You’ve probably seen them: loops of Dyneema rope, so called “soft shackles,” or blocks in which certain elements are textile rather than metal.
Even textile deck fittings are entering the market and becoming increasingly popular.
This quiet revolution—the movement from hard steel toward soft materials—has been going on for quite some time now. So far, most of the action has been confined to the professional or semi-professional racing community. As always, frontline developments trickle down and are eventually adopted by ordinary sailors.
But if they are not obsessive enough about weight reduction to spend loads of money on minor weight savings, why would they opt for textile fittings? Are they getting cheaper and easier to find? What are the pros and cons? We asked the experts.
New Ways of Attachment
Marin Clausin is the founder of Karver, a French company at the forefront of this development. The majority of Vendée Globe sailors use Karver equipment, probably the best recommendation there is.
“New, high-strength ropes have gradually changed the development of deck gear,” he explained. “Dyneema, Kevlar and PBO are stronger than stainless steel and about ten times lighter. The fact that it is a flexible material allows new ways of attaching one part to another. You can move things in all directions.”
Another advantage noted by Clausin is rapid handling. Loops tend to be very easy to open and close without tools. “And since there is no metal-to-metal contact, there is no noise. If you look at blocks, the fact that the lashing goes through the center of the block is a real safety factor. If the block breaks, the running line is still kept in place by the lashing,” he added.