Importance of forestay/backstay tension? - SailNet Community

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Old 10-02-2011
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Importance of forestay/backstay tension?

Hi,

So we've been trying to get the furler working that came with the boat. It's the style of furler designed to work with a hanked-on headsail. I forget the name of it... Marine something?

Anyhow, we are having problems with the top bearing not wanting to turn unless the forestay tension is adjusted down (using the turnbuckle) to less than 50% of its original tension. The internet discussions I've seen about this furler say that this is a common issue.

Now, there's a boat of the same type a few slips down, and the owner leaves his forestay LOOSE - I mean visibly sagging - when not sailing. He pulls his backstay tensioner to tension the forestay for sailing.

So my dad is thinking we can do the same. My concern is that we dont know much about rigging, just what I've read on here, which seems to say that a forestay should be tensioned to about 15% of breaking strength. If we loosen it up that much, will the backstay tensioner be able to add enough? (masthead rig). What will this do to the balance between between forestay and backstay tension?

We dont know, I guess, if the rig was tuned correctly to begin with, but the boat sails well and in balance. How concerned should we be about changing stay tensions just to make the furler work?
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Old 10-02-2011
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More info needed... specifically what boat and what is the rig configuration (in line spreaders, inline shrouds?? etc)

Gotta say, though, that hank-on furling systems basically are not effective or user friendly bits of gear.

Plenty of boats have adjustable backstays that can range from sloppy-slack to very taut as required... We need to know a little more about your boat and how you plan to sail it.
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Thanks for the reply... Its a Catalina 27, standard rig, with the y shaped backstay tensioner system. We're looking for "fast cruising" I guess you'd say... Not racing, but we like to play.

The seller has told us that tension should never be left in the stays when not sailing; they should be slack at the dock, using backstay tensioner to pull tight. Yet this was not how the boat was rigged when we bought it from him??

Thanks again...
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You should be able to set up that system so that it works for you.. though the tensioning capability of the "inverted Y" is a bit limited. Still, for your purposes you may be able to start with a slack enough forestay to enable the roller and then tension for sailing. You'll have to experiment to find out. Certainly you don't want to be playing with the turnbuckle on a regular basis.

But for real reliability and ease of use a new style furler with an extrusion foil should be high on your list. Unfortunately modifying your existing sails will also be required. That's probably a $2K price tag all done and done.

If that's unlikely I'd probably give serious consideration to foregoing the furling setup and just use the sails hank-on. In the long run you'll have a more reliable, predictable system going on.
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Yeah we are thinking that... out of curiosity now, should we have slack in the stays at the dock, and only add tension with backstay system for sailing? It doesnt seem like that y tensioner would equal the tension from the turnbuckle?
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It's not necessary to ease the rigging beyond making sure that the backstay adjuster isn't still 'boned on hard' when you leave the boat.
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The idea of having a roller-furler is that it works. A setup that only works with the forestay loose, and you have to adjust the backstay with a turnbuckle to get it loose enough, is not working. Unless you can get this rig to work without doing backwards somersaults, forget about it: drop & fold your jibs until you can get a system that does what it is supposed to do. It may be that lubricating the top roller, or replacing the bearings, or adjusting something up there will fix it. It would be worth a try.
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I would get rid of the furler. In a strong wind when you want to be able to furl the sail it doesn't sound like it would work without dangerously slacking off the headstay tension. Not what you want to do in a blow.
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jrd22 is correct. Get rid of the furler.

The point of a furler is that you can furl as needed, when needed. This is not possible with your system. We view our furler as a safety item and needs to work properly, in any sort of weather.

Rigging should be left properly tensioned. It takes a bit of time to properly adjust a rig and slackingbetween every sail virtually guarantees that the rig will be out of tune. Your PO is way off base by saying that stays shouldn't be tensioned. All the tensioning and slacking is actually wearing your rig prematurely because fitting are working themselves. Some racers will slacken their rigs, but they also have settings for specific conditions and their rigs can be under tremendous tension. This isn't your case.

BTW - If you want "Fast Cruising" set the rig properly and ditch that furler as soon as practical, IMHO.
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This is what I've been thinking about our furler... Especially the part about having to actually slacken the forestay to furl. It didn't seem like slackening to a visible sag is the way to go in a big wind.

Sabreman, good point about repeated tensioning cycles. The previous owner apparently said that leaving the stays tensioned while parked will eventually "bend" the boat. Definitely dont want to do damage, but constant cycling seems likely to throw something out of whack.
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