Thursday, November 25, 2010

Running Backstays

Vero Beach

Libby is preparing food for today's Thanksgiving pot luck dinner. I'm on shore shopping online for a laptop. Maybe now is a good time to answer a reader's question about running backstays.

First, a disclaimer. I've always been reluctant to write about the art of sailing. I don't consider myself an expert or even a good sailor when it comes to sail handling. In 40 years of sailing, I've never raced even once, and racing is where people learn a lot. So any advice below merely repeats what I've been told.

Tarwathie is a cutter rig, like the sailboat in the picture. It has two foresails (jibs). The big one is called the yankee, and the little one is called the staysail.

In force 5 winds (gale), with wind behind us, I've been using the (reefed) yankee only. I've been told that I should have sailed with a reefed main and staysail only. In still stronger winds use the staysail only. It is not just a question of sail area. The main/staysail combination moves the center of force lower and closer to the degree of gravity. In other words, the boat is better balanced and thus easier to handle.

Now consider the forces on the mast. The yankee pulls at the tip of the bowsprit and at the mast head. The back stay balances the force at the mast head. However, the staysail attaches part way up the mast. There is no stay there to balance the forces. That makes the mast bend. Eventually, it leads to metal fatigue and cracking.

The running back stays attach to the mast right behind the staysail attachment. Their purpose is to balance staysail forces. Because they get in the way and are inconvenient, running back stays are removed when they are not actually needed.
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