The Solent Has Its Own Stay!

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.

Solent Stay Options

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.

Inner Stay Options

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.


Solent Stay

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!

Solent Stay with Storm Sails

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.

Solent Stay

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).

Head Stay, Solent Stay, Sta-sail Stay

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!


Posted in Annapolis Sailing, Around the World, Baltimore Sailing, Classic Yachts, Cruisers, Modern Yachts, Rigging, Tech Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Vang offers this defintion of the word vang.

Vang sailing. The rigging company

Although the etymology is all very interesting. The latter is the one we are the most interested in. Below is a good video describing the benefits of the boom vang and when to use it.

The Boom Vang, in its simplest form, is a block and tackle arranged in such a fashion that it applies downward force (also upward force, see rigid vang) to the boom. This will allow the sailor to control the tension of the leech at all points of sail, regardless of the boom’s sheet tension.

Lewmar Handy Billy. Soft Vang

Although more purchase may be necessary, typically provided through cascades, this should give anyone the gist of the basic ‘soft’ boom vang. For more information on soft vang configurations check out these diagrams.

RIGID VANGS – Most modern day cruisers and racers alike will use a version of this called a rigid vang. A rigid vang, a.k.a. hard vang, or boom kicker, gets its name because it not only is able to haul the boom down but also pushes it up. This is very handy for a few reasons. The ‘main’ reason (pun intended) is it allows the user a quick way to de-power the booms sail if needed and also helps to support the boom much like a boom topping lift. The last part makes reefing, dousing and storing of the boom all a bit easier.

In taking a look at who’s making these rigid vang systems we find no shortage in manufacturers: Boom Kicker, Barton Boom Strut, Bamar Rigid Vang, US Spars/Z Spar Vang, Selden Rod Kicker, Hall Spars Quick Vang, Vang Master, Forespar Yacht Rod, and Sparcraft Vang. Those are just the mechanical vang makers of the world (and I’m sure I’ve missed some).

On the hydraulic end of things, there are far less manufacturers. If your boat is already equipped with a hydraulic system of any kind you’ll likely recognize one of these brands: Navtec, Sailtec, Selden, and Harken, which are all makers of high quality hydraulic systems…including vangs.

Let us just focus on the ones that we know best and sell the most of here at The Rigging Company!

The Rigging Company

Forespar Yacht Rod is a tried and true system and our most popular model yet. It may not be the lightest or sleekest out there, but this vang has earned it’s rank among one of the most dependable in the rigid vang market. It is well suited for just about any racer/cruiser or dedicated cruising boat out there. The yacht rod uses a dependable coil spring as the return. Forespar vangs are adjustable, utilizing a very coarse adjustment (about every 4″) via a fast pin which allows the user a tool-less way to adjust the spring pre-load or boom kick height. The vang is constructed of one smaller anodized aluminum tube and one larger painted aluminum tube with cast anodized ends. Pricing is around the $870 – $1600 range, and they are available in just 3 different sizes. Mast brackets, block and tackles, boom lugs, all sold separately.

NEW! Hall Spars Quick Vang

Hall Spars Quick Vang has also been around for a long time. Although Hall USA has recently announced its closing of business, I think shoppers will still find an inventory of these super high quality vangs with various distributors throughout the US. The Hall Spars Quick Vang has always had a great reputation, and their most recent iteration is even better. Typically, this vang is found on racer/cruisers and dedicated racing boats. Although there is no reason this couldn’t be found on a cruising boat in my opinion. This vang also offers a coil spring as the return mechanism. The springs pre-load can be finely adjusted to set the boom’s kick height (hex keys required). It consists of completely anodized aircraft grade aluminum tubing with solid aluminum machined ends. These systems can vary in price from $1000 to $2800 and are available in 7 different sizes/configurations. Purchase block and tackles are always included, varying from 8:1 to 60:1 depending on boat size and sail requirements. As with all of these systems, mast brackets and boom lugs are purchased separately.

Selden Rod Kicker. Rigid Vang

Selden Rodkicker vangs have also been around a very long time and are rigged on many different styles of boats. It is likely they are equipped on more boats than any of the other manufacturers, from the club racer/cruiser, to the dedicated match racer, to the varying ranges of production cruising boats found in today’s sailboat market. Selden’s approach is slightly different in that it uses a gas spring (much like your gas strut on your hatchback) as the return. They also use a very attractive rectangular extrusion instead round tubing like Forespar and Hall. Selden’s Rodkicker vang does not offer any spring height adjustment. The ends are made of cast anodized aluminum (like Forespar). Price wise these are some of the most affordable systems on the market, ranging from just under $300 up to $1600 (hence their popularity). The Selden vangs come in 4 different sizes, and offer a soft and hard spring option within each size (they also offer the no spring option, but what’s the point?). Purchase block and tackles, mast and boom brackets must be bought separately.

Hydraulic vang service done the right way. The Rigging Company

Hydraulic Vangs – Amongst the various hydraulic vang manufacturers you will see very similar design, functionality, and construction. It seems that Navtec, who also recently closed their doors, was the grandfather of all sailboat hydraulic system and cylinder design. The three big players left (see links at the top of this article) all have their own unique features and benefits, but are for the most part based on the same (Navtec) design. Whether we are talking about a double acting push pull vangs (reserved primarily for larger yachts with heavy booms) or gas return vangs, the gist is the same. There is a stainless steel piston rod with an aluminum piston that rides inside of an anodized aluminum cylinder/body. This is all accompanied by a series of seals that will need to be serviced/replaced once in while to keep things….sealed. The big deal is that all of these hydraulic vangs require the boat to be plumbed with hoses, a reservoir and a control panel that houses the pressure gauge and pump at a minimum. Besides just a basic vang cylinder (no plumbing, brackets, lugs or panels) costing as much as the most expensive mechanical vang mentioned above, these systems HAVE to be professionally installed thus making them the most expensive, but also the most robust option, by far.

~Some Final Thoughts~

All rigid vangs especially when properly installed and maintained will last a very (very) long time. Keep in mind, typically anything using fluid (and or gas) and seals will require service/ repair over time. One thing that all vangs require, regardless of whether choosing a simple block and tackle, mechanical, or hydraulic system, is for them to be installed properly; ensuring a properly mounted mast bracket and boom lug, rigging the vang in the correct orientation (not upside down), all the while achieving the appropriate boom to vang angle (approximately 30-45 degrees). This will ensure functionality, longevity and ease of use.

Have a question about which system might be right for you? Need your hydraulic vang serviced? Talk to our experienced sales staff for more information.

Thanks for the read. See you next time.


Posted in Classic Yachts, Cruisers, Modern Yachts, Multihulls, Product Review, Racers, Rigging, Tech Tips, Yachting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Step a Mast

Sean Simmons Working Hard to Get the Mast Ready to Step

Before stepping the mast there needs to be several preparations in order for everything to go smoothly once the crane arrives. So take your time and double, triple check everything in order to keep from having to go aloft, or worse, having to re-step the mast once the mast has been stepped. Below you’ll see a few tips and guidelines on how we step a mast…

First, we fill out our pre-step checklist. So before we are even ready for the crane we must:

  • Build the mast either track up or track down depending on whether the crane will be set up forward of where the mast sits or aft of where the mast sits (bow-in or stern-to)
  • Hang all standing rigging
  • Ensure all turnbuckles and stays are new or have been inspected and serviced
  • Install spreaders and make/ seize spreader ends onto the wire
  • Install spreader boots
  • Test all light fixtures through the mast
  • Ensure mast butt/step has proper drain
  • Ensure mast butt/step has proper electrical access or wiring hole
  • Rig mast boot if keel stepped
  • Ensure all halyards are run correctly and on the correct side of the spreaders and root bars (if present)
  • Run-in halyards or tie all messengers to be used to deck level, leave all unused messengers tied off tight aloft
  • Ensure all clevis pins are inserted properly and cotter pins are bent correctly
  • Silicone any remaining wiring holes or spreader cotter pin legs
  • The Windex has been installed and aligned
  • All remaining masthead gear and electrical items have been installed
  • The chain plates are in place and clevis pins and NEW cotter pins have been laid out next to chain plates
  • The mast step is in place, clean and secure
  • The deck ring (if keel stepped) is in place and secure
  • The foresail furler(s) has/have been pinned and secured
  • The rigging and the furler(s) has/have been lashed to the mast, ready to be lifted

Stepping a sailboat mast

Now we are ready for the crane. When rigging the crane’s hook to the mast, we use a 4′ endless lifting loop (this is generally long enough for most mast diameters, for larger masts a 6′ loop may be a good idea) which is rated adequately.

~Ultimately we suggest seeking the counsel of the crane operator.  

First we tape open the mousing latch. Then we rig the loop in a ‘single basket hitch‘, making sure not to trap any halyards (except for maybe one or two that can be used to help retrieve the loop later). It is also important to be mindful of which side of the loop the forestay(s) (or backstay, depending on the mast being track up or down) is placed relative to the crane. The correct side (port or starboard) can be determined by where the crane is set up relative to the boat’s fore and aft center-line (the stay needs to be opposite the crane).

Before attaching the lifting loop to the crane hook we have a heavy duty tag line with a large bowline tied in one end. The bowline is then slipped over the two ears of the lifting loop’s basket hitch and attached to the crane’s hook (see picture above).

~The loop NEEDS to be placed somewhere above the masts balancing point, this is VERY, VERY important and can cause the rig to upend if not picked from above the balancing point.

In doing this, be mindful of any gear on the front of the mast that might snag on the crane once vertical. Finally, the lifting loop is slightly tensioned by the crane, and the tag line is tied off tight using three half hitches around the mast. These three hitches should be placed at a strong point near the deck (underneath halyard winches, the goose neck or any available horn cleats).

Mast Being unstepped!

Once the mast is sitting securely on the mast step, pin and lightly tension all of the stays. If for some reason you still find either the backstay or the headstay has been ‘locked out’ by the crane, make sure you have something, halyard or alternate stay, to take either forward or aft depending on your situation. If the mast is keel stepped there is  slightly less of a chance of anything detrimental happening. However, you should still take every precaution before releasing the crane.

TIP:  On a multiple spreader mast, the loop likely needs to be attached above the lower spreader. Therefore it might be difficult to retrieve the lifting gear without going aloft once stepped. In this situation we will tie a retrieval line (long enough to be reached from deck level) to the lifting loop. This helps to retrieve the loop once it is off the hook. Also before stepping take note if the crane’s hook can swivel freely. If so, attach another small control line to the crane’s hook itself (If the hook is fixed just make sure the open end is facing the masthead). This will help to manipulate the swiveling effect, and get the loop off of the hook. 

A properly installed mast boot, from SSI, by The Rigging Co.

Now that the crane is out of the way, the mast has been technically stepped! There is still lots to do before you can go sailing. Next, take all halyards and lines away from the mast so that you can see what you are doing. Then chock and boot the mast at the partners (if keel stepped). Next, tunepin and tape the standing rigging. Now, hang/rig the boom, connect all electrical items, and finish running the lines…………as I always like to say, ready for sails! ~exit the rigger

Have a question? Leave us a comment!

Related article: How to Un-step the Mast.

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