Staysails are an evolution of the many different jibs flown by commercial ships in the age of sail. Their history on yachts has had many incarnations. Many voyaging sailboats could benefit from the addition of a staysail to a single headsail sailplan.
Adding a staysail gives a boat a small jib that can balance the boat in heavier wind and sea conditions. We’ll take a look at some of the factors to be considered for this sort of an improvement.
Sometimes staysails are flown with a loose foot, and sometimes on a boom or “club.” They are also set up self-tacking to a jib-horse or track, and sometimes set overlapping the mast so that they need to be tacked around like a genoa. On larger foredecks skippers often fly them inside a full jib, sailing the boat as a double-headed rig and gaining reaching power. Still others use them as small jibs for heavy weather because they consolidate the sailplan and lower its center of effort, while giving the crew a more central and safe location at which to work when taking seas on deck.
Take the example of a voyaging couple who bought an older Tartan 34. They purchased the boat in Long Island Sound and decided to use their summer vacation to deliver it home to New Jersey via Newport and Long Island’s south shore.
On the leg from Block Island to Ambrose Light, the couple discovered that their boat had a tendency toward lee helm, even with just a full main and a working jib set. In this case, a smaller sail, set further aft on the foredeck would help to balance out the helm, making the boat manageable in a seaway in heavy air.
As with any rig alteration or addition, we want to consider the balance of the boat, so that we can maintain desirable helm with the new sail combination. If we can decide what wind ranges we aim to use the sail in, then we can get some idea of what sail combinations we would fly in those conditions, and, therefore, how the boat will balance with a given staysail.
A copy of a boat’s sailplan – obtained from the designer or builderandmdash;can be used to determine how a staysail will affect overall sailing characteristics. Our voyaging couple received their boat’s sailplan from the builder and it quickly revealed the cause of their ill-balanced helm. The boat was originally designed as a yawl. In the early 70s, when the boat was built, this configuration was not popular and the boat was offered as a sloop rig, which moved the sailplan’s center of effort farther forward.
Consideration should be given to where the new inner forestay is intersecting the foredeck and rig. I like to keep the new inner forestay parallel to the primary headstay for aesthetic reasons. The more room one has between the inner and outer headstays, the less the inner headstay will interfere with the tacking of a full genoa. Also, the farther back on the foredeck the sail is, the more protected crewmembers will be when setting and dousing the sail in bad weather. Conversely, the farther aft along the deck the tack is, the smaller the sail will be, and the less power it will generate. If one makes the sail too small, it will only be useful as a heavy weather sail.Rig considerations
Adding an inner forestay to a rig means that one is introducing forward and leeward bending moments to the spar in a place where it was probably not designed to deal with them. Remember that most spars are designed to take compression, all horizontal loads must be accounted for by the standing rigging.
If one has a double-spreader rig, and the new inner forestay intersects the spar at or close to the upper spreader, then a set of running backstays can be used to support the rig when the staysail is set. Spectra or an aramid rope is a good choice for the runners for several reasons: they add only a fraction of the weight aloft, don’t punish the rig and mainsail as severely as wire, and are easily spliceable. The drawbacks are that they can cost a bit more and probably won’t last as long as well-maintained wire.
The Tartan 34 rig has only a single-spreader rig, but the relatively small size of the required staysail allowed us to bring the forestay in just a little ways above the spreader. This particular rig, for example, had only one set of lower shrouds and no intermediate fore and aft support. Because of that, the addition of running backstays will greatly reduce the rig’s tendency to pump (something those old CCA rigs are very good at). Tying the runners into the deck as far forward as possible, while still maintaining a 15 degree shroud angle (the angle between the mast and the wire), helped us give the rig a bit more transverse rigidity to deal with the new load.
If the forestay intersects the spar at a point somewhere in the middle of a panel, then a set of diamonds or an intermediate shroud to give the section support athwartships might be a good idea.
Whatever is done, one will have to add a fitting to the spar that can take up the new forestay. This fitting must conform to the forward shape of the spar section and should probably have holes in it where one can attach toggles or link plates to the after corners of the fitting and pick up the running backstays. A local rigger can help in ordering a fitting from a place like Metal Mast Marine in Putnam, CT. I prefer to fasten the fitting to the mast with machine screws by drilling and tapping the spar, but many riggers prefer rivets. Whichever type of fastener is chosen, it’s still a good idea to bed the fitting in a polysulfide compound.
A new forestay can be terminated in any manner but I prefer the Norseman or Stalock style of mechanical fasteners. They are very strong, can be done at home, and the whole thing is reusable (with the exception of the cone, which is relatively inexpensive).
Make sure that the connections are toggled top and bottom to allow a free range of motion. Otherwise, the fittings and the wire will be unduly stressed and will tend to fatigue at the connection point to the terminal fitting.
One option is making the lower end of the forestay removable. This way, it can be released and set aside to the shrouds when not in use. Release fittings for inner forestays are commercially available, but expensive. Many people just use a turnbuckle with a quick pin. (Make sure to retain the quick pin on a lanyard to avoid losing it.)
If the inner forestay is set up to be removable, be sure to protect the spreaders and the mast from abuse by the wire. I’ve seen poorly secured inner forestays, and wire halyards wear through the leading edge of spreaders as they slap and chafe against a pitching spar.Tying in to the deck
An inner forestay needs a chainplate to provide secure integration into the boat’s structure in the same way as the primary headstay and shrouds.
Sometimes it is convenient to tie this headstay into an existing bulkhead, such as the one that divides the v-berth from the forepeak on many boats. In this case, we must remember that the bulkhead, even if structural, is not designed to take the afterward shear loads that will be placed on it by the chainplate. The fastening should be braced from pulling aft so that the deck is not loaded excessively. If improperly done, it can lead to leaking at the chainplate and deterioration of the deck core and the bulkhead. Proper fastening can be accomplished by attaching the chainplate to the deck in the form of a through-bolted extra heavy padeye, backed by an angle bracket that is tied to the bulkhead. This approach will both clamp the deck with a sealant gasket and distribute the chainplate’s bite over a larger section of deck.
The inner forestay does not always fall at a convenient spot on the deck, and it is under these circumstances that we must take the time to supplement the structure of the boat to securely tie the headstay into the boat. If there is no V berth up forward and the space is used for sail stowage, we may be able to get away with a simple “tie rod” from the under side of the deck to the keel. Tie rods can be made of rod or chain of at least two-and-a-half times the strength of the wire that will be used in the rigging. The tie rod should carry the same angle as the headstay it is reinforcing. If tying into the boat’s keel or stem is impractical, than we can split the tie and carry the load to inward-facing, heavy-duty padeyes that are above the waterline on both sides of the hull. Full backing plates and plenty of polysulfide caulking to seal and reinforce these bottom padeyes is the way to go if this approach is employed. One should also glue some heavy plywood to the inside of the hull to help spread out the new loads. On the top end the loads can be transmitted through the deck by two heavy padeyes back to back with lots of polysulfide.
A tie rod arrangement will also need an appropriately-sized turnbuckle in the equation to take up any slack and even pretension the deck so that the new stay has no chance of lifting the deck.
At other times, as when a belowdecks tie would interfere with accommodations, an alternate approach is to laminate a beam under the foredeck and across the boat. Such beams can be tied into the hull with stainless steel angle brackets at both ends.
Again we must make sure that there is enough material where the brackets tie into the hull to insure that there won’t be any deterioration of the hull laminate due to localized stresses. The new beam should also be screwed and bonded to the deck all along its run so that it distributes its loads over the widest area, and as evenly as possibly.
The original drawings for our voyaging couple’s boat brought the staysail in over the forward end of their V berth. This meant that there was no bulkhead, and a tie rod would have rendered the bunk useless. I initially hoped that they would laminate in a beam, but their busy schedules didn’t afford them the time. By the time spring had rolled around they had decided to move the chainplate forward a foot or two to a bulkhead and use the first approach described above.
We have to make sure that anywhere bolts are run through a cored laminate, we use compression spacers to protect the laminate. This is a good idea in balsa- and plywood-cored decks where leakage can result in moisture wicking, core rot, and delamination.Sheet control
We must also take into consideration the clew end of the sail. How are we going to lead the sheets, and what will secure them to the deck? Perhaps the simplest approach is to have two padeyes, one port and one starboard, rove with double sheets like a genoa. But this arrangement will not allow the sail to tack without the same sheet attention a genoa requires.
To solve this problem many designers have used jib booms or clubs with the sheet leading to a small traveler or a block and padeye on the centerline. I am not particularly fond of adding another spar to the boat, particularly one that can whack me in the shins. This is, however, a good solution to an often annoying problem.
If a boat should happen to have a flush foredeck then it may be possible to install a traveler. Using a traveler, the sheet can run through a traveler-car with a centerline adjustment. Remember that the track should be level, or even curved upwards at the ends; if it curves down, following the boats deck curvature, there will be a centering tendency for the car when the sail pulls upward on the sheet. This will make it difficult to control the sheeting angle, and can slowly drive one mad.
Remember that a traveler should have at least eight degrees between the centerline of the boat, the tack, and the outboard end of the traveler when viewed from above. Otherwise the sheeting angle of the sail will always be too closed, and will have to be twisted off in order to get it to set reasonably
It may also be appealing to use a Camber Spar when it is not possible to have a deck track. A Camber Spar is a pre-formed aluminum spar that fits inside a special pocket on the sail. It runs at right angles to the headstay reaching from the luff to the clew. It is something of a cross between a batten and a boom. Of course, the sail must be specially constructed for this sort of an arrangement. A Camber Spar will allow one to tack the staysail in a self-tending manner, while having the sheet lead through a fixed point on the centerline. It will also help prevent the sail from twisting-off excessively when reaching; and it stows with the sail, leaving no booms or clubs on deck. (My shins feel better already.)
We can see that adding a staysail will probably prompt most people to consult a professional boatyard or rigging shop. However, with a little bit of forethought and research, most of the preliminary work can be done at home with pencil and paper. Once the design and approach is clear, one can even do some of the installation (provided one has the nerve to actually drill holes in one’s boat).
Paul Cohen, who has worked as a sailmaker and a rigger in Europe and the U.S., is building a 60-foot Dave Gerr design for the 1994 BOC Challenge.