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Ensign Sailing Forum

Running Rigging
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Forgot to answer the 2nd question you had in there . 3/8 is the max I would go with and only because it is easiest on the hands. 5/16 is plenty strong as would be a good quality low stretch 1/4 line. However, the less diameter the harder on the hands.

For length I use my main halyard also as a topping lift for the end of the boom so that I can adjust the height when putting on the boom tent. If your boat is already rigged then I would get a long tape measure and attach the halyard to it and hoist it all the way up. Then measure the up and the down for max length that you need plus 1 to 2 feet extra so you have a short tail after the cleat with the max length of line that you need given your set up. Have hoisted a tape up many times on main halyard when tuning the rig - it works great.


For halyards, I just received some pre-fabs that I ordered from West Marine; turns out that they won’t crimp them for you at the local store (thank their lawyers), but they allowed me the use of their tools. It’s more work than you might expect! LOL… A larger person would just put his weight into it, but I was literally hanging off of the lever and bouncing my weight on it while my son supported the bench to keep the shelving from peeling off of the wall…

But I digress….

Per the parts catalog (under historical docs in the library here), original specs on the main were 27’ of 3/32 wire and 34’ of 5/16” line; West sells pre-fabs using 5/16” line with 30 feet of each, so that works for the jib, at 24’ of cable and 31’ of line (I left the cable at 25’, but will trim if need be).

For the main, I went up a size to the 3/8” (6/16”) which is sold at 40’ and 40’. Reasonably sure it will squeeze through the sheave up top. Expensive screw-up if it won’t.

NOTE: the ones I bought are also made with 1/8” cable, which is 1/3 more weight up there. Excess. Hoping there’s no appreciable downside, but it was all they had listed.

You can go higher tech on the line and just go for total length; I would definitely look into the UV tolerance of the core before I had anyone strip the sheathing and for non-racer use, I don’t see a compelling reason to not leave it be. One Man’s Opinion; take it for what it’s worth to you.

On this page, there’s a chart comparing the stretch of the various lines (substantial scrolling involved).

I would be more concerned about that additional 1%-1.3% of stretch if I were running 30-odd feet of it under load, but with the cable on there I figure the stretch might add up to about an inch, worst case.

And the parts catalog confirms 60’ as the length of the mainsheet. Also specs 5/16” braid, which sounds pretty brutal on the hands, so you may wish to improvise a bit.

Hoping some Old Hands will chime in.

Matt Bailey


If you go with a low stretch line for the main sail halyard, what length would you go with and what is the largest diameter that would work. I have no plans to race so I'm just looking for functional.

My 68 Ensign has the original mainsheet with the blocks on each side of the boat and no traveler. Is 60' for the mainsheet a good number for this setup. I just took what was on the boat currently and there is no way it was even close to 60'.


I think that At The Time, all types of line simply had too much stretch, and cable won’t do that. More recently, the appeal is (if I’m learning anything!) is aerodynamics up in the slot. But wire’s heavier, and I think Racers object to that. 

Pick a sport, and folks will obsess over details that way. It’s probably a thing of beauty that there are still people who take racing these boats so seriously. 


My two cents for halyards is to go with good quality 5/16 low stretch line. you can go thicker and it is easier on The hands. The lines these days are so strong that wire does not make a difference either for weight or for strength. If you are racing then you'll probably want to pay a little more for lower stretch line but I don't know that you would need to pay top dollar unless you wanted to.

I do not know the reason Pearson went with wire, weight, strength or just that was what everyone did at that time. The only real wear I see on my main halyard is where the knot on the shackle rubs on the sheave when hoisted. Other than that, no wear whatsoever.


Another update/question -

The parts catalog here on class site indicates 3/32” cable & 5/16” line.

Found some pre-fab halyards (line to cable) which are 1/8” cable. Too thick? And to get the spec length line on the main, I’d have to order 3/8” line. Again, too thick for the hardware?

And does anyone have a preferred supplier for built-to-spec?

It’s killing me to finally have her in the water, just sitting….

Matt Bailey


Thank, Jon -

So on your replacement halyards... are you going with single diameter line end to end, stripping the sheathing from part of a single length, or splicing finer-diameter into larger in place of the steel?

I see that West Marine has pre-fab Sta-set/wire halyards, which are likely to be an upgrade from what we’ve had up ‘til now, but maybe we’d be better off all around with 8mm VPC?

Matt Bailey


There are two questions in the thread.  Sta-set is a moderate stretch line useful for sheets and topping lift, though 1/4" is not hand friendly.  Good for traveller too.

Second, you can get UV coated dyneema.  I had a UV Coated Spectra line for my backstay adjuster fail this spring, which I installed in 2003.  I can live with 17 year life, but know that I took it off every winter.

I've done well with a covered dyneema spinnaker halyard (3/8"), as well as jib halyard.  Still have rope to wire on my main, but next time that goes, I'll go synthetic to replace it.

Hope that helps.

Jon Simpson

Well, THAT is certainly worth knowing! Thanks!!

Based on an earlier thread ( ) I had imagined needing to swap the sheave atop the mast for the main, but on a second pass, it looks like just the block on the jib halyard would be strictly necessary.....

Is anyone still replacing their halyards with steel? My wife has expressed an interest in keeping it true to original spec, and with the newer polyester lines, there’s no telling how long they might last....

Matt Bailey


Careful. The core of Dyneema doesn’t like UV. Race hungry sailors will strip the outer covering the length of the mast to offer less area to the wind, but expect the bare core to last one season.

Update: in continuing my research, I see that 2 mm Dyneema is rated a bit stronger than the original stainless steel cable… Is it more cost-effective to go with Dyneema and simply have the sheathing removed?

We are rigged and on a mooring, so replacing hardware at the top of the mast seems impractical. Not likely to swap with lines much larger in diameter than the stainless. Just that 2mm seems impossibly fine... Hard to imagine handling that even with the sheathing in place...original halyards must be at least 3/8” to be hand/finger-friendly.

Would a line with a 3mm Dyneema core fit the bill?

Should mention that we don’t have immediate plans to race, but wouldn’t want to violate any Class spec.

Matt Bailey


New here.

Coming in a bit late but watching with keen interest; we are afloat again after a 15-year hiatus, and our 50-year-old halyards have given up the ghost....

Given that we’re looking at replacing virtually 100% of the lines, I have no aversion to economical options, and I see that New England Rope says Sta Set X is a suitable alternative for steel halyards, but... Really?

We do have a nearly full spool of 1/4” Sta Set in inventory (approx 2250 tensile); would be delighted to know which lines could be replaced with that, but have no idea how that compares with original-spec dacron lines and am assuming that halyards are off the table...

Sound recommendations are welcome!

Matt Bailey


Hi Tim-

Would you mind sharing what you learn from the rigger about using dyneema to replace the wire?

Thank you!

Thanks Jody,
Very helpful. I took some measurements off the spar this morning and they are pretty much in agreement. I’ll talk with rigger about converting wire rope diameters to Dyneema 



Thanks.  I’ll add this to the Library on the ECA website.


Vic Roberts


For what it is worth, please find Pearson Yacht’s document from 9/66 which was with my boat’s three ring binder from 20 years ago.  

Jody Graul


Nahant MA

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