The Working Staysail

On all boats with a foretriangle large enough to accommodate an inner forestay, the working staysail is a very important part of any inventory (Figure 10.1 on next page). On most boats the inner forestay is about one third of the way back from and parallel to the headstay. As soon as a boat bears away onto a reach, the gap between the mainsail and headsail widens, and the effect they have on each other

"Like just about everything else in sailing, a little forethought can save you a world of hurt or heartache somewhere further down the road"

Figure 10.1

On all boats with a foretriangle large enough to accommodate an inner forestay, the working staysail is a very important part of any inventory.


Working Staysail is reduced. While creating lift is no longer important, keeping wind circulating between sails is, and setting a staysail effectively fills the gap. A working staysail is a full-size, fairly rugged working sail that sets on the inner forestay and can be used on its own as a heavy-weather sail or with the headsail when reaching.

Many larger boats will have a removable inner forestay so that the stay can be pulled back to the mast when it is not needed. The stay is attached to the fore-deck with an over-center lever that, when in place, allows a reasonable amount of tension to be placed on the stay. This is useful especially when short tacking with an over-lapping headsail. Other more serious passagemakers like to have a series of inner stays with roller-furling units on each of them. The first stay is just aft of the headstay with an inner forestay in its usual place and a babystay close to the mast. The advantage of this is that you can have different size headsails on each stay and unroll the one most appropriate for the conditions. While this is a nice convenience, there are some drawbacks. The weight of three furling units with rolled-up sails adds to the heeling and pitching moment of the boat, to say nothing of windage. The second problem is that it's very difficult to get sufficient headstay tension on all of the stays. As soon as you have one right, the one closest to it is not right. Hydraulic rams at the base of each stay go some way toward getting decent tension on the stay you are using, but it's a cumbersome process.

For smaller boats there are two inner forestay options that work very well. One is the self-tacking jib, or club-foot jib, and the other is the Hoyt Jib Boom. In fact,

The Hoyt Jib Boom is an effective system for controlling the leech of the headsail when sailing downwind.

both of these options can be found on many cutter designs. The self-tacking jib is a non-overlapping staysail set with a rigid boom along the foot. The sheeting systems vary a little from boat to boat, but the idea is to have a sliding track in front of the mast that allows the sail to move freely from one side to the other. When the boat tacks the sail slides across to the other side keeping the same sheet tension as you had before you tacked. A more modern configuration on the same theme is the Hoyt Jib Boom designed by innovator Gary Hoyt. This boom is essentially a club-foot jib, however, the boom is rigid and keeps the leech of the sail from riding up when the sheet is eased. The Hoyt Jib Boom works especially well sailing downwind when it can be set wing-and-wing with the headsail.

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