Singlehanded Running Backs - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 12 Old 03-15-2013 Thread Starter
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Singlehanded Running Backs

I was looking at a 25 foot boat to take cruising Puget Sound this summer and it has running backstays.

How hard would these be for me to singlehand? And how dangerous are they? I don't want to lose the mast of course.

I guess I'm wondering if it would be completely impractical or if maybe it would be fun?

I used to do the running backs on some bigger race boats I crewed on, It's been a while though.
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post #2 of 12 Old 03-15-2013
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Re: Singlehanded Running Backs

Depends on how you sail. Jibing with a symmetrical spinnaker singlehanded is the most difficult maneuver I perform, particularly in heavier air. Running backstays would make it even more "eventful". Personally, I would not choose a solo cruising boat with running backstays.

If you only sail with main and jib, you probably be fine, although there will be that much more hustling involved.

Some other sailnet participants are forceful proponents of fractional rigs; I believe masthead rigs are just fine for solos. Just be prepared to spend some time cranking in those large overlapping genoas (I use the hand over hand, leaning back to use my back muscles, luffing technique).

If I lived in your area, I would look for one of the fast West Coast masthead ULDBs like an Olson 30.

Last edited by jameswilson29; 03-16-2013 at 08:10 AM.
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post #3 of 12 Old 03-15-2013
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Re: Singlehanded Running Backs

Depends upon the boat and the mast as well, along with the conditions you'll be out in. Our boat has running backs as well as a standard backstay. The runners are only needed when the breeze gets up over 25 knots and the mast starts to pump with the 'chute up. A Star, for example, would be an entirely different story. They lose their masts a lot, even when fully (two) crewed. Of course if you set up on one tack don't tack or gybe after that, your problem is solved.
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post #4 of 12 Old 03-16-2013
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Re: Singlehanded Running Backs

Given your situation and some choices I think I'd pass on runners. The K25 is an OK boat and fairly quick but she can be a bit twitchy and is a pretty minimal cruiser compared to, say, a C&C 25.

Ron

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post #5 of 12 Old 03-16-2013
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Re: Singlehanded Running Backs

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Originally Posted by jameswilson29 View Post
Depends on how you sail. Jibing with a symmetrical spinnaker singlehanded is the most difficult maneuvers I perform, particularly in heavier air.
James,

I have rehearsed doing this but not yet attempted it. Any hints or suggestions? I would be smiling if I could pull it off. Autopilot or locked helm? What is "heavier air"?

Thanks

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post #6 of 12 Old 03-16-2013
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Re: Singlehanded Running Backs

I've done it enough on my Olson 30 to know, but I cannot imagine handling it alone with running backstays in heavier air than about 15 kts unless you ease both of them (but then what's the point of running backstays?). I use a simple Raymarine autopilot (tiller-controlled st-2000) and depend on it for gybing. There's an interesting discussion going on over on sailing anarchy with Andy Evans (Foolish Muse) about launching/dousing the kite in heavy air (he's talking about breeze approaching 37 kts at the high end and of course, has destroyed several sails in the process), which I think would qualify as "heavy", but he's an unusual character with tons of experience and may not even be using an ap.
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Last edited by Irunbird; 03-16-2013 at 07:39 AM. Reason: spelling
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post #7 of 12 Old 03-16-2013
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Re: Singlehanded Running Backs

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Originally Posted by downeast450 View Post
James,

I have rehearsed doing this but not yet attempted it. Any hints or suggestions? I would be smiling if I could pull it off. Autopilot or locked helm? What is "heavier air"?

Thanks

Down
I recommend Andrew Evans's "Thoughts, Tips, Techniques and Tactics for Singlehanded Sailing", a free download available on the Singlehanded Sailing Society website. He and several other have posted YouTube video showing the various techniques for jibing: main first or pole first, end for end or dip pole. Evans advocates the main first jibe.

I jibe the pole first, then the main, with the autopilot. The key is to ease the sheet sufficiently before attempting the jibe, then COMMIT to the maneuver, particularly sticking the pole on the mast, the most difficult part in heavy air, while the boat is rolling and the sails are filling. Be careful making your way back to the cockpit to avoid an accidental jibe.

With the spinnaker, heavy air is anything above 15 knots for me in my non-planing boat. For a boat that planes downwind, like an Olson, you could probably fly a spinnaker solo in much higher wind speeds. Hoisting and dousing are not as challenging as jibing, although you must be well-prepared, step by step, for your intended procedures.

I have YouTube videos of my flying the spinnaker solo, but no jibes yet:
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Last edited by jameswilson29; 03-17-2013 at 11:24 AM.
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post #8 of 12 Old 03-16-2013
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Re: Singlehanded Running Backs

Be wary of wraps around the forestay, especially if you ease the sheet beforehand. One thing that makes this more forgiving is using a spinnaker net.
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post #9 of 12 Old 03-16-2013
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Re: Singlehanded Running Backs

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Be wary of wraps around the forestay, especially if you ease the sheet beforehand...
I agree. I forgot to mention squaring the pole at the same time, overtrimming the guy as you ease the sheet. That way you will have an easier time jibing. I tend to steer the boat about 20 degrees off DDW. For me, the key is to jibe the pole quickly. Once you attach the pole to the new guy and push it out to leeward quickly, it will not wrap. In the meantime, if the sail is flying independently of the pole, and hopefully flying far enough away from the forestay, it is unlikely to wrap. But, this is really a finesse moment for the particular boat and solo sailor.

Make sure the foreguy is not restricting the movement of the pole before you do your end-for-end jibe. Make sure the guy will release easily from the pole jaw when you open it. Make sure the sheet is sufficiently eased so you will be able to push the pole out fully to leeward. The worst thing is to end up at the mast, unable to complete the jibe because you cannot make the pole end to the mast.

(As you feel more comfortable with the procedure, you can even move the leeward jib sheet to its proper position on top of the leeward side of the pole topping lift bridle before you attach the pole to the new guy, so you will be able to raise the jib easily, when the time comes to douse. This makes the douse much easier because the spinnaker will be blanketed by the jib as you head closer to DDW. Grab the eased spin sheet, pull under the boom, release the guy completely, and slowly release the halyard as you pull first the spinnaker foot and then the luff and body of the sail as the head drops quickly under the boom to leeward and stuff into the cabin through the companionway. Several seconds later, you will end up with the sail quickly stowed in the cabin and the spinsheet clew still under-trimmed in your right hand. If you do it right, pulling as fast as you can, it almost feels like the spinnaker is dropping right into the cabin, it happens so quickly and easily. Pull too slowly and the head drops into the water to leeward.)

After jibing the pole, scramble back to the cockpit to jibe the main sail as you steer on your new jibe angle downwind. Ease the guy and trim the sheet for the new jib angle. I haven't filmed myself doing this because I have not ventured into the field of comedic videos of Chinese fire drills yet.

Practice, practice, practice. The first time I wrapped the spinnaker around the forestay and had to abandon the spinnaker run while I manually unwrapped it. Evans advises practicing a series of pole-less jibes, going from one 30 degree angle from DDW to another, jibing repeatedly, so you learn how to fly the sail without a pole. That is probably a good idea, although I have not taken his advice in that regard, yet.
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Last edited by jameswilson29; 03-17-2013 at 11:25 AM.
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Re: Singlehanded Running Backs

Unless its really windy you can also try centering the boom pre gybe. This minimizes the back wind lee behind the main and makes its easier to keep the wind in the kite, esp while pole-less. However you need to be sure that when the main jibes itself (more likely now) that whatever steering method you're using can keep the boat on course.
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Ron

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