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Mizzen staysail on a cat ketch?

Posted: Wed Oct 05, 2022 12:18 am
by Wasatch
Garry Hoyt mentions using a mizzen staysail a number of times in his sail handling tips. I have the rig and sails from a F36 cat ketch and was interested to hear if, and how, folks are using their mizzen staysails. I sail in the PNW and have pretty light conditions in the summer.

I've been thinking of buying a used symmetrical spinnaker or reacher to try the concept and see what gains it provides in light air before buying a custom sail. Any thoughts on what I should be looking for? Interested to hear your thoughts and solutions for sub 10 knot wind conditions.

Re: Mizzen staysail on a cat ketch?

Posted: Wed Oct 05, 2022 8:03 am
by peaceandfreedom
I recently started flying the mizzen staysail on my F38 CK. Two weeks ago, on a broad reach, I flew it wing on wing with the mainsail while the Mizzen was doused. With a preventer on the main boom, I can sail deep by the lee. Winds were around 15kts. Boat handled beautifully. On a beam reach I have sailed with the mizzen up and down. I prefer dropping the mizzen when flying the staysail. No loss of speed and much better boat handling with the Mizzen down.

Happy sailing
Jim D

Re: Mizzen staysail on a cat ketch?

Posted: Tue Oct 11, 2022 5:05 pm
by arrancomrades

I have flown the staysail while racing with some success, but it's lot of work. It can go between the masts when goosewinged - tacked to the weather rail amidships or when reaching with the tack well forward. In both cases, the sheet is lead to the end of the backsail wishbone, then forward to about level with the wheel.

My staysail is horrible - far too baggy and like some of the cruising chutes from a previous era. When reaching it generates a lot of weather helm.

The biggest hassle is rigging and moving the runner, which is just a rope from the back masthead inside the staysail halyard block - lead to the weather rail level with the wheel and then to the aft mooring cleat. To gybe, you have to let the staysail blow ahead and move the tack while keeping it all clear of the gybing frontsail - light winds only! And then set up the runner after gybing the backsail and then get the sheet back to the end of the wishbone.

For photos, see and search on sail number 3534C.

Re: Mizzen staysail on a cat ketch?

Posted: Mon Oct 17, 2022 7:24 pm
by Castaway
A rather low resolution picture of Castaway flying her large stays'l, just North of Warnemunde, Germany. Photo – P.J.Kidson
A rather low resolution picture of Castaway flying her large stays'l, just North of Warnemunde, Germany. Photo – P.J.Kidson
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We set a mizzen stays'l as Mike describes in light airs. It's quite effective, but you can't gybe the main without dropping it. If the airs are very light, you might even try without the running backstay, but there is some risk.
The P.O. of Castaway described the effect of the deck level block for the runner, breaking in an acceleration zone in the Canaries; he said the mizzen mast "bent like a bow, until I could free the sheet!", and that was with a small 'blade' stays'l.
Mizzen stays'l as seen from cockpit
Mizzen stays'l as seen from cockpit
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You can see the rather manky backstay on the left of the picture. We had set it even in 6-8 knots of true wind. We usually clip the tack of the big sail to the toerail near the main mast. The other ones tack to pad eyes on the coachroof (under the dinghy in this shot), but we almost never use them, unless we have a long board upwind in moderate airs. We did use one to good effect in the only race we entered, but dropping it quickly enough to tack after crossing the finish line at 8.6 knots was somewhat fraught, due to the proximity of the ferry pier!

Mike: some nice pictures of Arran Comrades there! We have very few of Castaway under sail – this one was sent to me by a fellow Cruising Association member, Dr Kidson.

Re: Mizzen staysail on a cat ketch?

Posted: Fri Oct 28, 2022 8:19 am
by arrancomrades
Thanks Gerald.

Seeing as how we're in General Sailing:

Yachting Images used to come to West Highland Week and offer licensed copies of their snaps after the races. I bought a few - not cheap - but hey! - so in following regattas, they always came to me and I got more, including in some sort of anniversary year, when they were free.

Wouldn't it be nice if we have some recognized signal between yachts to say "Please take my picture"?

Heading for lay-up, I took a floating line round the prop off Port Appin and was fortunate to get onto a mooring at Linnhe Marine under sail from where I begged a tow into the shallows, 2h before LW so I could wade in and clear it. Bread knife bolted to boathook didn't really work No apparent damage despite the line being forced forward under the heel of the rudder, lifting it 10cm. How did it do that when I was doing 6 knots forward? I always carry a ladder!
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IMG_20221001_160603.jpg (1.3 MiB) Viewed 6097 times

Re: Mizzen staysail on a cat ketch?

Posted: Sun Oct 30, 2022 9:38 pm
by Wasatch
Thanks Gentlemen!

I appreciate the information and photos. I swear, a good picture is worth a thousand words. I'll keep the eyes peeled for a flatter cut reacher that will fit. I borrowed a symetical spinaker for a buddy to try when the winds are right. We'll see how that goes.

Does everybody use running backs when they fly these? Makes sense with stronger winds, but if it's over 12, I don't think I'd need the boost from a staysail, so would plan to drop it. However, I don't want to re-invent the wheel, so I appreciate learning from the group wisdom.

Arg, getting a line in the prop is always my worst fear. Looks like a coolhead and steady hand made the best of a bad situation. Nice save!


Re: Mizzen staysail on a cat ketch?

Posted: Sun Nov 20, 2022 9:26 am
by arrancomrades
Thanks Matt, and oops:- the rudder lifted 10mm not 10cm.

When using a staysail, you can do without a runner in light winds, or might better lead its halyard aft and out to the rail, but beware that it can become very powerful in a gust and it's probably bigger than the backsail and less prone to spilling wind.

Re: Mizzen staysail on a cat ketch?

Posted: Mon Dec 26, 2022 12:30 pm
by Castaway
Just seen the later posts; I've been away in Spain, hence this late reply.

The one time I did get a line around the prop on Castaway, we were in Ystaad harbour and I sat in the dinghy and untangled it with a boathook; in calm water, the prop is easy to see and reach. Fortunately I had noticed that we had caught our neighbour's stern anchor line before it would up tight, but this is a not infrequent peril in Scandinavian harbours.

We always use a runner with the staysail; ours is permanently rigged at the masthead, and we keep a loop at the end which slips directly over the weather mooring cleat at the stern, so it can be set – and removed – in moments. When not in use, we clip it to the toe rail just ahead of the mizzen mast, along with the halyard for the staysail. That last is also available for MOB recovery, since it is led to an electric winch that would haul a person out of the water, despite the decrepitude of the crew.

Re: Mizzen staysail on a cat ketch?

Posted: Sun Mar 12, 2023 11:30 pm
by VeloFellow
Besides giving me some entertainment, our staysail adds a bit of power on light days. we have dynema runners to mizzen mast top.
Just bought a used drifter with chutescoop to add color My white staysail is a bit stretched and torn from carrying it out of range.