Stowing Inner Forestays

Readers describe how they solve the problem of securing the detachable end of an inner forestay.


In the October 1, 1997 issue, we published a letter from Houston Car of West Bath, Maine, in which he asked how best to stow an inner forestay. The problem, of course, is that the stay is longer than the distance from where it originates on the mast to either the mast step or side deck where the shrouds terminate-the most desirable places to belay the loose end of an inner forestay. Taking care of the excess wire is desirable so that it doesn’t flop around or trip a person working on deck. Here are several solutions proffered by our readers.

I have a 52′ aft cockpit custom Tayana with a removable inner forestay. It is, as you know, preferred by many for offshore, and we have raced the boat to Bermuda and cruised to Maine.

We fabricated a stainless steel shoe which we attached to the deck adjacent to the forward port Dorade. It is positioned so that the inner forestay is carried about a foot forward of the spreader. On deck, we simply bring the forestay around the shoe so as not to crimp it, and attach the inner forestay release lever to the staysail sheet track.

I use a small, four-part tackle to create enough tension to hold the forestay in place against the shoe, and slip a leather boot over the lever to protect the cabin top. In 10 years of use, even in severe weather, we have never had any difficulty with this arrangement.

David Povitch
Washington, DC

My faith in the Practical Sailor as the ultimate source of information and evaluation of sailing gear has suffered some from your reports on the ATN Gale Sail (see the July 15, 1997 issue).

For years we have had the advantage of a cutter rig in heavy weather on our 28′ Triton, by a very simple device which, in my judgment, has many advantages over the Gale Sail. As your article on the Gale Sail pointed out, a good cutter rig has no real need for a Gale Sail on the forestay.

Our local North Sails representative equipped Soubrette with a removable inner forestay, which was cut to a length and reaches from the fastening on the mast straight down to deck level. The forestay has a small eye to secure it to a fitting at the foot of the mast. Thus there is no excess length or coil of wire. The additional length necessary for the forestay to reach the forward deck attachment (for use when the stay is set up) was supplied by an additional quick attachment piece that also carries the gooseneck fitting for the club-footed staysail and a turnbuckle for the necessary tension. I expect a quick attachment tension lever could replace the turnbuckle, but on the Triton, the small turnbuckle can easily be tightened by hand and the lock screws screwed down.

In my mind, rigging this forestay in the relative safety and comfort of the foredeck is a great deal less of a problem than wrestling with genoa sheets and the Gale Sail in the very bow of the boat where every wave threatens the sailor. More important, the club-footed staysail is easily controlled by a single line and carriage on the traveler. I have sailed this rig many times in heavy weather and choppy seas on Lake Erie and found that it provides markedly more drive than a partially rolled genoa mounted on the forestay.

I do not claim the experience of one sailor to be the ultimate, but I was amused that you undertook to make recommendations with respect to the Gale Sail based on your experience aboard a Tartan 44 in 18 knots with gusts higher. I would like to see you set the Gale Sail with the wind blowing 30 knots. In my mind, there would be no safe way to rig the Gale Sail once the wind is of gale proportions. Lets hear from an owner who has successfully employed the Gale Sail under these conditions.

Richard Moot
Buffalo, New York

Our method of stowing the inner forestay is simple, elegant and easily operated. There are two teak plates bolted together over a stanchion outboard of the mainmast, and overlapping the lower lifeline to eliminate rotation. The inboard piece of teak has been routed out for the stay to fit into it. The upper stainless strap has a hook forward to catch the stay, and the lower strap swivels to capture the stay in the teak track. The eye on the deck is located so that the quick release lever tightens the stay to prevent flutter or chafing, but not so tightly as to bend the mast. It is zero problem to set or remove the inner forestay in any weather.

Allen Gates
San Diego, California

For several years I have stowed an inner forestay on the coachroof about 18″ to starboard of my mast on a stainless steel ring attached by an eye strap. A Wichard wheel (about $300 at discount) allows me to tighten it. A pelican hook with a quick release lever at the lower end of the stay allows me to attach it either to the ring or to a short length of stainless 7 x 19 wire permanently attached to the foredeck with a marine eye in the free end and a large shackle in that eye to attach to the pelican hook. The 30″ of wire makes up for the length the stay is lacking to reach the foredeck fitting and the Wichard wheel allows me to tighten or loosen it at will. The heavy weather sail is on hanks and one or two of the hanks attach below the wheel on the foredeck wire and the rest attach to the stay.

Robert Gould, MD
Wellesley, Massachusetts

When I decided to install an inner forestay, I found that the choices of hardware available here were pretty limited. Its either going the Nick Nicholson way (throwing money at problems) and buying the ABI bronze quick release lever at more than $300 list, or the Wichard backstay adjuster in the same high price range, or choosing Johnson Marine hardware with more reasonable prices but with serious limitations. Their Handy Lock backstay turnbuckle (about $70 to $200 list) is slow and their quick release levers (about $50 to $70 list) are not infinitely adjustable (instead of threads, there are graduated holes and a clevis pin).

Looking at an old (English) Gibb catalog, I found they had a slip hook that you can put on the end of a turnbuckle and which will have the same tensioning effect as the ABI lever. I knew that the Dutch did make such levers, but didnt know the manufacturer. So I faxed my old yacht chandler in Belgium and they sent me a Dutch sliphaak in 10 mm (3/8″) stainless steel, which I fitted on a Merriman turnbuckle. The item cost me $23 including postage.

Because the turnbuckle has toggles at both ends, it can be folded upwards. The inner forestay and the turnbuckle are lashed alongside the forward lower shroud without reaching the deck.

These slip hooks are available in five sizes from 6 mm (1/4″) to 12 mm (1/2″). If anybody wants to get one, they can fax Westdiep Marine Center in Nieuwpoort, Belgium at 32-58-23-92-48 (they speak English and they take credit cards). Or maybe some American hardware firm will close that gap.

J. Somerhausen
Douglaston, New York

I found the A&B Industries (ABI) forestay release lever to be an excellent way to get an inner forestay out of the way of the genoa. I installed one on a Prout 37 earlier this year and the owner is very satisfied with the new rig. Its easy to install with a Norseman or Sta-Lok swageless terminal. Simply cut the inner forestay at the appropriate length, install the swageless terminal and thread on the forestay release lever.

Roger M. Wright
President, Marine Maintenance Services, Inc.
Corpus Christi, Texas

Contacts- A&B Industries, 1160-A Industrial Ave., Petaluma, CA 94952; 707/765-6200. Johnson Marine, East Haddam Industrial Park, East Haddam, CT 06423; 860/873-8697. Wichard, 507 Hopmeadow St. Simsbury, CT 06070; 860/658-2201.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him by email at