New Halyard Arrangement

David Collin writes:

I have never found the halyard arrangement as designed to be much of a problem, but reading of the difficulties experienced by others made me wonder if it was worth experimenting with an alternative way of rigging it.

Romilly Halyard

I had the idea a long time ago of replacing the double block at the starboard side of the mast head with a single block to starboard, and another on the after side of the mast head, in order to reduce wear on the mast. When I read on your website that Ed Burnett also thought that might be something worth trying, I finally took the plunge.

The first task was to replace my masthead fitting which only had eyes to port and starboard, with one which had eyes fore and aft and to port and starboard. This was easily obtained from Davey. The job of removing one fitting and applying the other was straightforward, involving only removing the locating screws, tapping the fitting gently all round its lower edge until it became free of the timber plug which ends the carbon fibre mast, and then replacing it with the new fitting, suitable bored to take new locating screws. A small amount of two pack filler finished the job.

I then replaced all the original Tufnal blocks on the entire halyard arrangement with new Lewmar Synchro blocks, except for those on deck which I retained for their appearance and to avoid the need to bore any more holes in the deck.

The result is a system with much less friction and no chafing to the mast head (so far). I also have spare eyes at the masthead to rig a separate burgee halyard or to carry out any further experiments that prove necessary. In removing my old fitting I noticed substantial wear to the eye from which the previous double block was rigged and I hope that my new arrangement will spread the load better and reduce wear.

The following picture shows the new arrangement under sail. There is definitely a lot less friction and dropping the main is dramatically speeded up to the extent that I now have to look sharp to avoid being hit on the head by the yard – that never used to happen!

Romilly Halyard

    1. Thomas Huber says:

      Hi David,

      I like your arrangement and would like to give it a try myself. I am also annoyed by the extra effort I have to spend convincing my rig to come down. But I suppose, the low friction property of your new arrangement mainly stems from using low friction blocks over the old Tufnol ones, and not from changing from double to the two single block arrangment? In other words: Wouldn’t the rig also come down more easily by using a low friction double block (besides the advantage of reducing chafe)?

      All the best


    1. David R Collin says:

      Hello Thomas,

      I think you are correct in saying that most of the reduction in friction comes from the new blocks, but the new arrangement seems to permit an easier run for the halyards which will also help to improve the situation. I am keen on the idea of replacing the double block with two singles. As you appreciate, it saves a lot of wear on the after face of the mast, but it also spreads the load on the eyes at the masthead. I think replacing the deck turning blocks at the base of the mast would further reduce friction, but I have not yet decided to take that step!

      Best wishes,


    1. Bruce Levell says:

      I’ve done that! I have simply replaced the old Tufnol blocks with Harken carbo blocks, like for like. The yard falls pretty much under its own weight! I went up one size of block for the masthead double (75mm). Expensive but a dramatic, and safer, difference to a single- hander. Hoisting can now be one hand for the halyard and one for the boat.

    1. cees says:


      The wear on the eyes of the bronze mast top fitting is a serious issue. Two years ago, the eye of my Roxane main mast broke, whilst under full sail and the Halyard dropped on the gunwale with the pointy bit. Result gunwale broken and hull delaminated. Repairs cost fair bit but was luckily insured for the main part.
      I replaced the top eyes with a custom built, matted INOX version. I believe it is a point of inspection after each season though.

      I did not try the alternative arrangement, it looks good, would not know what’‘s against rigging it thie way.
      I did change the old Barton block by a double sheave, ball bearing Lewmar one, and a Dyneema core halyard and the whole operation of bringing the sail down improved big time.

      Reg’s Cees

    1. Bob Starbird says:

      I recently started using soft loops between the mast blocks and mast band eyes. Ronstan Dyneema loop links are said to have a strength greater than the block and provide a soft union between the block and eye. I had to file the eye smooth and will inspect each season.

      Bob Starbird

    1. Richard East says:

      I have a Roxane that was built by Van Veen at Stellendam, in 2009. when sailing her back from Holland (half way across the North Sea) the bronze Davy mast head band broke and the yard and mainsail dropped down and just just missed hitting me on the head, leaving the yard etc bobbing up and down in the water in a force 5/6 not much fun!! Although the mast band was brand new! it clearly is not up to the load and we made our own stainless steel band with additional lugs to take 2 single blocks for the halyard, 2 more small blocks for lazy jacks and another forward for a spinnaker halyard the arrangement with 2 single blocks has reduced the wear on the mast and gives a better lead than a double which gets pinched against the mast.

      I would not fit the bronze davy mast band as I think the patterns / moulds they use to cast them may have worn and the lugs are not as heavy as they were 30 years ago.

      Richard East