Plastic can be fantastic – with the launch of two new innovative plastic rope blocks, are the days of metallic moving parts numbered in deck hardware?
French sailors have always been the innovative, daring types. They have the heart for adventure and the mental fortitude for prolonged discomfort, which goes some way into explaining their domination of the solo ocean-racing scene. Their yacht designs tend to take the minimalist, fast, fun-first approach. Whether in the Mini-Transat, Class 40, multihull classes or IMOCA fleets, French sailors are keen to try new things in their tireless quest for speed. They seek efficiency: lighter and faster – weight, drag and friction are the enemy.
So just when you think you have seen it all, especially with regards to deck equipment, along come new materials or new ways of thinking. 2015 will see the launch of two innovative new plastic rope blocks to the sailing market… and yes, they’re French (or Swiss French).
INO is a dynamic new French company that’s targeting weight in deckgear, co-founded by – you guessed it – a Mini sailor: Thibault Reinhart. His partner is Julien Barnet, who invented the ingenious textile constrictor clutch. Their new lightweight textile-plastic block is stripped of the traditional metal axle. Instead it employs a patented and hidden part that INO Block describe as Textile Axle Technology (TAT).
The result is claimed to be two to three times lighter and stronger than the competition. The funky blocks certainly feel remarkably light, thanks to compression plastic cheeks, aluminium sheaves and Dyneema loops. The blocks are also highly efficient. An intriguing claim is that the higher the load, the more friction decreases. “More load equals more heat and less friction,” said Thibault Reinhart, “but because we are working at three times the safety coefficient, the Dyneema doesn’t get anywhere near a load to get too hot.”
Check out the promo video here
The first block INO has produced is the IB 3.6 for 6–10mm rope, available from February in a multitude of vibrant colours. It weighs just 48g, yet has a safe working load of 1.2 tonnes and breaking load of 3.6 tonnes – and costs €210. Snatch blocks and fiddles will form part of a new range, which extends through to custom and industrial markets. See more here
The Nub is a spherical plastic, friction-busting design that puts a new circular-looking twist on the age-old rope pulley. A prime benefit is that it’s cheap – two Nubs will cost under €40. The Nub is simple, light and economic and it can take great loads with no moving parts and minimal friction. A 16g Nub for example can hold over four tonnes of static weight – and it can be fixed to a preloaded rope. A 10mm Dyneema line used during testing reportedly snapped before the Nub showed any signs of strain whilst under 4.7 tonnes of load! The Nub’s design is also inherently secure as if the polyplastic body does fail, the moving sheet will be held by the static sheet. Francois Angoulvant is one of the co-founders and is president of the Class 40 association. He tested out the invention by equipping his own 40 with 18 Nubs. See what I mean about those innovative French sailors?
More on Nubs here