What is a Stay on a Sailing Boat?
Stays are lines, ropes, or poles attached to a sailing vessel that run forward along the middleline from the keel to the stern, Deck, hull, sails, pointers, masts, or to any other mast that serves to stabilize the mast. A stay is also a piece of the standing rigging – a horizontal piece of wood or canvas on which the main stays, or clew heads, rest. While a clew head is generally larger than a stay and placed at the front of the mast, a stay may be of a similar size to a clew head and either run horizontal or vertically, but not both.
From the stem (or main) of the ship, the stays are rigged across the forebay to act as a second line of defense against the wind and to act as a lever for raising and lowering the mast. While the name “stay” has several historic and figurative meanings in different languages, the most common today are related to boat/sailing terminology in general. The words stay are often used in association with the windlass or clew head. Windlasses are sails fixed behind the mainmast that rotate and rise to provide a wind direction change while the clew head is a flat piece of wood fixed in front of the mast above the clew head. The word stayed is derived from Latin, meaning “to stand.”
Stays have come a long way in their development since their first appearance in sailing literature over a hundred years ago. They are used in many varieties of sailing craft, from sailing yachts to smaller boats, pleasure craft, and speed boats. There are a number of methods for stowing stays on a boat. Depending on the application and the type of sailing, there are several popular types of stays: