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Reducing Weight Aloft with Composite Backstays

by Kerri Robson 22 Apr 09:00 BST
Reducing weight aloft with composite backstays © upffront.com

Reducing weight aloft is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing your boat speed and performance: every kilogram you take out of the rig is roughly equivalent to 4kg added to the bottom of your keel.

As a result, Upffront.com have put together a range of composite backstays for boats up to 45 ft; made from Gottifredi Maffioli's Ultrawire 99, the composite backstays offer weight savings of approximately 70-80% over a wire backstay. For example: a 17m long, 8mm diameter 1x19 wire backstay will weigh approx. 5.5 kg, whilst the composite equivalent would weigh just 1.5 kg a weight saving of 4.0 kg (75%).

In addition to the weight advantage, composite backstays are much safer. Composite rigging is generally specified to be stretch equivalent to wire to ensure the mast behaves in the same way as it was designed. As composites are significantly stronger than steel, for the same stiffness, the result is an increased safety factor. For example, we use 10mm Ultrawire 99 to replace an 8mm 1x19 wire backstay. Whilst their working loads are similar, the wire has a break load of 4,640 kg. In comparison, the break load of the Ultrawire is 13,100 kg almost 3x stronger than the wire. No wonder Gottifredi Maffioli named it Ultrawire!

With an abrasion resistant Dyneema® braided cover the composite backstay is also easy to handle, and much kinder to the leech of your mainsail.

What's more, retrofitting from wire to a composite backstay couldn't be simpler. The new backstay is supplied with a soft loop at the top end which can be attached directly to the pin in your mast crane. The bottom end comes fitted with a (removable) Tylaska lash ferrule which provides a variety of attachment options directly onto a backstay adjuster or a purchase system. The switch can be made with the mast up and in a matter of minutes.

Looking at our range, the standard range of cables are priced in 1 metre increments from 8 21 m in length and diameters from 4 10 mm. This range is suitable to replace 1x19 wire backstay diameters from 3 8 mm. The cables are built to order by expert riggers and can be finished to your specific length requirements. Click here to see the full range online.

And what about the life of your Ultrawire backstay? Dyneema® is waterproof, inert and doesn't suffer from corrosion. It is three times stronger and will last as long - if not longer - than your existing wire backstay.

However, as with all rigging equipment, you should carry out regular inspections and annually remove the cable for a full visual inspection. If you see fluffing of the cover fibre you should contact your local rigger and consider replacement. As with all standing rigging - and as a precaution - an eight year replacement cycle is recommended.

Offering significant weight savings and greater strength, the composite backstay is long lasting, easy to handle, kind to your sails, and quick and simple to retrofit. Overall, a switch to composite backstays means lighter, faster and safer sailing - a win-win, so why wouldn't you?

See the full range online, or, for more information or for any queries surrounding composite backstays, please feel free to get in touch with us using our running rigging enquiry form.

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