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post #1 of 20 Old 09-02-2015 Thread Starter
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Split back stay: pros and cons

This is a bit theoretical issue at this point, but I will be facing it down the road, so please bear with me.
When I finally buy a boat for an Atlantic crossing (most likely Bristol 34) I will be replacing the standing rigging and chainplates, as well as installing a windvane. It would make sense to install a split back stay at that time. But what are the pros and cons of a split back stay, besides easier access to windvane and higher cost?
Your help is always greatly appreciated.

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Re: Split back stay: pros and cons

Seems to me disadvantages would be more potential points of failure, and ensuring new chainplates are adequate. Depending on cockpit layout the lower portions may interfere with helm seating positions where the original single did not.

Advantages would include, as you've mentioned, improved vane access and simple, inexpensive tension adjustment options.
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Re: Split back stay: pros and cons

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Seems to me disadvantages would be more potential points of failure, and ensuring new chainplates are adequate. Depending on cockpit layout the lower portions may interfere with helm seating positions where the original single did not.

Advantages would include, as you've mentioned, improved vane access and simple, inexpensive tension adjustment options.
Hmmm... I would think that a split back stay would be stronger, as the loads get more distributed. Helm seating positions is a very good point.
Can you elaborate on the tension adjustments?

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Re: Split back stay: pros and cons

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Hmmm... I would think that a split back stay would be stronger, as the loads get more distributed. Helm seating positions is a very good point.
Can you elaborate on the tension adjustments?
The same load is on the connection at the top of the inverted 'Y', but yes the chainplate loads would be shared, I suppose.. Still, your new chainplate anchors need some thought.

It's real simple to add a backstay aduster to a split backstay with some tackle and blocks arranged to compress the "Y".


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Re: Split back stay: pros and cons

From a structural view, there's really no true advantage for split backstays on a sloop, as running backstays are more 'versatile' in the function of applying additional 'helper' stress to the forestay; and, the runners are just as redundant as the second backstay. With two backstays its easier to overload and then break a forestay.

For cutter rigs, the TWO backstays better 'react' with the two stays forward of the mast - forestay and headstay; although and again in that function, runners are better and more versatile in rigging 'stress' (sag) balancing - but this is in comparison to inefficient 'auxiliary stays' found on cutter rigs - IMO.

I say that besides providing a redundant safety function, 'runners' have become my favorite stays for making micro-adjustments to rig tension and headsail (sag) shape while on-the-fly?
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Re: Split back stay: pros and cons

Great picture. Thanks. In real life is such tension adjustment a visual thing, or do you actually measure it?
Yes, chainplate attachment would have to be done properly. I was thinking of using SS plates bolted to the hull on the outside. That part of the hull is usually quite thick and solid. I would most likely use a commercial rigger to do the whole thing.

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Re: Split back stay: pros and cons

Other common arraignment is block on backstay with 1x19 starting at one aft corner of boat,then going up through the block and down to other aft corner of boat. Usually you have a hydraulic ram at one of the inferior attachments to allow varied backstay tension. Usually over time you learn how to tension for different points of sail, different jibs, different wind speeds. Hydraulic ram is calibrated
Boats are different. We have a masthead sloop with Solent. We have running back stays. The running backstays are never used except on passage. They are too much a PIA when tacking/gybing. They are used to tension inner for stay the Solent lives on when on passage or in storms or persistent strong winds to prevent mast pumping.
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Last edited by outbound; 09-02-2015 at 05:24 PM.
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Re: Split back stay: pros and cons

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Originally Posted by krisscross View Post
When I finally buy a boat for an Atlantic crossing (most likely Bristol 34) I will be replacing the standing rigging and chainplates, as well as installing a windvane. It would make sense to install a split back stay at that time. But what are the pros and cons of a split back stay, besides easier access to windvane and higher cost?
"Easier access to the windvane" ??? Have you ever actually used a vane before?

;-)

Hell, most every time I go back to fiddle with my vane, I'm thankful for my single backstay, sitting right where it is, on centerline.... I can hold onto it, brace myself against it, wrap one arm around it, whatever. I would feel far less secure with a split backstay arrangement, and I can't ever recall a time where I really felt it was 'in the way'...

Running backs sure make the move back to the vane in a cockpit like mine a hell of a lot safer, as well...





I think the only reason that split backstays have become more common today - at least on cruising boats - is an outgrowth of the advent of sugar scoop and walk-thru transoms. That should tell you all you need to know about their 'superiority' in rigging terms. I can see no advantage whatsoever in opting for such needless complexity on a boat like a Bristol 34... And, if you have any thoughts of using your backstay as an SSB antenna, a split backstay might possibly complicate matters, or present 'issues', the last thing you want with something that can be as finicky as HF radio...

KISS, and don't try to 'out-think' a guy like Halsey Herreshoff...

;-)
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Last edited by JonEisberg; 09-02-2015 at 06:11 PM.
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Re: Split back stay: pros and cons

That makes a lot of sense, Jon. Much appreciated. No, I have not used a windvane before, so it is all a very important primer for me. The plan is for a crew of 2 and have an auto-pilot, but being able to use the self steering vane is high on my list.

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Re: Split back stay: pros and cons

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Originally Posted by RichH View Post
From a structural view, there's really no true advantage for split backstays on a sloop, as running backstays are more 'versatile' in the function of applying additional 'helper' stress to the forestay; and, the runners are just as redundant as the second backstay. With two backstays its easier to overload and then break a forestay.

For cutter rigs, the TWO backstays better 'react' with the two stays forward of the mast - forestay and headstay; although and again in that function, runners are better and more versatile in rigging 'stress' (sag) balancing - but this is in comparison to inefficient 'auxiliary stays' found on cutter rigs - IMO.

I say that besides providing a redundant safety function, 'runners' have become my favorite stays for making micro-adjustments to rig tension and headsail (sag) shape while on-the-fly?
You lost me on this one.

I don't get your 2nd para, re cutters. On our cutter with two back stays the back stays attach to the top of the mast, as does the forestry. The runners attach at the same level as the staysail stay.

Are you saying the split back stay is better at resisting the tangential force of the foresail? Because it is not directly inline with the longitudinal axis of the boat? As in using only one runner at a time?

Sorry, hard to be clear in text.

Our big cutter is 44LOD, with a 5' sprit, double spreader, with runners.

How much tension do you put on your runners? We have a 4:1 purchase, which doesn't sound like much.
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Last edited by hpeer; 09-02-2015 at 07:26 PM.
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