Revisiting the Two-Legged Tether


Driven by World Sailing standards, the sailing tether market is dominated by single 6-foot tethers and two-leg 3-foot/6-foot tethers. In fact, if you intend to race your boat in a World Sailing event, you will have to choose one of these tethers to be compliant with race rules.

home-made tethers

Whether one leg or two legs is preferable is open to debate. The advantage of a double-leg tether is that you can be continuously clipped in as you move between clip-in points. Many sailors, however, see the second leg as a complication. Some have even gone so far as to cut the second leg away after finding it to be too much of a nuisance.

The nice thing about making your own tether is that you can determine the length and configuration that best meets your needs. PS tester Drew Frye, who carried out the testing for the adjacent article, prefers the two leg variety. For the short leg, he has found that a short, 2-foot tether, is particularly handy when working near the bow (where a long tether would increase the risk of getting hurled forward) standing at the mast, or the moving forward, sliding past the hardtop.

The longer leg also goes against convention. It is a full eight feet, allowing Frye to work nearly the full width of his cruising catamaran. To manage the extra length, he keeps the harness high on the chest and in part by holding the tether in one hand as he moves across the cockpit or bow.

When working in a vulnerable position, like down on the sugar scoops transom while landing a fish, he extends the tether from end to end, a full 10 feet. In Frye’s view, tethers should fit the boat, and that perhaps a too long tether is the greatest risk of all.

Determining the right length tether is tough if the boat’s jacklines run on the side decks, outside the shrouds. This common setup puts the crew in a vulnerable position. Jacklines should run inside the shrouds and near the centerline when possible. See “Jackline Installation Advice,” PS November 2015.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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