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peterchech 12-10-2012 06:35 PM

Adjustable backstay on a masthead rig? Totally worth it!
I had been conflicted about whether to put an adjustable backstay on my masthead rigged boat, and couldn't find much info on the net that wasn't as conflicted as I was. Therefore I'm posting this in case anyone else has the same idea. The idea was that it wouldn't do much to flatten the main on a masthead rigged boat, and might mess with the lowers (I have fore and aft lowers). Well I went for it anyway. It actually costed less to make a new synthetic backstay than to hire a rigger to swage an eye on the existing one (amsteel is getting cheaper and cheaper). So I spliced it myself using youtube instruction (piece of cake) and installed it. Put in a fiddle block and two cascades to give 16/1. Whole set up costed about $150.

Yesterday I went out in the rain and tried it out. Wind was very gusty, going from about 6 knots to 15. I torqued the backstay in the gusts, let it out in the lulls, and found it to be very effective. Maybe not quite as effective as on a frac rig, since it doesn't flatten the main at all, but still well worth the effort. And I haven't ripped out the lowers yet :D

Sailormon6 12-10-2012 07:32 PM

Re: Adjustable backstay on a masthead rig? Totally worth it!
I agree it's totally worth it. My previous boat had a masthead rig with a backstay adjuster and I used it all the time, and loved it. My present boat doesn't have it, and a backstay adjuster is on my list of upgrades.

I think people often expect an adjustable backstay to enable the boat to point higher, but I think that's mistaken. You can tune a rig with a fixed backstay so that the boat will point just as well as a boat with an adjustable backstay. The benefit that you gain from having an adjustable backstay is that you can instantly change the tuning of the rig from a taut forestay, which is better suited for sailing to windward and in stronger winds, to a loose forestay, which is better suited for sailing off the wind and in lighter winds.

There is a limit to the amount of tension you can put on the forestay without damaging the boat structurally. The benefit that you gain from a backstay adjuster is in being able to change the tension quickly, without having to get out your tools.

To tune a masthead rig properly, when the boat has a backstay adjuster and fore and aft lowers, the aft lowers should be considerably looser than all the rest of the stays. That enables the mast to bend a little when you tension it. If you have equal tension on all the fore and aft lowers, they will prevent the mast from bending in any direction. (You will never see as much mast bend as you will with a fractional rig, but you need some bend to make it work well.)

peterchech 12-10-2012 07:53 PM

Re: Adjustable backstay on a masthead rig? Totally worth it!
Great advice about the lowers thanks sailormon!

saildork 12-10-2012 08:06 PM

Re: Adjustable backstay on a masthead rig? Totally worth it!
I second the advise from Sailorman. I installed a backstay adjuster on my previous boat, a Catalina 22, and the effect was dramatic. Even though the C22 is a masthead rig, I was able to induce some bend that positively influenced performance upwind.

Now I'm in the process of purchasing a Caliber 33 (11 foot-itis;)), and wondering if I need to concern myself with such matters. This boat won't be raced. Or should I start a new thread on the subject?:o

downeast450 12-11-2012 07:03 AM

Re: Adjustable backstay on a masthead rig? Totally worth it!
I, added a backstay adjuster too. The adjustable headstay tension is helpful in variable wind. My tension gauge is the head door's ability to open easily. Ha!

I will see what loosening the aft lowers a little adds. Thanks, Sailormon.


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