Tame Bigger Breezes with a Forestaysail



Getting rid of the big genoa is usually easy thanks to roller furling, but what do you do then? Changing sails on the furling unit is a daunting task when short-handed, and sailboats don’t power particularly well in a big sea.Heres an easy, safe, and seamanlike solution: Set your boat up with an inner forestay, and when these conditions arise, roll your big genoa up, set your forestaysail, and away you go.

This is easy and safe because sailing under the mainsail alone slows your boat and reduces heel, so working forward of the mast is not such a chore. Also, since youre working in the middle of the foredeck and not up at the stem, theres much less chance of you or the sail going overboard.

The inner forestay is typically attached to the mast at the upper spreader and lives next to the mast when not in use. It is made fast to its deck fitting and can be tensioned in a variety of ways. Once this is done, the forestaysail can be hanked on, the halyard and sheets attached, and all thats left is to hoist and trim the sail.

All of these steps can be accomplished quite easily by one person. The sail is relatively small and light, so it can be handled without difficulty. Once hanked on, it is completely under control. The boat itself will now sail comfortably, and you will be pleasantly surprised at how well it does with this rig. Although you will feel underpowered, your speedometer will attest to the setups efficiency. On most points of sail, youll find yourself going 75 to 80 percent of your maximum speed.

The benefits don’t end there. On reaching passages, the forestaysail can be set inside your genoa and can add a quarter- to a half-knot. In storm conditions, you can lower and secure the forestaysail and set the storm jib on the inner forestay. The combination of forestay and runners (the use of runners to oppose the inner forestay is recommended, particularly offshore) greatly increases the stability of your mast.

PS has explored inner-forestay retrofits from various angles in the past, and our testers have evaluated the hardware required for an upgrade. For links to these articles, professional tips, and examples of retrofits on other cruising boats, see the Oct. 15, 2015 Inside Practical Sailor blog post, Installing an Inner Forestay or Solent Stay, online at www.practical-sailor.com/blog/.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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