What is a Sailing Tether?

A sailing tether, also known as a safety lanyard, is a key component in personal safety equipment used in sailing. The components typically consists of:

🔗 Purpose: Its main function is to keep the sailor connected to the boat to prevent them from falling overboard.

🪢 Design & Material: A line or strap usually made from strong, durable materials like nylon or polyester that can be attached to a sailor’s harness or life jacket.

📏 Length: Variable lengths to allow some movement around the boat while still ensuring safety.

🔩 Connection Points: Features hooks or clips at each end; one end attaches to the sailor’s harness, and the other to a strong point on the boat.

💪 Strength: Designed to withstand the forces experienced in rough seas and inclement weather.

Sailing tethers are essential for safety, especially in challenging conditions, and are commonly used in offshore sailing and racing.

The best tethers for offshore sailing meet all the criteria above and are a small price to pay when you consider the big picture.  

Types of Sailing Tethers

Sailing tethers keep you connected to your boat, either by attaching you to a fixed-location pad eye or to jacklines

They come in various materials and configurations, so let’s go through the differences to help you choose the right tether for your vessel.

Elastic Tethers

An elastic tether, made of stretchy material, allows free movement around the boat while keeping you securely attached. It provides a comfortable range of motion and minimizes the chances of tripping over the tether.

Sailors typically use these tethers in combination with other types, often found in double tether setups that include one 6-foot elastic tether and one 3-foot non-elastic tether.

Line (Rope) Tethers

Manufacturers make these tethers from marine-grade, high-strength lines to withstand harsh sailing conditions.

These lanyards are generally thicker and more durable than elastic or webbing tethers, offering a high level of strength and security. However, they may lack the flexibility and usability of tethers made from other materials.

Webbing Tethers

Webbing tethers are constructed from flat, woven fabric that balances strength and flexibility. They are usually more lightweight and less bulky than line tethers and come in various colors and patterns.

The webbing material also provides better resistance to water absorption, UV degradation, and abrasion, significantly contributing to its durability.


Jacklines are lines that run along the deck of the boat, usually made of webbing or high-strength rope. They offer a secure attachment point for your tether, allowing you to move safely around the boat.

When using a sailing harness and tether, ensure your jacklines are installed correctly and in good condition.

Elements of a Sailing Tether

One of the primary components of a sailing tether is the snap hook, which is a versatile attachment mechanism boasting great strength and ease of use. Locking snap hooks offer added security by preventing accidental opening mid-sail. 

Similarly, a snap shackle offers quick and easy attachment or detachment from a secure point on the boat.

The carabiner is a robust, efficient attachment alternative to snap hooks and shackles. They can be combined with safety hooks, such as the Kong safety hook, which provides a secure connection while mitigating the risk of accidental release. 

In addition to attachment mechanisms, a sailing tether often features a short tether or double tether. This allows you to maintain a secure connection to the boat while still providing the freedom to move and maneuver as the situation requires. Short tethers are particularly helpful in limiting the possibility of a significant fall, further enhancing safety levels during sailing.

Another factor to consider is having something on you to cut yourself free of the lanyard. In case of an emergency, such as a rapidly capsizing boat, the ability to quickly sever your tether can be crucial.

Indeed, the question of whether you should tether to your boat often arises from this predicament – it’s essential to find a solution that meets your safety needs and comfort preferences.

Safety Measures and Considerations

Specific Features to Consider

When choosing a sailing safety lanyard, it’s essential to consider its specific features, such as the connection points and length.

These tethers connect your safety harness to a secure point on the boat, like a jackline, keeping you safely aboard in case of a fall overboard.

Your safety relies on high-quality mechanisms like quick-release shackles and double-action safety clips, so ensure they are easy to use and good quality.

Material and Construction

The durability and strength of your safety tether depend on the material and construction.

Common materials include polyester webbing or elastic climbing rope, which absorb shock and provide enough stretch for comfortable movements on deck.

Inspect the stitching and overall construction of the tether, ensuring it can withstand harsh offshore conditions while maintaining its reliability.

Standards and Certifications

When selecting a sailing safety harness you typically look at their certifications and recognized safety standards. The same principle applies when looking for tethers.

These bodies provide confidence in the performance and reliability of your equipment. You should look for certifications from organizations like US Sailing or the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), ensuring the tether has been tested and approved for use on sailboats.

Remember that your tether should be compatible with your harness, ensuring a secure connection between you and the boat. Investing in a high-quality tether is a small price to pay for better safety while sailing.

Leading Brands and Products

There are several reputable brands and products worth considering. Among these are Wichard, Spinlock, and West Marine. Each company offers reliable safety tethers for your sailing needs.

Wichard is known for its high-quality sailing gear and accessories. Their ProLine Tether is an excellent choice for sailors who value durability and safety. This tether features one attachment loop, one safety snap hook, and flat webbing. The elastic webbing in Wichard’s Tether #7005 and #7006 ensures a comfortable fit, with fluorescent double-action safety hooks for easy single-handed operation.

Spinlock, another respected brand, also offers reliable safety tethers. The Spinlock Deckware Safety Tether is lighter and less clunky than some competitors’ products. However, it comes with a unique attachment method called a “cow hitch,” which requires cutting the tether away if you need to disengage it from your body.

West Marine is a leading supplier of sailing accessories, and their products include safety harnesses and tethers for offshore sailing. The West Marine Ultimate Safety Harness is designed to provide maximum comfort and security for offshore sailors.

Another noteworthy mention in the world of sailing safety gear is Gibb. While not as prominent as the other mentioned brands, Gibb is known for their quality stainless steel hardware.

Choosing the right tether for your sailing adventures depends on your preferences, sailing conditions, and budget. Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of each product before making your final decision.

I’m the founder and chief editor here at Sailing Savvy. I spent a decade working as a professional mariner and currently, I mix those experiences with digital publishing. Welcome, and I hope that we can be the hub you need for safe passage.