I have a big old Maxwell House can full of splicing fids, marline, whipping and sail thread, needles, sailmaker’s palm, odds and ends of small stuff – and some tattered instructions for splicing double-braid line. I used to do it often enough not to need the instructions. Now I’m rusty – but the good news is that I might not have to splice double-braid too often again, because of a brand of rope from Yale Cordage called PhD, which won the 2011 Pittman Innovation Award from SAIL Magazine, and has now been out long enough for people to get familiar with it.
As everyone knows, a splice is much stronger than a knot. And no matter how many ways that ropemakers and retailers package pre-spliced braid for specific uses like docklines, there are still times when a splice needs to be replaced or put in new, either as a freestanding eye or around a thimble or bail or becket. Cases in point: a new mainsheet system on a sailboat, a dinghy painter attached to a fixed ring, or a halyard or hoisting line.
This PhD single-braid rope does almost everything a double-braid does, but can be spliced much more easily. (PhD stands for “Performance handling. Delivered.”) Whereas double-braid has a central core and an outer covering, PhD is basically a hollow tube of rope, with the weave occupying more or less of the central part depending on whether the rope is under tension or, as when splicing, actually has a bit of compression applied to open up the center. As a single-braid, PhD is more resistant to kinking and hockling than double-braid, and a PhD splice relies on the basic “Chinese handcuff” dynamic rather than the more complicated swap-and-bury maneuver for double-braid. The buried part of the splice will be thicker for a longer distance than a neatly tapered splice in double-braid, so make sure you don't need that section to run through a block or over a sheave.
One thing that distinguishes PhD from other single-braids is a polyester coating called iGrip, which Yale uses to improve the traction of PhD in the hand and on winch surfaces, while also leaving it able to glide smoothly through blocks. They make racing and cruising versions; the cruising version is all polyester while the racing version uses a high Spectra content.
I bought 50 feet of the half-inch cruising version (the largest diameter they sell), and was able to put in an eye splice in just a few minutes, following the simple directions.
Single-braid is not inherently as strong as a double-braid of the same material and diameter. The half-inch cruising-version PhD has a breaking strength of 6000 pounds, whereas Yale’s half-inch Portland double-braid (their standard brand) has a 7800-pound breaking strength. For many uses the single-braid will be plenty strong enough, especially if you can oversize by one notch. (Any time you get close to the breaking strength of a line, step away. And get a bigger line.)
Another advantage to single-braid is that it’s lighter. The half-inch Portland weighs 8.8 pounds per 100 feet, while half-inch cruising PhD weighs 5.4 pounds and the Spectra-based racing version weighs 4.2 pounds. That’s amazingly light, and those weight savings can make a difference in a lot of places.
Yale markets different sizes and lengths of PhD faked down into clear carry-bags, complete with the appropriate-sized fids and splicing instructions. I bought my 50-foot package of half-inch PhD online from Hamilton Marine, but there are other outlets.
For more information about PhD and its distributors, visit Yale Cordage.
-- Doug Logan
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