Guest Blog - Turbo-Charge your Ride with a Staysail

Published Date: February 4 2020

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One of the great spectacles of the recent Volvo Ocean Race was seeing the VO65s charging along with a trio of headsails flying in neat formation in front of the mainsail. In the fourth blog post of this series, Bjarne Lorenzen of sailmaker Doyle O’leu describes the growing appeal of the staysail in both the racing and cruising scenes.


The appeal of the staysail is simple, says Bjarne Lorenzen: “It’s an easy way to achieve more power out of your existing sail plan. This is why we’ve seen their use growing not only in the Volvo Ocean Race for power reaching but also at the recent Offshore World Championships in the Netherlands. Staysails provide increased efficiency even on windward/leeward racing.



“On a reach, with your standard mainsail and A-sail already flying, you can add more aerodynamic power and efficiency with a staysail. When you hoist a staysail between the A-sail and the mainsail, the mainsail becomes more efficient. It’s not about the additional sail area, it’s about accelerating the flow of the wind through the slot, which is why you get more power out of your existing sail plan. It’s the same with your car; you don’t necessarily need to change your engine completely, but you can put a turbo on it, which makes your engine more powerful and efficient. That’s what we’re doing with the staysail - turbocharging your ride!”



The one point of sail where staysails work against you is upwind, but it’s surprising how little you need to ease sheets before a staysail can start to pay. “Even if you bear away just 10 or 12 degrees from your upwind angle, you can think about using a staysail with your genoa. However, bear in mind that this is not a sail for lighter winds; if you have less than 5 or 7 knots of breeze, the staysail can disturb the flow in your sail plan because there’s not enough energy to follow the complete sail shape. This varies from boat to boat, but broadly speaking, by 8 or 10 knots of wind the staysail will start working for you. Even at the top end of the wind range, the mainsail continues to work more effectively because the drag of the mainsail is less when it’s trimmed to follow in line with the staysail.”


Once you start bearing away towards a dead run, the staysail will become less effective and you’ll want to think about dropping it. “There’s a point around 150 to 155 degrees where you’re getting close to the lower limit of the staysail,” says Lorenzen. “But there are also some special staysails to get even lower, for example a staysail with a flying luff which Doyle made a few years ago. This is more like a small gennaker but with a looser luff. So, if you’re really interested in this option, discuss it with your sailmaker.”



If you use the staysail only for racing, it makes sense to furl it. It’s the quickest and most efficient system for rapid deployment. “There are so many changes of conditions - upwind and downwind, many manoeuvres, and so on. It’s easy to furl and drop it, so then you can tack with the jib or genoa, and your foretriangle is free of any stays.”


For long distance cruising, luff hanks on a fixed inner forestay are a perfectly good solution. If you don’t already have the attachment points for a staysail, it’s worth fitting them to the mast and on the foredeck, behind the main forestay attachment. The hanks option will give you the choice of hoisting an array of different sails. “For example, you can hoist the staysail itself, or for heavy weather you can use the same stay to put up the storm jib. One significant advantage with hanks is that the sail remains completely under control when dropped on the deck, and cannot blow away.”


The problem with a fixed inner forestay is that it gets in the way of your main jib/genoa during tacks. To resolve this, there are three primary alternatives for a temporary inner forestay setup

  • Stay with hanks (furling or non furling) – The stay is permanently fixed at the upper end on the rig, with a 3:1 purchase on the lower end / under the furling drum to create stay tension. When not in use, the stay can be pulled back to the mast to free up the foretriangle. Multiple sails can be used on the same stay.
  • Simple furling system – Using a continuos line furler, the drum is clipped on at deck level and the staysail, on the torsional cable, is hoisted on the staysail halyard. The halyard is used to manage stay tension and the staysail can be furled as required and the sail dropped when not in use.
  • Furling system on a lock – the racing solution. The staysail, on the torsional cable is raised on a hoist line (small halyard) into a halyard lock at the mast. A 3:1 purchase system is then used under the drum to manage stay tension.

So if you’ve never given staysails much thought before, there you have it. An easy and affordable way to turbo-boost your boat.


If you would like more information on staysail furling on your boat please use the link below, or contact us at

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