Shed the Shackles of Shackles: Try Loups

High-tech rope ideas for the masses

Brian Fisher, Aramid Rigging

As rope technology has advanced we've all gotten used to the constantly shrinking diameter of halyards and other running rigging. A 12,000-pound load on a polymer rope of a size that you wouldn't have used for a light-air spinnaker sheet 15 years ago is no biggie. Wire is almost totally gone and rod-rigging may not be long for this world-Graham Dalton's Open 60 is rigged with PBO standing rigging, lighter and stronger than rod.

With feedback gleaned from The Race and the Volvo and with the assistance of the high-end rigging experts at Aramid Rigging in Portsmouth, R.I., Yale has developed and patented Loups, a product that's been designed to replace steel shackles. Realizing that there was more than one way to rig a cat, innovative riggers of high-end programs have been successfully using loops of low-stretch rope for applications once regarded as the sole territory of large, heavy metal shackles. From running backstays to guy block padeyes, Loups not only save weight they also lower costs.

The secret behind the curtain is Dyneema SK-75, a low-stretch, ultra-high molecular weight (UHMW) polyethylene that's overlapped in consecutive coils, then spliced together in a loop and treated with a "proprietary heating and stretching process that equalizes stress across each strand, ensuring maximum strength." This process improves the molecular makeup of the Dyneema and can make the Loup stronger than a simple loop of the same material. The Loup material is also protected by a jacket of Spectra which has color-coded wear bands woven into it, indicating strength characteristics and wear level .The annealing process is what separates a Loup from a loop. This process helps to balance out the strength members while improving the molecular makeup of the Dyneema itself. This process can yield up to a 20 percent gain in strength over a non-treated Loup.

For more information on Loups, see www.yalecordage.com or www.aramidrigging.com