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James Suggitt

December 22, 2017 “When do you bring the backstay into play? I leave it alone until the wind is about to rip the rig down over the front of the boat sailing off the wind, but I'd like help to understand and define its definitive use!”

David Flynn

December 22, 2017 Quantum Expert Answer

The backstay is a powerful tool and you should introduce it to your toolbox for more than just keeping the rig in the boat. No matter what the rig type or stiffness the tensioning the backstay keeps the headstay from sagging. Headstay sag equals extra power in the headsail, so when you don’t want the power (heeling too much) use the backstay. On boats with rigs that bend, the backstay helps depower the mainsail. When you add backstay tension on this type of rig you are essentially compressing a straw. The mast bends forward at the middle pulling the luff away from the leech thereby flattening the sail. It is a hugely powerful tool which allows you take your mainsail from full and powerful in light air to flat and open in the leech for windier conditions. As the breeze builds and you start to generate too much heel and helm use your backstay!

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