Re: RE: P19 Short Rig Backstay

Thomas Grimes (
Thu, 11 Feb 1999 18:12:18 -0500

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West Wight Potter Website at URL
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Judy and Ted (and anyone else out there with a P-19 with a short rig)

I did not suggest running backstays as go-faster equipment or because they are used on racing boats--I suggested them (and use them) because they pull back on the forestay and keep the jib luff straighter when the jib is sheeted tight and you're trying to make the boat point closer to the wind.

Running backstays were standard equipment on the gaff rigged cruising (and racing) boats of the early '50's and before WW II, because a fixed backstay won't work with gaff sails. The trouble with them is that every time that you tack the boat (and the boom comes over) you also have to release the running backstay that was on the windward side and tighten up the one that is going to be on the windward side.

The boat that I have them on is a Rob Roy 23, a 23 ft fiberglass redesign of an old English canoe yawl. It is yawl rigged, with only about a foot between the end of the mainboom and the mizzen mast--there's really no room between the main and the mizzen for a fixed backstay. Rob Roys came stock with no backstay and the shrouds (side stays) far enougn back to support the mast, like the P-19. The Rob Roy's jib roller furls on a wire luff, and when it is well sheeted in it has quite a curve in the luff.

Once in a fairly strong wind I dropped the main totally and tried tacking up the lake on mizzen and jib only. The jib really had a sag to leeward and it took me twice as many tacks to get to the end of the lake as it would have with the mainsail set. I added running backstays and when I'm sailing under mizzen and jib only I set the backstays up hard on both sides of the boat. It points as well now without the mainsail as it does with it.

The running backstays on the Rob Roy attach on the mast to the same bolt that the upper shrouds do, and on deck they attach to a U-bolt that goes through the deck at the edge and goes through the hull flange as well. The tackle is only 1:3, and I set it up before there's wind in the jib, to tighten the jib luff. Since the backstays pull directly against the forstay, they do not contribute to mast bend.

I doubt that they would be cheap to install on a P-19, but then, nothing involving boat hardware is. I would imagine that they would be much, much cheaper than a complete new rig.

I wonder why two models of the P-19 were produced? Jerry, if you are reading this, do you know?

The running backstays on the Rob Roy would be easier to set and release if I had the hardware that the old cruising boats used to use with them. They had bronze hyfield levers, adjustable over-center tensioning levers, that they mounted on the decks. You'd just release one by throwing the lever over one way, and tighten the other by pushing it the other way. And the bronze would look good on the Rob Roy!


Tom Grimes
P-14 #363 Far Horizon
Rob Roy 23 #32 Faraway Quest
Muncie, Indiana