they’re the same, but it did save me some time swapping cams out! The XTS0610 usually sells for around $130, with the ceramic version usually being around $175 (although you can purchase the bases and ceramic cams separately to upgrade your existing XTS or XCS) and the XCS is around $215. In terms of load capacity, the metal sided XCS has a higher working load, 2640 vs 2200lbs for the plastic sides on the XTS.

Also from Spinlock was their XX clutch. This was an unfair test in some ways, as the XX is a far higher specced clutch for this test, with a load capacity significantly higher (3970lbs vs the 2000~lbs for the others) and a much higher cost (usually around $450 although there are other variants like side mount, lock-open, ceramic and carbon versions that are all higher priced) so it’s a bit overkill for our pretend boat (which needs a name… Clutchy McClutchtest?) as this clutch is found on lots of 40-50′ boats. However, this clutch is really designed for larger lines than our target 10mm line, so would it actually be at as disadvantage? To find out, we took it to our test track..er, bench. The XX uses textured jaws that slide on roller bearings to hold the rope, so there are two gripping surfaces in motion, with a larger contact surface.

 

Becoming more common on production boats are the clutches from Antal. Their V Cam clutches are a cam style clutch, but instead of the flat grooved cam as found on the Spinlock cams, the V Cam is-surprise!-V shaped. They’re also stainless steel instead of aluminum.  Loads of newer J Boats have these from the factory, so we wanted to see how it would handle our lines. The working load was lower than the others at 1874lbs,  as was the cost at around $115 each.

 

 

Less common on race boats, but often specced on cruisers are the Lewmar D2 clutches. Instead of a moving cam as on the Spinlock and Antal clutches, these use a series of hinged plates, that tilt forward with the line and apply tension over many different points.  The advantage here is that the multiple points of contact reduces the point load on the rope cover. The cost on these is around $120, and the working load is the lowest of the test at 1102lbs. The typcial assumption is that the Lewmars are kinder to line, but slip a bit more than the Spinlocks.  The other differentiating feature on the Lewmars is that the handle is hinged at the aft end of the clutch, not the front as all of the others.  This can lead to hilarious installation mistakes, so do be advised that the clutches have an embossed picture of a winch, with an arrow, so there really is no excuse!

Finally from the “now for something completely different” department, we have the Constrictor. This has no cams, plates or jaws, but instead uses a long sleeve of hollow rope which constricts-ha-on the rope and holds it in place by the same principle as a single braid splice. The clutch is also unusual in that it takes quite a bit more space than the others; the spec sheet says 25”, but I found better results with the bungee stretched out so that the whole clutch took up closer to 30”  The bungee  cord tension is key: if the tension is too low, the clutch will slip more before engaging. Too high, and the clutch won’t release. I have some concerns over how the sleeves will hold up over time, but haven’t modeled that.  We also had a bungee hog ring fail during testing, which in the real world would make the clutch unable to re-engage.  What’s really slick about these is the forward mounting hole is actually a slot, so you could use these with fastener spacings from 70-90mm. The cost on these is usually around $175. They don’t list a working load, but do list a break load at 4920lbs.   These have been used on many offshore boats as the rope sleeve puts less wear on rope covers, but how would it hold?

 

 

 

So here are the numbers for the 10mm V100 tests:

Clutch Remain after release (kg) Release Loss    (mm) Return to 1000lb in mm
XX 31.3 7.6 11.3
XCS0610C 72 8.6 14.3
XTS0610 33.6 12 16.3
Constrictor 10mm 39 18.3 18.3
Antal VCam-0814 (10mm) 23.3 34 20
Lewmar D2 10mm 22.3 17 21.3
XCS0814 5 50 33.6

 

And here with 10mm Poly Tec

 

 

Clutch Remain after release (kg) Release Loss (mm) Return to 500kg in mm
XX 102 5.33 8
XTS0610C 76 6 12
Constrictor 66.33 8 14.66
XTS0610 36.33 7.33 15
Lewmar D2 10mm 44.33 16 17.33
Antal V Cam 0814 37 22 18.66

 

 

Phew, lots of numbers, which one matters?  Good question.  The release loss number was surprising at first; this number was what load remained on our load cell when the line-at 1000lbs-was released from the winch. The numbers are all in the double digits except for the Poly Tec in the XX which frankly seems like a huge loss. However when you consider that the loaded portion of the line was only several feet, and there was nothing keeping constant tension on it, it makes sense. The “release loss” column is how much line slipped through the clutch as the winch was unloaded. Given how little load remained, this number should be considered in context, and I don’t think it’s very useful. The most useful number was how much slip it took to bring the load back to 1000lbs on the cylinder. This number was corroborated when we did the head-to-head videos, as the slip numbers were similar.

 

So, what are our conclusions? Let’s start with the obvious: the wrong size clutch did the wrong thing. The 8-14mm cams slipped the most, which is not a surprise. The 0814 cams simply have to move more to catch 10mm rope than they would for 14mm. The rope when removed looked flattened out.

The next up was the Lewmar D2, which slid the 6th best with V100, and 5th best with Poly Tec, although it did better than it’s slippy reputation would suggest. The impression left on the rope was wavy, as opposed to flattened like the Spinlock. What was really shocking was the wear from the D2.  I saw the most wear of any clutch with the D2, which could have been because we were using it quite close to it’s working load.

The Antal’s were next up, coming up in the middle of the test. The triangular profile of the grippy surfaces did not seem to make much difference here, although it was neat to pull the line out and see it be triangular. This was 5th best with the V100, and 6th best with the Poly Tec.

 

The Constrictor performed next best (4th best with V100, 3rd best with Poly Tec), although there are some asterisks present on this test. The Constrictor’s rope holding is all done with the rope sleeve, which is tensioned forward by way of a bungee. I tried quite a few bungee tensions to see which was best; the higher the tension on the bungee cord, the lower the slip, but the harder it was to release the clutch.  The testing was done with the bungee as taught as it could be while still being releasable.  Incidentally, one of the frequent questions on this piece of gear is “will it release under load” the answer is yes, as at 1000lbs, this was actually easier to release than the other clutches excepting the XX. The other asterisk, was that this number was obtained without a “cheat code”, Say what? You can cheat the Constrictor tighter if you manually “milk” the rope sleeve forward until it’s tight on the rope.  In our tests, this reduced the slip-to number down to 14mm average.  As a sidenote, you can also cheat the Spinlock XTS/XCS as well, by partially opening the clutch after closing it, and manually pushing the cam down onto the rope (doing this netted the following numbers in slip-to: XTS0610C 13.6mm, XTS0610 12.3mm)

 

Then cam in the standard Spinlock 0610 cam at 16.3mm, then the ceramic 0610 at 14.3mm for V100, and 0610/15mm and 0610C/12mm.  Since these are pretty much the default for rope holding, it wasn’t too surprising.  These were quite hard to release at 1000lbs, as was the Antal and the Lewmar. The release felt harder to me than doing it on an actual boat like a 36.7 does, although it’s clearly not a back to back test. This does make me think that the typical genoa halyard load is probably less than 1000lbs, especially after a mark rounding where the rig is being pushed forward, the apparent wind is lower and the sheet is (better be!) eased.

 

The double-edged sword of the XX performed best, with the least slip to at 11.3mm with V100, and 8mm with Poly Tec, and an easy release.  One one hand, it’s clearly the most expensive clutch so perhaps should be best, but on the other, it really should hold best with 12mm line, not the 10mm used here.  To see how it would do, I also tried only this clutch with a 12mm chunk of line, and got averages of 150lb remaining load, 4.3mm initial slip, and 7.6mm slip to, which was pretty impressive.  I can’t say this is the most cost effective solution for our imagined boat, but it certainly would be the best in terms of slip, especially if you were to bulk the line to 12mm at the clutch.

 

 

Suggested Retail Fasteners and hole spacing Max Working load lbs Slip to 1000lbs V100 Slip to 1000lbs Poly Tec 10mm
Spinlock XX0812 $523.49 140mm 3970 11.3 8
Spinlock XCS0610C $157.04 70mm 2640 14.3 12
Spinlock XTS0610C $206.36 70mm 2200 14.3(projected) 12(projected)
Ronstan Constrictor 10mm $189.54 70-90mm 4920(break) 18.3 14.6
Spinlock XTS0610 $262.34 70mm 2200 16.2 15
Lewmar D2 10mm $130.71 70mm or 107mm 1102 21.3 17.33
Antal VCam814 8-10mm $119 105mm 1874 20 18.6
Spinlock XCS0814 $262.34 70mm 2640 33.7 27

 

 

For those of you that prefer a visual comparison, here are some head to head clutch testing videos

 

 

Here was our top performing clutch, up against our best performing cam in an XCS clutch. As you can see the differences weren’t great, but there was a little more movement with the XCS0610C than the XX0812.

 

Here were the middle ground clutches, with the Constrictor vs the XTS0610 with the standard cam. The different angle from the other videos is due to the ginormous length of the Constrictor existing right where I had shot the previous videos.

Here are the stragglers in the test, as you can see it’s really very close between the Lewmar and the Antal.

 

For a comparison on what the clutches did to the rope, here are the Poly Tec samples, immediately after the head-to-head videos.

Top is the Spinlock XTS0610. It’s clearly flattened out the line, which makes sense as the cam is flat/toothed, pressing on a flat toothed baseplate.  The Constrictor shows no deformation or wear, which is one of the reasons I would think this unit is going to do very very well if rope longevity is your concern.

Top in the above image is the line after the XCS0610C was done with it, as you can see  the line gets flattened quite a bit. One of the treatments we do to improve rope holding, is to bulk the line internally, which adds both size and stiffness to the rope. The stiffness keeps the rope rounded under load. The XX flattened the rope as well, but not as extremely, likely do to the increased area.

Wow. The Lewmar really did a number on the Poly Tec, which is an extremely tough rope.  This is probably because we were using it at the upper end of it’s working range but it’s still surprising as this clutch is commonly regarded as being gentle on line.  The photos don’t show it well, but the Antal compressed the rope into a triangle shape which was kinda neat.

 

Here are some other pics of the rope wear, shown next to the clutch.  This is after several cycles to stretch the rope and set the knots, then 3 tests of taking the clutch to 1000lbs with the winch, easing the winch, then using the hydro to bring the load back to 1000lbs, then dumping the clutch. Generally, the XX and the Constrictor showed no wear that I could detect, the Spinlock 0610 regular showed some, then the

 

The Spinlock XX was easy to release, and didn’t show any wear on the line with the standard jaws.

The Ronstan Constrictor is really kind to line, and CAN be released under load which may surprise some

The Spinlock XTS0610 showed some wear, a lot more than I was expecting but I believe that the load and releasing were probably a little more extreme than the usual boat experiences in 3 cycles.

The Antal V Cam wore on the line pretty similarly to the Spinlock 0610, but was very very hard to release so I only did it once instead of 3 cycles.

The Spinlock 0610 ceramic cams did wear the line a lot more on the V100 than it did on the Poly Tec. The ceramic cams are explicitly designed for blended covers like Poly Tec, so this is not surprising.

The Lewmar was surprising in how much wear it did to the rope. It was the only one to do significant damage to the Poly Tec.  If I were to do the test at lower loads, say 500lbs, I would imagine this would not be the case. 

Inhaulers

We first used these on J/109s last year when the class allowed the addition of an inhauler system, and since then I’ve gotten tons of questions, most of which are about whether they’re plastic or not, so here is some information and answers to popular questions.

Are they plastic?

I’m glad you asked, NO, these are not plastic. They’re aluminum with a very very nice hardcote anodizing so they look plastic.

But they look plastic, are you sure they’re not plastic? Can you check?

I checked, they’re really not plastic.

How big are they?

I’m glad you asked, I was worried you were going to ask if they were plastic again!

The dimensions are: Length 50mm, Width 35mm, Diameter big hole 19mm, Diameter little hole 9.5mm, thickness 19mm. They like inhauling and long walks on the beach.

Wait, so they’re plastic? 

I just checked again, no.

How strong are they?

Good question! No idea! However, given the materials involved I would say strong enough for boats whose jib sheets would fit.  10mm is safe. I have tried them on spliced, covered 11mm and had no issues, however a customer reported it was a tight fit on their 7/16″ Warpspeed, so check your sheets before ordering

Does it come with the rope?

This is just the inhauler part, price is for 1 inhauler. But we can do rope!

How much? 

Image result for j109 inhauler

NOT PLASTIC

 

 

Custom Built Ropes

If you’ve ever thought that a piece of running rigging was “almost perfect except for ____” you can fix it!

customropes

We can work with rope manufacturers to build the exact right product for your application. The most common request is for special colors.  If you have an aesthetic in mind, or need a unique look to identify a line, we can order pretty much any color or pattern you can imagine.  Often this has been for odd colors (Think pink! Or orange. Or purple…) or custom patterns (we once had someone ask for a very high tech heat set core, but wanted the outside to look like Crystalyne) We can also specify the technical aspects of the rope, like strands, carriers, fiber thicknesses, treatments and materials.roperack

A great example of a custom construction is our 6mm SK99 Heat Set Dyneema double braid. We wanted a very low stretch rope that met the Beneteau 36.7 class rules on backstays, but wanted to be as light and compact as possible. To do this, Alpha Ropes used SK99 core in a special braid, and covered it with an extremely thin Dyneema cover.  This make a rope that was 2 sizes smaller, and much lighter than the other options.  And just because they could, they used the new Black Dyneema to make sure this looks great for years.  backstay99

We can also do special sizes.  The 36.7 is again the inspiration here, as the mainsheet on this boat really needs to be perfect, as there is a lot of purchase and load.  The 10mm we’ve used in the past is a little big and drags when easing. We asked Alpha to make us a very true 9mm for this application, and it works great for boats from a certain Shields all the way up to the 36.7.  To make this a really special sheet, we can add core to make it a double or triple tapered sheet like our 36.7 GP Mainsheet This is where the loaded end of the sheet that sits in the blocks upwind is as thin, light and slick as possible to ensure minimum friction.  From there the line grows to a larger and firmer rope. The bigger rope is nicer to handle, and holds in the cleat better. The rope then narrows again for the tail, which is less loaded and handled, and eases faster in addition to being lighter where it hangs over the side of the boat when running. tripletaper36-7

We can also get technical with the materials in the cover.  Technora blended covers have become pretty common as sailors learn to appreciate their durability and grip.  Most of the Technora blends are 50/50, but we can request other blends. This purple Tech blend from Marlow is closer to 60% and was a special order.  The sky is the limit when it comes to materials, we have ordered up to 3 fibers in the same cover. To fit a specific application we can mix Polyester, Technora, PBO, Vectran and Dyneema to get the right wear, heat and grip characteristics.marlowtech60

If you have an idea for a custom rope, get in touch!  The lead times are usually around 2 months, and we can do cut lengths to suit your exact needs (although spools will be a better value) So if you need a special size, performance or just want your rope to look right next to your canvas, think about custom!

Chicago Yacht Rigging: Splicing Clinics

For Chicago sailors, winter feels especially long.  A great way to break it up and get some sailing prep in,  take one of CYR’s splicing clinics.

December 3-4 Columbia Yacht Club

Splicing 102:  Over 2 days, receive an introduction to modern cordage and learn to splice it with Kristian Martincic.  Students receive a comprehensive splicing kit with practice ropes.  Splices will be the 12 strand splice, tapered rope, simple loop, reeving eye, plus useful variants and tricks.

$300 including supplies and splicing toolkits

Saturday 10am-4pm 12pm-1pm lunch break
Sunday 9am-12pm, Bears Game

February 18 Chicago Yacht Club

Splicing 101: On Saturday morning, get an introduction to modern sailing cordage and learn to splice it! Includes a basic splicing kit and rope, and learn how to make the 12 strand splice in Dyneema. Light breakfast provided, and students are invited to stay for lunch afterwards.

$75 including supplies and toolkits

Displaying image3.JPG

Splicing Kits

002kitNow available, comprehensive splicing kits!  For an upcoming rigging clinic, we needed to supply tools to perform a number of different splices.  In the past,  12 strand clinics have needed only a few tools tossed in a bag with some rope. This class was a bit more involved so we needed needles, twine, torches and other gear not usually in someones boat toolbox.  While figuring the kits out, several of our “regulars” said they would like one as well, so it made sense to assemble complete kits and have them available for sale.

The most complete kit is our Deluxe Splicing Kit with Selma Fids This is a CYR tool roll, with a set of 5 Selma fids (4-13mm, a Swedish fid, the D Splice splicing puller, the BEST shears for cutting rope available, whipping twine, needles, splicing tape, a butane torch, a little soft tape measure and even a permanent marker.  Selling now for $19520161018_090156

The kit _I_ actually use in the field, is the Splicing Kit: Deluxe with Single Fid. It’s the same as the above kit, but with a single Selma fid (5.5mm) instead of the full set.  That is because I don’t use Selma fids for much besides pulling core into cover, and instead use the D Splicer puller for nearly all my splicing.  I do expect the full set of Selma fids to be more popular, but if you’re willing to learn to splice without fids-instead using measurements based on diameter-this is the way to go!0kitsinglefid

If you already have lots of the gear above in your kit, and all you want is an upgrade in the key tools,  try out the Basic Kit. This is just the Clauss shears, a Swedish fid, and the D Splicer puller. Comes in a bag instead of the tool roll, but again, this assumes you have things like twine and neeldes on hand.01basickit

Order online, or the old fashioned way, and as always, feel free to ask anything about these or other rigging products. Kristian@chicagoyachtrigging.com

 

Beneteau 36.7 Backstay Update

IMG_20160407_095336We have a new material for making 36.7 backstays, a heat set Dyneema double braid made with SK99 that meets the one design specs (breaks at 4727kg or 10421lbs) but comes in smaller and lighter than any other available option, at 6.1mm and weighing a mere 12oz with thimbles.

$396

There are several options for finishing the bottom end of this stay

-Eye Splice With Thimble (shown) this is for use with the stock Lewmar backstay block
-Harken Lead Ring: this is a low friction ring, that adds 1.3oz to the weight and $20 to the cost. Lightweight and strong, but does make pulling the backstay harder
-Harken Black Magic Block: A roller bearing block that gets spliced to the end of the backstay, adds 3.23 oz and $195 to the cost
-Karver High Load KBO Block: A plain bearing block that gets spliced to the end of the backstay, adds 3.2oz and $240 to the cost

J/109 Bobstay and Inhauler Upgrades

 

The J/109 class association recently amended the rules to allow for 2 significant upgrades. The first of which is a Dyneema bobstay.  This is a rope stay that suppors the spinnaker tack fitting, and prevents the carbon sprit from bending and losing luff tension-or much worse-snapping.   I’ve adapted the self retracting bobstay that was originally worked up for the J/111, and made some tweaks.  The retractor pulls the bobstay out of the way and keeps it from dragging in the water. Without a retractor, crew need to go forward and lasso the bobstay and hitch it to the bow cleat. The current bobstay version retracts inside the pole, and requires the addition of a bearing installed in the bow.

The second upgrade is for inhauling the class jib.  Our version has 8:1 purchase, and some really nice lead rings for doing the actual inhauling.  These are a huge upgrade over stainless rings in terms of friction and wear on sheets.  This is available as a kit that comes with the inhauler rings, control line blocks, cleats with extreme angle fairleads, control line, purchase line,  all fasteners and backing plates.  The kit itself is discounted from the total price of the individual items and will be $615.  If self installing it is critical that epoxy plugs and good backing be used for all hardware, but especially for the deck lead as the loads are considerable.

Please contact me if you have any questions,  having done this project I’ve picked up a few really important tricks.
Inhauler kit $615

 

 

Rope Treatments on J/111 Cordage

Cordage is available from riggers, stores and online, but what sets CYR’s rigging apart is the special treatments.  Quality materials are only part of the story, and we can improve performance and longevity with a few special touches.  Here is what we like for the J/111

Custom covers have moved from the GP boats into club race boats.  For the part of the line that gets handled, we have great options to improve performance. Fibers like Technora, Cordura and Vectran can be blended with standard polyester to improve grip on winches and clutches, as well as improving abrasion resistance.  They can be left natural (tan in the case of Technora and Vectran) or dyed black. I like tan for halyards since the lighter color takes marks better, and black for sheets.

This picture best illustrates what we can add to halyards to make them hold in the clutches better.  A good blended cover (here it’s Technora, Polyester  and Cordura) increases grip and reistance, but key is the size increase. A stiff core added to the inside of the existing ropes core makes the line larger-in this case right up the max size for the clutch cams-as well as stiffer.  The stiffness is actually more important than the size increase, as the line doesn’t flatten under load.  I have very good data on what the proper bulks and stiffness’ are for all the clutches used on race boats.

On the other end of the line,  chafe protection is another place we can upgrade a halyard.  Here is a Dyneema chafe tip on top of New England HSR core.  This saves the halyard tips from chafe and failure. A good way to determine if this will be beneficial is to look at the old halyards.  On the J/111 we’ve noticed that the jib and spin halyards show lots of wear on the stock Crystalyne halyards.  The jib halyard seems to get some forestay/foil chafe, and the spin halyards seem to get articulation chafe.

For the mainsheet gross tune, I really like a short tapered area for where the line runs when the fine tune is trimmed.  In addition to having a good clean block (the broken double in this picture was replaced with a Harken 57mm fiddle with a nice round forged shackle) the taper is extra low friction to make trimming and easing the fine tune mainsheet even easier.  The line is Alpha Ropes SSC which I think is a wonderful mainsheet as it’s light, taperable and has incredible handling due to it’s knobby cover and blend of Dyneema, Cordura and poly in the cover. Great line and I recommend it over much more expensive braids. 

For spinnaker sheets on assymetric spin boats, and jib sheets with inhaulers,  a tough cover is a must.  Here is a 9mm spin sheet with a blended Technora/Polyester cover.  The Technora is a very tough fiber that grips winches well. Depending on your winches we can also use fiber blends like Vectran, PBO and Dyneema, but the Technora/Polyester blend is going to great for most applications.

Stretch Test!

On my “Good Ideas To Do At Some Point In The Future Maybe When Things Quiet Down” (GITDASPITFMWTQ) list there has been an item that’s been hovering near the top of the list (above “Right grate American novel” but below “Close the door you’re letting all the heat out” ) has been a bench test to see how the different materials, treatments and brands of rope we use here at CYR perform in one of the most important metrics we have: stretch.

As cordage evolves, it almost always trends in 2 positive directions: lower stretch and higher strength.  In the last couple years strength has become less relevant as the finished size of the rope becomes the limiting factor.  If we really wanted to, we could have 4mm cores on 35′ racing boats and not be worried about it blowing up.  Stretch has become more important. If you look at the “flavors” that Dyneema generations come in,  the most recent iterations have become more and more stretch focused.

Dyneema SK60 (most similar to Spectra 750) was strong and light, but stretched, crept and wasn’t significantly stronger than the aramid fibers it was compared to. SK75  (Spectra 1000) was lower creep and much stronger. SK78 was lower creep, but not stronger (this is now the “standard” Dyneema from most marques). SK90 was stronger but no better on creep than 75, so has been supplanted by SK99 (better in creep and stronger).  DM20 is… weird and I’ve never used it.

In the past year,  I’ve made halyards with each of the ropes shown below.  All of these are 3/16 or 5mm so comparable in size and would yield a ~5/16″ halyard.  From the top:

MARLOW SK78 MAX The MAX line of Marlows Dyneema cores is their version of heat setting.

Defining characteristics: It’s black!  The black comes off on your hands. Second stiffest rope in test.  Looks cool. The braid angle is exactly average in this sample set.

Sizing:  The 5mm core measured 4.4mm after being loaded.  Round? Not really,  unloaded it measures 5.3 one way and 3.69mm the other

Dumb observation:  If this were a car, it would be an Audi A3.

ALPHA ROPES D CORE XTM 78

Defining characteristics: Silver. Not as stiff as HSR or Max, but stiffer than STS78.  Longest braid angle.  Smells nice.

Sizing:  The 5mm measures 4.6mm loaded. Round? Meh.  It measures 4.73mm one way and 4.2 the other.

Dumb observation: If this were a football player, it would be Odell Beckham Jr.  Never heard of XTM either, but it’s good.

NEW ENGLAND STS78

Defining Characteristics It’s white (comes in 7 colors too) it’s floppy compared to the Vectran and the Heat Sets. Very shallow braid angle. Gets super stiff once loaded.

Sizing 4.9mm under load Round? Round!

Dumb Oberservation While typing this up, I dropped all the samples on the floor. I could tell the STS78 just by feel. I bet if I were to total up all the STS78 (aka STS75 aka Endura 12) I’ve spliced, it could go to Belmont harbor from the shop and back.  Lets put that on the GITDASPITFMWTQ list!

YALE V12

Defining characteristics Gold! Much more abrasive than any of the Dyneemas.

Sizing 4.2 under load. Round? NO.  2.9mm one way, 4.6 the other.

Dumb Observation I totally forgot I had any Vectran in stock.  It’s gone from about 40% of my high tech cordage to exactly .8% ( I have sold one Vectran rope all year) If this were a car it would be a Pontiac, because in a few years people will be all “Pon-Tee-Yak? What’s that?”

NEW ENGLAND HSR

Defining Characteristics It’s stiff! Really stiff. When you put a cover on it properly the crew all hates you for the first race because it only gets stiffer when covered.

Sizing: 5.1mm under load Round WOAH, they make round rope! 5.2mm one way, 5.3 the other. About as round as it gets.

Dumb Observation If this were a car it would be a WRX.  Not exactly pretty, some people don’t like how they feel but does everything really well. And I sometimes cover it with orange cover, and WRX’s are often covered in tacky aftermarket gear as well.

 

So how did they do?  Well, nothing broke and no one got hurt, which is good.  Before I share any results though, lets talk methodology.  Before we talk methodology, lets make a bunch of disclaimers for how rudimentary my testing methods are. Before we do that,  have you listened to Astronautalis? He’s great, and I think it’s a damn shame that the yanswer to the previous question is always “who?”

METHODOLOGY I spliced all the samples into 10′ lengths. Then loaded everything to 1000lbs with a dwell of 30 seconds.  The samples were length checked, and respliced to 10′.  Why respliced?  The construction stretch on new rope is huge.  Even heat set ropes lose some of their “set” when coiled and handled.  Splicing takes up a long length of rope, but then releases some of that once it’s under tension. Everything was loaded again and checked again.

To test stretch,  I loaded all the samples to 200lbs, did the CYR Load Distribution Procedure (hit rope with mallet, kick hydraulic cylinder) then then loaded everything to 100lbs.  A clamp was made off at the dogbone holding one end of the sample. Then the tension was added slowly until 1000lbs was reached and stable. The distance between the clamp and dogbone was then measured using a digital mic. The samples were then tested in reverse order after being left flat on the bench to minimize bending the rope.  After that test, all the samples were taken to 2000lbs with a dwell of 1 minute, then retensioned to 1000lbs.

ROPE Stretch @1000lb Stretch @ 1000lb 2 Stretch @ 1000lb after 2000lb load
Yale Vectrus 55.25 31.37 26.99
Marlow MAX SK78 21.64 19.52 11.64
Alpha Ropes D Core XTM 78 24.32 17.53 9.78
New England STS78 29.9 22.93 14.33
New England HSR 20.35 14.42 8.84

There is lots of interesting information here.  All the ropes developed less stretch after being loaded, with the benefits increasing with the amount of load applied.  This fits with what conventional but often ignored wisdom, as most riggers recommend preloading your halyards before use.  For mains I like to load the main halyard around the boom at the mainsheet strop, then tension the mainsheet as hard as possible. For genoas, jibs and code sails I use the tack fitting, tension with a winch, then “banjo” the halyard from the foredeck by pulling aft on the line.  For spinnakers I go get coffee and think about the weather.

The vectran stretched more, significantly more, than all the flavors of Dyneema.  This is not a surprise, but keep in mind that Vectran should in theory have less creep than Dyneema SK75 and below over time, although SK78 and Vectran are supposed to be comparable.  I will be modeling this, but since creep takes a long time to develop, I’ll be loaded the samples over a weekend and checking on Mondays.

The non heat set STS78 showed the next most stretch, but comes with a caveat.  When setting the lengths to 10′ on the samples, I took nearly 100mm  of initial set out of the STS78, whereas every other sample was more like 5-60mm after the splices were set.  This means that if using regular Dyneema for length critical applications like strops or pennants, it needs to be set under tension. For best results I usually exceed the working load by 3x and have had good results with regular Dyneema after that.

The Heat Set Dyneemas all performed very well.  The Alpha XTM stretch a lot initially but settled down after hitting our target load, and did particularly well after getting tensioned to 2x the test load. The Marlow MAX started better than the XTM but was overtaken after it was tensioned to 2000lbs.  If you’ve got lots of experience with rope, this is very intuitive after handling the lines; the XTM starts out being much less stiff so it stands to reason that it would stretch more initially. The XTM braid angle however, is much more parallel to the rope, so once all the stretch is removed, it makes sense that it would show less load stretch.

The New England HSR did the best, especially once tensioned.  This again fits with the “feel” one gets from the rope, as the HSR is the stiffest running rope I have ever used.

This was a fun test and will be updated as the creep results come in.  The good news is that all the Dyneema lines performed really well compared to the state-of-the-art-circa-2005 Vectran.  If we accept these numbers, and assume a boat like a T10 has these ropes on the main halyard.  The T10 sailors, being good preppers and not tired from the party, preload their halyards before sailing.  It’s windy out, but the ropes only stretch: Vectrus 130mm,  MAX78 56mm, XTM78 47mm, STS78 69mm, and HSR 42mm.

As always, let me know if you have any rigging related bits for the GITDASPITFMWTQ list.

UPDATED 

The overnight time on the bench has been surprisingly tied up, first with a steering cable and now with loops over the weekend, so I’ve decided to do some shorter term testing.  Figuring that on a bad day, a windward leg of a race takes 30 minutes,  I let each sample dwell on the bench for 45 minutes at 1000lbs after a 1500lb set.  As it turns out, not much at all happens in 45 minutes.

ROPE LENGTH CHANGE IN MM REMAINING LOAD @ 45 MINUTES
Yale Vectrus 0 978
Marlow MAX SK78 0 982
Alpha Ropes D Core XTM 78 0 982
New England STS78 0 980
New England HSR 0 986

The ropes didn’t move. Even a little. Testing was done with a metal square clamped to the bench even with the dogbone, and after the first sample I kind of knew the score, and that this  test wouldn’t be very exciting.  The most interesting thing is that the load numbers at 45minutes were down off of 1000lbs, but I’m willing to chalk this up to the bench itself, as there is always some movement and it’s not particularly exact as a dedicated testing rig would be.  An interesting proof to this is that once the ropes were taken to 1500lbs, and then tension released to below 1000, then brought back up to 1000lbs, the numbers actually went UP before they went down.  Could be the load cell itself, the loops, the winch, the tensioning rope (1/2″ vectran)

Here are some videos of the best and worst stretch from the test.  This was done after the actual testing, so the clamp zero is a bit off, and the camera isn’t in line, but even so you can see the huge difference in stretch

With no change in dimension and negligible change in load, it seems like creep in the context of something like a windward/leeward race is not a significant factor. My understanding on creep is that it takes a combination of load/time and temperature to occur, and that it happens on the order of days and not minutes or hours. If I ever end up going upwind with the same tension on a halyard for days, please send help, as not only MIGHT creep be a factor but that sounds like an absolutely boring race and I don’t want to do it.

The interesting observation from the setup for this test was how much all the ropes initially moved when being spliced and set to 10′ lengths. So, for kicks,  I also took a 6′ piece of STS78 and did the same test. This piece of rope only had a quick 1500 set, then was taken to 1000lbs.  This one did grow, by about 28mm, and dropped tension to 658lbs.  This fits my own experience in that prestretching any halyard on the bench makes it perform better once on the bench.  Heat Set Dyneemas only really needs the ends stretched after splicing, and Vectran doesn’t seem to either (Dr. Bam Miller of Oyster Bay Boat shop thinks this is due to the higher coefficient of friction with vectran, but he’s not a real doctor and I don’t think Bam is even his real name.) Regular Dyneema does grow by quite a lot,  the splices set as well as the rope itself elongating with load. The good news is that this settles down with a decent prestretch or lots of use.

My news for customers is this:  get a Dyneema halyard. If you want more performance get a Heat Set Dyneema halyard.  If you really want to come in and talk about creep for a boat that does buoy racing, please excuse me while I bang my head on the test bench.

Creep Update 1 HSR heat set Dyneema

The HSR sample was left on the bench at 1000lbs from Friday afternoon through Monday morning,  the length was unchanged and the load was at 960lbs.  Over 60hrs with no dimension change is pretty good!  Assuming you were on a J105, and this was your main halyard, and the ENTIRE Mac race was upwind on the same tack in the same amount of breeze, you still don’t have to worry about creep in a halyard.  So far this testing just reinforces my recommendation for heat set Dyneema halyards, aft standing rigging and critical control lines.

Creep Update 2 STS78 Dyneema

On Monday I loaded the STS78 sample to 1000lbs and planned to leave it there through Wednesday. As it turned out,  it was left until this morning, so about 60 hours just like the HSR.  In theory, this would be the most creep prone sample.  Heat setting as a process removes the constructional stretch, but in theory also reduces creep since it accelerates it during production and aligns both the fibers and the molecuslar structure of the rope.  Regular Dyneema should show considerably more constructional stretch, as well as more dynamic strech and definitely more creep.  The constructional stretch on this sample should have been mitigated by all the cycling (multiple times to 1000, 1500lbs, once to 2000lbs) but I was still expecting to see some creep as compared to the Heat Set.

Instead,  the sample is exactly where it was left on Monday, showing no dimension change.  We’re at about 16% of break load.  Although normal working loads for racing/cruising running rigging are about 20%, I feel that 1000lbs in this case is pretty indicative of a typical max-normal halyard load on a boat that would use 5mm Dyneema core.

UPDATE CREEP IN STS78 AT HIGHER % OF BREAK LOAD

Over the weekend (OH THE BEARS…) I decided to continue the creep testing by going with a higher-than-recommended working load on the STS78 sample.  So far, the loads  tested for creep have been loads you would likely see on the water with a 5mm piece of rope. No creep has been observed in any of the Dyneema lines, even in STS78 which is non heat set Dyneema and should in theory show creep.  The fact that this piece has been prestretched by being cycled to 1000 (many times with long dwell), 1500 and 2000lbs has made stretch pretty minimal, but I was a bit surprised we couldn’t generate any creep (OR ANY PASS RUSH, BEARS).

To try and generate creep, I loaded the line to 40% of the breaking load (2440lbs). This is well above any SWL for running rigging, and would not likely be encountered on the water. After round 55 hrs the rope had elongated by just under 1mm (UNLIKE THE BEARS SECONDARY WHICH ELONGATED ENOUGH FOR 48 POINTS).

This is still really good!  There was no prestretch beyond getting the rope to tension, so you’re likely seeing construction stretch as much as anything.  Getting <1mm over 3048mm at this % of break load is incredible. You could debate whether we’re seeing construction stretch (probably) or creep (unlikely) but it’s nice to have this data (AND THE INEVITABLE TOP FIVE DRAFT PICK IN 2016).

If you’re curious about the angry parentheses…. 

T10 Backstay Update

The Tartan Ten is a staple of life at CYR. At this moment I have a T10 boom on the bench, and another strapped to the ceiling; there are 2 T10 backstays in boxes on my desk, a forestay just came off the swager, and there are 2 boxes of halyards and sheets on their way out the door UPS. T10s are the alpha and the omega around here! For every cool big boat project, there’s a dozen T10 bits, so I take them pretty seriously even when their owners come in looking for innovative blender solutions, or a shade of rope that matches their favorite beer can (both true)

Anyway, one of the specialty T10 products has been the fiber backstay. Proud to say that if you see a fiber backstay on a Ten it’s probably one of ours. One of the original pre-2010 backstays came in from the cold the other day, so I took the chance to see how it’s held up. This has 5 seasons of use including regattas, beercans and distance races. Pull test results will post shortly, but for now lets look at the condition.

The top eye is covered in chafe sleeve to keep it safe near the masthead crane. You can see this thimble is too large, as the eye has been crushed a bit by the top of the masthead crane. We started using smaller thimbles or no thimbles after 2011. The loads on this are light enough that a smaller thimble won’t distort under load, and even the pin alone would offer plenty of bend radius.

Here you can see what 5 seasons of the backstay flicker ring have done to the chafe sleeve on the backstay: not a lot This is a 3/16″ stock stainless ring, and it hasn’t made a dent in the backstay itself.

Here you can see where the top batten hits the backstay. The very first time we tried Dynex Dux as a backstay, the T10 top batten was fuzzing up the backstay on the first sail, so the chafe sleeve was added. The chafe sleeve is quite slick and tough, and the tight weave and stretching during splicing make it snag free. Very pleased to see how fresh this looks entering year 6.

We’ll break this soon and see how much of the rated 5T strength is left.

We broke this recently, and saw how much of the rated 5T strength was left…

The backstay broke at 5,640lbs, or approximately 53% of original rated strength after 5 years of normal/heavy use.  What’s funny is that that number is still stronger than the 1×19 wire it replaced.