Sailboat Jackline Test
Rope, webbing, and wire are commonly used for jacklines on a sailboat, but which is the most reliable? Once a crew goes over the lifelines and into the water, recovery becomes vastly more difficult. In addition to Practical Sailor’s close analysis of existing jackline materials and jackline installations, we dragged a 190-pound crew member astern from 25-foot jacklines made of 1-inch, 3,600-pound tubular nylon webbing, and 1-inch, 6,000-pound West Marine polyester webbing.
Whatever jackline system is used, it should be supplemented with fixed clip-in points in the cockpit, at the helm, and around the mast—wherever crew members work for extended periods. International Sailing Federation recommendations require that two-thirds of the crew be able to be simultaneously clipped on without depending on jacklines. Our top choice is a low-stretch Dyneema or Spectra jackline custom made by a professional with loops bartacked in place. For those on a budget, low-stretch polyester jacklines like those made by one of our recommended suppliers will suffice. In either case, routine inspection for wear and UV damage is imperative.