Colour Coding Your Control Lines

Years ago, I was teamed up with a lovely man called `David for a few seasons. It was only after two years or so that it transpired David was colour blind…. across red and green mainly. Our discussion about committee boat flags was frequently baffling to me until I understood what was going on.

Solo Class, RYA Dinghy Show 2020 – Photo : P Tinsley

In its own way, this is quite a cheering photo from the Solos!! All control lines in yellow, only the amount of black fleck varies (if you look really really closely).

The photo did though introduce me to “Marlow Excel Control” string available in 4mm and 5mm I think. The strength of “Excel Control” is apparently in the sheath, not in the core. I fancy it is a little kinder to the hands, so we are trialling it in the furler line. I have half a feeling that in some applications it will run through blocks more smoothly. (not proven!)

Replacing our 3mm furler line with 4mm led to some discussion, I can tell you. Mainly about the colour…..Orange or Green was the way to go, but in my shopping I never saw “Green” !!

It’s our fifth FF and I’ve always rather taken the colour coded lines for granted. Phil Evans builds our boats and does an amazing and perfect job of it all. For our furler experiment, we settled on “orange” for the new furler line (with a snazzy black zig zag from the Marlow Excel Control series….) as we had no other orange lines around.

Have you thought about how many different control lines, sheets and halyards you have in a flying fifteen? In ours, we have

  • 3 sheets
  • 3 halyards
  • 12 control lines, 4 of which are up forward for the bowman
  • So 18 in total, not counting various shock-cords

It had never occurred to me before that basically to get all these lines from the same Manufacturer series is a tough job. A Chandler who stocks six colours of a particular model of rope is doing well. Let alone with pandemic ravished stock levels.

So duplicates are bound to be in your boat and so long as they are far apart, everything is fine. Our kicker and barber haulers are both blue. Bowman’s toe strap adjusters and ram/prebend are both silver grey.

I very rashly (very) set out on a journey convinced I could improve colour coding separation up front in the bowman’s cockpit area. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?

I decided the yellow control for the pole uphaul had to go – as there was a bit of other yellow around.

My heart was set on bright pink (none of that in the boat !), but I suspect the pole uphaul may be the only control in the boat that needs 3mm at one end (up mast) and 4mm where your hands go. Obviously you want them to be visually the same!!

I tried four different chandlers including one that won’t sell 3mm line. It turns out that there is an Excel red that looks “pink” to some people, though I now have both “reds” in my spare string bag. Doing this online was hopeless. I failed to get a match and anyway, the boat has red for jib cars and outhaul, so it couldn’t be “red” at all. I’ve got miles of the stuff now, all a subtly different red to the reds we have, but I’m thinking of my dear friend David here….

So in the end I phoned P&B and spoke to somebody helpful, understanding and human… and told him to go and stand by the rope rack and tell me what colour Excel Racing cordage was available in the same colour in both 3mm and 4mm sizes… and in a colour I didn’t already use in the boat. What did we end up with??


The orange already selected from Marlow Excel Control ropes for the furler line looks like this, so we can just about get away with this new uphaul.

If you are thinking of restringing your Flying Fifteen what would I suggest?:-

1/ As the pole uphaul needs 3mm and 4mm line, start there with what’s available on the chandler’s rack, and work backwards through the boat to figure out the rest.

2/ If, like me, you prefer to use Marlow ropes when you can, then increase your choice by considering both Excel Racing and Excel Control ropes in your colour set from the beginning. The two cord sheath designs look very different.

3/ Forget Pink.