Dear Mr. Dashew: November 2001 Sail magazine contains an article by naval architect Roger Marshall titled "Seamanship in High Winds" in which he states (page 36), “…I believe that every boat that is intending to go offshore should have a staysail stay, possibly made of aramid, on which to set the storm jib.” My question concerns the nature of such a staysail stay made of aramid. Could this be as simple as an aramid halyard attached to a folding padeye on deck made tight with a winch? (Assuming the geometry of the aramid halyard/staysail stay would be acceptable using the topping lift sheave, for example.) If so, such an arrangement might appeal to coastal cruisers such as myself, who would like to have the option of using a hanked-on storm jib on a staysail stay but have difficulty justifying a conventional staysail stay installation due to its low frequency or probability of use.
If my understanding, as set out above, of what Mr. Marshall intends is correct, how satisfactory would such an arrangement be in actual use? Do you believe this would be a good option for coastal cruisers such as myself? (I realize the scope of my question ignores additional important considerations like keeping the mast in column, possibly using running backstays or swept-back spreaders, etc. and the structural concerns of the deck handling the loads.) If such an installation is a reasonable approach, I am sure you can see the potential appeal for some cruisers. If one were lucky, installation might be as simple as installing a folding padeye on deck, replacing the topping lift with aramid line run to an appropriate winch (assuming the topping lift sheave is located opposite upper swept back spreaders) and buying a storm jib with hanks. Wishful thinking? As always, thank you for your assistance.—Downing Mears
Hi Downing: Interesting question. First, there are lots of boats now using soft cutter stays (i.e. some form of rope). I’m not sure I’d go with aramid. I think spectra might be better for cruising. There are many ways of handling the system, and you will need to make sure that all the elements are up to strength. This starts with the deck fitting, which needs a connection to the hull, via a bulkhead or tension strap to the hull. The “hanks” need to be of a type which will not chafe–the Wichard polished stainless seem to be pretty common. You need some system to tension the stay. And finally, the mast will need to resist the forward pull of the stay, usually with running backstays. Keep in mind that during heavy weather, this cutter stay will see almost the same load as the headstay. Regards, Steve Dashew