A stay that gets its name from a strait separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of southern England, the Solent. This traditionally windy place with strong currents can cause rough sea conditions and can make for some interesting sailing, to say the least. This body of water is also famous for hosting one of sailing’s largest events known as Cowes Week. These sometimes unrelenting sailing conditions have brought forth the conception of an entire stay, aptly called the Solent Stay.
As most boats these days are equipped with headsail furlers, rigging a Solent stay is a modification that many blue water cruisers are considering, more and more. The Solent stay is an inner fore-stay that provides an alternative to the Sta-sail stay. Its benefits, similar to that of the Sta-sail Stay, are to provide an inner stay that can fly a smaller/ heavier headsail without having to unfurl, douse and change out the boats everyday headsail.
The Solent stay is unique to the Sta-sail in that the stay is rigged close enough to the fore stay at the mast, eliminating the needs for any additional back-stays, i.e. running backstays. It is also possible that the new Solent sail could share sheet leads with the boat’s existing Genoa lead cars, depending on design and lay-out, and Solent Sail cut.
The tricky part, when adding any stay to the boat, be to locate a strong place on deck that is available to anchor the chainplate for the Solent Stay. Typically there will be only 1 or 2 reasonable locations for this. This may result in the two forward stays not being parallel to each other (see image left). If you can get over the appearance (easily done especially if it is removable, and I can’t say that it has ever bothered me anyways) this set-up probably makes the most sense. Especially if you consider it a good idea to move the center of effort inboard when trying to reduce sail and ensure control of the boat.
~The on-deck attachment can be moved as far inboard as a conventional Sta-sail stay!
Some Solent stays are rigged to be removable and stowed aft (more on stowing removable stays here). This is a totally acceptable practice. However, as the boat length increases so does the sail size and the associated hardware. Therefore, rigging the Solent stay and sail can become a bit more difficult, if nothing else more burdensome. Therefore It is also common, and totally acceptable, to install a more permanent solution by rigging stay in place with a furler. When rigging the Solent stay with a furler, a good concept might be to have a smaller sail (maybe 110%) built that will carry you through most sailing conditions, medium to heavy (i.e. say… 15-30 knots wind speed), with at least one, maybe two reef points. This sail should be cut to achieve all points of sail from the hard beat to the beam reach. Now, the headstay furler should get a full cut-over-sized Genoa (maybe 150% or larger) that can be used as a light air drifter or full cut Genoa.
~Yes, this sail will need to be furled completely during tacks, but shouldn’t be a problem in light airs.
This new light air headsail should be cut for working upwind from a close reach, to downwind, just below the beam reach for light to moderate conditions (i.e. say… 5-12 knots wind speed). For more foresail options regarding downwind sailing, read our blogs here and here.
Lastly, there is one final consideration: the tension of putting two fore-stays opposite of the one back-stay can end up sharing the loads. This can lead to the Solent stay sagging to leeward, moving the draft aft and causing issues with being able to point the boat upwind. This is not preferred in most heavy weather conditions, especially when having to work upwind. The solution lies in the how the rig tune is set up. The headstay will need to be slackened a good bit, and the new inner Solent stay will need to be tightened fairly tight; so that the backstay is pulling on the Solent Stay no the headstay. This set up will compliment the aforementioned light air Genoa/ Drifter sail on the headstay and everyday jib on the Solent Stay. In the case of the Solent Stay being removable, make sure your Highfield lever is set to a tighter tension than the Head-stay. This should cause the Head-stay to become slack when the Solent stay is in use. Then to combat the leeward sag of the Solent Stay even further, it is also a good idea to make sure the back-stay is at its maximum recommended working tension (usually approx. 30% of breaking strength).
As always, you should seek the advice of your local rigger to ensure this Solent stay system is set up completely and properly. Have question or a comment, please leave us a few words in our comments box below.
Thanks for the read!