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Daisy Staysail

What is a "daisy" staysail, and how do I use a staysail when I’ve only got one headstay?

Pete Madsen

Dan Dickison responds:


Thanks for your inquiry. Judging from what I’ve seen on various racecourses, I think a lot of racing sailors are unfamiliar with the term "daisy staysail," and how to use this extra sail area. Essentially this most common of racing staysails is a high-aspect (tall and narrow) sail constructed of light, durable fabric, which is generally flown under a spinnaker. A daisy staysail is most effective when the apparent wind direction is between 10 degrees forward of the beam and 25 degrees aft of the beam. Most sailors place the tack of the daisy staysail on centerline about 30 percent of the way aft from the headstay to the mast. Sailmakers generally make the luff of these sails as long as possible, the major determinant being where the staysail halyard exits the mast. Usually the width or LP of the sail is about 80 to 85 percent of the J measurement of the boat (the distance from the headstay to the mast base).

Regarding your question of having only one forestay on the boat, almost all daisy staysails are constructed with a wire luff or something rigid built in that can withstand the load from the halyard, like Kevlar, Spectra, or Vectran line (it just depends on who the sailmaker is). So these sails are meant to free-fly without any support other than a halyard and a sheet.

What a daisy staysail does for you is to increase the area of the sail plan. A daisy staysail is also effective because it increases the airflow along the leeward side of the main, which improves the efficiency of that sail as well.

Just like any headsail, placement of the sheet lead for a daisy staysail is critical to the sail’s function. You’ll find that you most often want to place the sheet lead on the rail, but this will depend upon the boat you’re sailing. Some larger boats will place the sheet lead slightly inboard. The idea with trimming the daisy staysail is that it’s the least important sail you’re flying at the time. If it begins to choke the flow of air on the spinnaker, you need to ease the staysail sheet. If it begins to backwind the luff of the main, you need to ease the sheet and perhaps move the sheet lead position. You’ll find, through experimentation, that you can benefit from flying a daisy staysail in most wind speeds, but it should be obvious that if you’re already overpowered with the spinnaker, you don’t need the daisy staysail.

Some racing sailors have been known to substitute a daisy staysail for their Light No. 1 headsails in ultra-light winds, but this is probably more an experiment born of desperation. I hope this information helps you get started with your daisy staysail.

Dan Dickison

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