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Back stays - single, twin or double?


Back stays - single, twin or double?

by SteveT » Thu Jan 04, 2007 3:02 pm

The planned rig on my hull is for a cutter rig.

I am thinking of a split or twin backstay, as opposed to a single. Has anyone got any opinions as to which is the better, and if so - why?

The mast arrives in three weeks, and I am currently fabricating chain plates, so I need to decide which way to go.


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by GreatKetch » Thu Jan 04, 2007 3:40 pm

Switching from a single to a split seems like it should depend on the mechanics of the installation.

If you want an adjustable backstay, splitting has benefit, or maybe a centerline chainplate is just not workable, or the backstay hits the helmsman's head if he stands up. Otherwise what is the reason for splitting it? Seems like it adds complexity and extra parts to fail for little benefit.

If by "double backstay" you mean a pair of backstays going from deck to masthead, I wouldn't do it. If you make them strong enough for each to hold the mast independently, you have added a huge amount of excess weight and windage aloft. If they aren't truely redundent, why bother?

There is a thoughtful discussion of double backstays by Brion Toss you can find here: ... capr99.htm

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by ronbo » Thu Jan 04, 2007 3:42 pm

It depends on several factors. If you have a cutter with stout rigging in mind, and it has two forestays, you may want the security and redundancy of two backstays (second backstay can be used as a SSB radio antenna - but that's another story). Keep in mind that adding weight and wind resistance up high isn't always desireable. My Gozzard is built that way and makes dismasting a non-issue.
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by Barnacle » Thu Jan 04, 2007 4:50 pm

I've owned boats both ways and have to say the double backstay was more comforting when I thought about wire letting go and the mast coming down. Otherwise, if you already have one backstay I'd invest in a good set of running backstays before adding another single. They will do more than another standing backstay will. There is no way I'd go offshore without them.
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by GreatKetch » Thu Jan 04, 2007 10:09 pm

I am curious, for those who feel that double backstays are safer, why not
-- double forestays? (I have seen them) and
-- double shrouds (I haven't seen them, do they exist? If not, Why not?)?

Without any way of a good detailed survey, most of the masts I have heard of falling, it was the shroud sending the mast over the side, not a backstay. Why not have your mast stayed by eight wires instead of four?

Is this just a psychology thing, or does anyone have real data to support their good feelings?
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one or two backstays

by jentim » Sun Jan 07, 2007 10:39 am

This topic seems like the debate between anchor types. But, here goes....

A rigger once said that the boat can be better tuned with a single, split backstay. I'll have to admit that my dual backstays cause me undue strain, wondering about with my tension gauge in hand, tweaking. I spend a tremendous amount of time messing with this.

However, the naval architects design of the boat, and production of, called for two, which is the way it remains. I'm guessing the architect has more training than I?

What does your plan call for? Are you building from scratch? What are similar boats doing?
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by Auspicious » Sun Jan 07, 2007 5:57 pm

I have the arrangement described by Barnacle: forestay, inner forestay for staysail, single backstay, and runners. The only inconvenience is that the backstay is a bit in the way of the gate in the pushpit. On the other hand the tensioner is really easy to manage.
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by sv Leonidas » Sun Jan 07, 2007 11:39 pm

Leonidas has twin backstays to chainplates on each quarter.

Besides redundancy, advantages are an extra handgrip and the backstays are less intrusive onto the poopdeck than a centerline one.

Con, is that we cannot use backstay to bend mast, but with an 8x6 douglas fir tree trunk that was never an option.

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