Pulling together

News Posted 16/10/17
Ropes made by a Sussex company are being tested on the high seas, aboard yachts taking part in the Round the World Clipper race.

Rope has been made in Hailsham for more than 200 years and Marlow has had a link with the global sailing race since 2001, kitting out the rigging on the 70ft clipper race fleet which left Liverpool Albert Dock in August and is not due to return until July next year.

Marketing manager at Marlow, Emma Donovan said: “The clipper race is an amazing adventure, testing the resilience of crew, boat and rigging. The ropes will travel 40,000 nautical miles per yacht, crossing four oceans. They will endure hard conditions and have to be the very best. We take this responsibility very seriously and are proud to be the official rope supplier.”

Each of the 12 Clipper racing yachts is kitted out with 1,420 metres of rope (plus spares and accessories), with a combined strength on each boat of 336 tonnes. A total of more than 15,620 metres of rope has been made for the entire clipper race fleet, the process taking more than 1,000 production hours.



  • The original rope company was founded in 1807 by Thomas Burfield and it remains on the same site in Hailsham
  • The first ropes made by Burfield’s employees were of hemp and sometimes of cannabis, imported from Europe and India
  • Two rival rope firms were set up in the 19th century – Green Brothers, which was founded in 1830 by a Burfield employee called George Green, and Hawkins and Tipson, set up in 1881 by George Hawkins and Alfred Tipson in Millwall, East London. All three companies were eventually combined, when Hawkins and Tipson bought Green Brothers in 1941 and Burfield’s in 1953.
  • In 1957, Hawkins and Tipson started making synthetic fibre rope on the Hailsham site and began supplying the yachting industry under the Marlow brand. This led to the founding of Marlow Ropes in 1961

A total of 712 amateur crew are taking part in the race, selected to take part in races over eight legs, as the yachts circumnavigate the globe.

Marlow’s representative on the race, Simon Du Bois, took part in the first leg from Liverpool to Uruguay which took five weeks in August and September. He wrote in a blog of the team’s arrival in South America: “After our catastrophic day in week three, it feels like we could only cruise the last bit until the finish line. Being out of spinnakers to compete against the rest of the fleet, we saw most of the boats pass us one by one. To add to the suffering, we were caught in two wind holes along the way.

“Then one day, I heard: ‘Land, I see land!’ This was what everyone had been hoping for. Seeing the corner of Uruguay meant we would be on land within days.”

The yachts are now on the second leg of the race, from South America to South Africa.

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