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Adding a Staysail? Inner Forestay Setup Options discussed by

by Phil Anniss 8 Oct 2020 09:00 BST
Inner Forestay Setup Options © Bamar

Are you considering upgrading your sail plan to include a staysail? It is an increasingly popular choice, offering considerable performance benefits, which is explored in more detail in our previous article. Below we focus on the various setup options and some things to watch out for when considering an inner forestay retrofit.

The primary considerations are fixed or removable stay and furling versus hanked-on. In each case there are pros and cons, and multiple set-up options.

Forestay with hanks - Fixed or removable

The simplest option is a permanent, fixed stay with a turnbuckle providing tension. The downside of this setup is that the stay can inhibit tacking with the main genoa, as the clew and sheets must pass around the inner forestay.

To address this, a common solution is a semi-permanent inner forestay. The upper end of the stay is permanently attached to the mast but a quick release fitting at the bottom allows the stay to be brought back to the mast when not in use. Options for tensioning the stay include a highfield lever or 2:1 / 3:1 purchase system led back to a clutch/winch.

N.B. Consideration should be given to the length of the stay. If the length is maximised to the available space, then it will be over-length when brought back to the mast. Alternatively, the stay can be made to fit snugly at the mast and the tensioning system makes up the additional length when in use.

Wire or Composite Inner Forestay

Modern materials can provide much nicer and more practical solutions. For a fixed inner forestay on a turnbuckle, the least expensive option is often a wire stay. The same setup is also possible with a fixed composite stay built from PBO or Kevlar. While the cost of these materials may be inhibiting, the benefit of a composite stay is a 75% weight saving plus the soft cover of the cable is kinder on both your staysail and the genoa passing across it during tacking. The staysail should be hoisted on soft hanks

At, for yachts under 45ft, we recommend an SK99 Dyneema® stay (e.g. Gottifredi Maffioli Ultrawire) with a purchase system on deck. The stay is connected at the mast tang with a soft strop / lashing, and is flexible enough to be made full length and then led around a radius at the mast base and tensioned back towards the cockpit when not in use.

Another advantage we have seen with this setup is that when the sail is lowered to the deck, the purchase line, on the bottom of the stay, can be eased off and the sail pulled back using the sheet. This pulls the stay towards the mast and can facilitate easier tacking without removing the sail / stay. To re-hoist the staysail - simply tension the stay, release the sail ties and hoist away!

All of the above options also require a staysail halyard sheave box in the mast and sail luff tension is adjusted via the halyard.

Furling system

The alternative to a stay with hanked-on sails is a furling staysail. There really is no right or wrong here and it comes down to a personal preference. It is possible to rig a permanent inner forestay with a traditional genoa reefing furler & aluminium luff foils.... But, here at, we like to think these days are over (too much weight!), and a continuous line (bottom-up) furler with torsional cable is the right solution for the vast majority of our customers. There are two primary furler setup options: Hoist on a halyard or into a lock.


The furling unit is clipped directly to a deck padeye. The furled sail is hoisted on the staysail halyard to the required tension. It is common to use a 2:1 halyard to increase control and reduce compression in the mast. A benefit of this setup is that it maximises luff length and allows the sail to sit close to the deck.

This is the simplest and most cost-effective retrofit furling solution. Assuming you have a staysail halyard sheave, the only additional requirement is a dead-end attachment just above the sheave box.


There two options here: Internal or external (hanging) lock:

An internal lock is the cleanest solution but requires some work on the rig to install the lock. However, this can be done by most good refit yards with some technical verification from your mast maker. The furling swivel is clipped directly to the lock bullet (preferably with a short soft connector) and then a 2/3:1 purchase is required at the tack, to provide stay tension.

A simpler retrofit is an external / hanging furling lock, lashed to an eye on the mast. The hoist line can run to deck level externally or led into the mast, via a small slot just below the lock, and exited at the mast base with the other halyards. Again, a 2/3:1 purchase system is required at the tack for stay tension.

Retrofit Checklist

Adding a staysail can be a relatively straightforward performance improvement but there are some key checks you should make to ensure the integrity of your mast and rigging.

Deck attachment point - this is fundamental. If you do not have a staysail deck chainplate, talk to your local boatbuilder or refit yard about your options and any structural modifications required to ensure your deck is strong enough to support the inner forestay loads.

Mast fittings - If you do not have the necessary hardware on your mast for the staysail you should seek the advice of your mast maker who can confirm whether any mast stiffening will be required.

Aft rigging - at the same time your mast maker can advise on any requirements for additional aft rigging to counteract the inner forestay loads. On most modern rigs with swept back spreaders this is not generally a structural problem but it is something that needs to be ticked off the check list prior to proceeding with a retrofit project


The addition of a staysail and /or code zero / asymmetric downwind sails can transform a traditional sloop rigged boat. If you are looking at ways to boost your sailing performance, please feel free to contact us at or get in touch using: Furling Enquiry at

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