Q&A: Un-Stayed Masts

Question: I am curious if you are keel stepped or deck stepped. If keel stepped, could you get away without stays since the aluminum deck could be reinforced enough to hold the mast upright? You could keep running backstays in place for heavier winds.

Answer: Our mast is keel-stepped. I guess that theoretically we could do as you suggest, but it would be a huge and expensive job to reinforce both the step, to take athwartships loads, and the partners (hole at deck). Also, masts that are designed to be un-stayed are much heavier than those that are stayed, so much of the performance benefit of our new carbon mast would be lost.

Having said that, I agree that the idea of dispensing with stays is enticing; however, it is not without problems, particularly offshore.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 18 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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