Olson 34 Running Backstays (to be or not to be)

racushman

Member II
Gents,

So I've been through the process of replacing all the standing rigging on my new-to-me O34. At some point in the process I realized that the boat did not come rigged with any running backstays (although the mast column has the fitting where a terminal would be inserted).

Any feedback from this group whether they use them and/or are the running backstays really needed? I am wondering if the "official" answer is yes, but the practical answer is "not really".

Thanks,
Rob
 

Slick470

Member III
Running backstays, not really needed. Check stays maybe, depends on how you sail and where you sail. The check stays will help straighten the mast in higher winds and choppy seas when you have the backstay cranked on. This will help keep the rig powered up and the mast from pumping.

I assume the factory Olson 34 check stay arrangement was based off of the Olson 911 arrangement which had check stays that complied with MORC rating rules. These went to short tracks on the cabin top. In that location they are more out of the way, but the angle doesn't give you much leverage and can pull the mast to the side. Some of the West Coast Olson 911s have changed to check stays that go to the stern which is more efficient. Our boat has never been rigged for them and I so far haven't needed them on the primarily light air Chesapeake.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Thoughts, but not definitive answers

Check stay trivia- any boat with parallel shrouds, like our Olson's, has no built-in way to keep the mast from pumping forward when the bow collides with steep seas. i.e. we do not have "double lowers" like the BK-designed Ericson's.

Then, you have to consider just how much stiffness is designed into the spar section that we have. Our boat has the Tall Rig and also the check stays that are led to turning blocks just in front of the aft mooring cleats, and thence to the secondary winches. While this was the way the factory did it, I understand that some other boat have those 'runner tails' cleated differently, and some may even have the double-fiddle block arrangement with a cam cleat.

I was told by rigger friend, when we bought our boat, that these were not needed in the less-harsh waves on our inland waters. :confused:
The stock runners were SS, and had an eye several feet above the deck, and a half inch line then goes on back as a 'runner tail'.
Back when we re-rigged the boat, these were replaced by ultra low stretch lines, also with eyes to connect to the tails.

Since acquiring the boat in '94, I have almost never rigged the tails, leaving the upper check stays secured to the turnbuckle area on each side with light lines.
A few years ago, when we went North for over a month, up and then back down the WA coast, we did have them both engaged, and snugged up. While never in sustained big seas, it just seemed prudent out in the ocean.

Another site member with a standard rig on his O-34, told me he has been sailing and doing overnight races off the SoCal coast for about 20 seasons, with no check stays rigged.
I would advise being conservative and using them when the seas seem appropriate. Tacking and jibing will be more labor intensive.

Harking back to our last (rough) trip over the Columbia bar, it was comforting to have them tight when the boat spent a couple of hours ... going up 7, down 6, 8 to the right, and same to the left, rinse and repeat. :eek:

If nothing else, it's two more solid lines to hang on to, along with a loaded-up mainsheet. :rolleyes:
 
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Slick470

Member III
Thanks for weighing in Loren. I'm glad that Ericson went to a better check stay arrangement on the Olson 34 vs the MORC setup on the 911.
 

racushman

Member II
Thanks Andy and Loren.

I guess I must have my terminology wrong... check stays not running backstays. Helpful to understand they are not just for offwind sailing. I'll have to take a closer look at how my boat is laid out, but I'm pretty sure that there isn't any turning block for them back near the transom, but instead a short length of genoa track with a car mounted on the deck toward the aft end of the cabin trunk. Another O34 in the harbor seems to have a similar setup. Anyone else have this?
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Some clarity, perhaps

Over the years, I have heard sailors refer to running backstays and 'check stays'. The terms seem to be interchangeable, whether they should be or not. :)
Here is a a link to a photo from my Album, and you can see the turning block at the end of the side deck. The other longer genoa track is easy to see, but the short track inside of the shroud is harder to make out.
https://www.ericsonyachts.org/infoexchange/album.php?albumid=26&attachmentid=10239

Happy Holidays!
:xmas_grin
 

Slick470

Member III
My understanding is, generally check stays go to the middle of the mast to either prevent pumping or as a sail shaping tool to help keep from flattening the main sail. They are used in a similar fashion to a baby stay but on a more flexible section mast like ours. Running back stays are typically only on fractional rigs to apply tension on the forestay. Applying tension on the backstay on these rigs will bend the mast, but will not normally tension the forestay.

Here is a picture of the track on the cabin top for the checkstay on an Olson 911.

Checkstay Track.jpg
 

bgary

Advanced Beginner
Blogs Author
In the US (**), generally speaking...

-- On a frac-rigged boat, "running backstays" align with the top of the headstay, "checkstays" provide support to the middle of the span between the runners and the gooseneck

-- On a masthead-rigged boat, "running backstays" are fitted onto the rig about 2/3rds of the way up the rig, "checkstays" (if present) again support the section between runners and gooseneck.

I've seen checkstays done two different ways - as part of a combined runner/checkstay system, or (as in the photo shown above) as a separate system. In the former case, it's common to see a tackle connecting the checkstay to the main running-backstay tackle... by doing that, winding on the runner snugs the whole system, but the checkstay can be independently tightened or eased with that tackle.

Note that there are a couple of other terms that come into play on our 80s-era boats

-- a "baby-stay" is a stay that runs from the forward face of the mast down to a point on the foredeck a couple of feet in front of the mast. You don't see them very often, they were a pain in the butt to deal with, but the idea was that by tightening the baby-stay you could force some bend into the lower panel of the mast to de-power the mainsail... and then that bend would be stabilized by snugging up the checkstay so that section of the match wouldn't "pump".

-- "chicken stays" were sometimes seen on the more noodle-y rigs to stabilize the rig on offshore deliveries. Basically a pair of removable wires that connected halfway up the mast (sometimes hooked to a spreader base) and led down to adjustment tackles on either side of the boat at the rail. Combined with runners/checks, it gave support to the middle of the mast in four directions, like the guy-wires on an antenna tower.

Our rigs are (generally) not NEARLY as noodle-y as the rigs built at the height of the IOR daze, so for the most part we don't have/need those things. For example, my E32-III rig is dimensionally almost identical to the rig of the late-70s Ericson-34 (the IOR 3/4-tonner); that rig had runners, checkstays and a babystay.... and NEEDED them.

My rig has fittings on the mast for running backstays, but I doubt they've ever been fitted. If I were racing, and had a backstay adjuster with enough throw to generate some bend in the rig, I might use runners to stabilize it... and maybe use them to support the rig in a seaway. But.... I think, on our boats, runners and checks are mostly for getting that last 1%, and maybe not as essential for simply keeping the rig in the boat like they were in the past.

$.02
Bruce

(**) In Aus/NZ, those terms might have different meanings. Just like they have a "kicker" instead of a vang, etc.
 
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CTOlsen

Member III
Never used Running Backs

My mast has the openings for the tang fittings, but my boat was never rigged for their use. I’ve got secondary winches at the cockpit which would be used for the running backs, but no turning block. Neither I nor the original owner ever set them up.

I’ve sailed in some rough weather, and raced Loki quite a bit. But never really saw bad mast pumping. If I decide to redo the deck (which I’m considering), I’ll be removing the secondary winches.
CTO
 

racushman

Member II
Gang - thanks so much, i love this forum.

So I've learned the difference between check stays and running backstays.

And I'll conclude that I probably don't need to worry about them for now unless i'm going to do some more serious offshore work with the boat.
 

markvone

Sustaining Member
Another Data Point

I've got checkstays on my E36RH which has a similar rig to the O34. The rig is a little taller with a little more sail area. The jibs are slightly larger and the main slightly smaller due to the IOR design.

When sailing upwind in a small (2-3 foot) swell, in light winds (with a 150 genoa), I get significant mast pumping. A swell this size is uncommon on the Chesapeake unless the typically light wind has been blowing moderate to hard up or down the length of the Bay (due N or S) for a while. I can eliminate the pumping with the windward checkstay tensioned.

The main reason I get mast pumping in relatively light conditions is because I have my rig setup very loose in the fore-aft direction to power up my genoa in our typical very light winds. I also have a larger, heavier, stiffer mast section (probably a replacement) than the original Kenyon mast on the E36RH from the factory. Both of these conditions mean I don't have any mast pre-bend in my static rig setup which greatly helps stabilize the mast column. Most masts and particularly lighter masts, are more stable with just a small amount of pre-bend to force the mast in one direction. Without any pre-bend, my mast is free to wobble fore-aft between the deck and the masthead.

My checkstays are wire with a t-ball fitting for the slot in the mast and a swagged eye on the lower end. A 4:1 tackle with two fiddle blocks and a cam cleat tensions the checkstays to a pair of beefy padeyes at the outboard stern corners. Each end of the tackle has a snap shackle so the checkstay can be rigged or stowed easily or the tackle and line can be stowed out of the sun and the wire portion secured with light line like Loren does. I usually clip the checkstays to the shroud deck u-bolts when not used which keeps them completely out of the way.

Mark
 
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gadangit

Member III
I've been fighting mast pumping as well. We too have what I think is a bigger stiffer mast from US Spars. Lately I've been cranking down hard on the lower fore and aft shrouds which has only been marginally effective. I've been wondering: what does "bad" mast pumping look like?
 

markvone

Sustaining Member
Chris,

It's hard to estimate the exact amount of movement 20 feet up the mast but I'd say I get at least several inches of fore-aft motion at mid-mast height. It's very easy to see the mast bowing fore-aft as the boat moves up and down on each swell. I suspect the extra weight of a heavier section mast gives the mast more forward momentum than the extra stiffness can resist.

Mark
 

67rway

Member II
Just in Case

I've not experienced my mast pumping in our inland waters, nor on another O34 in a day long race (Farallons) out of the Bay Area in 5-6 ft seas and mid-20's breeze earlier this year.

Still... I've installed aft turning blocks, and am in the process of rigging what I'll call running backs. They'll be tied down to the shrouds in prep for that rare (apparently) day when the conditions merit.
 

Grizz

Grizz
Late in picking this up and this reply is triggered by CT's "thinking about removing the secondary winches" comment. But 1st, the checkstay item:

this Olson was not built with the hard points for check stays, but a Sister Ship in Chicago (Tenacity) was. Their hard points remain, but to my knowledge (!?) have never been used. Perhaps Tenacity's skipper can weigh in. We've experienced some hellish conditions (75+ knots in 2011!), which was successful, double reef, #3 furled to a diaper, backstay cranked down, up/down 8-10 footers, with top speed while slicing down the back wave face logged at 12.4. Not comfortable, especially in pitch darkness @ midnight, with lightning all around. The rig stayed up, but there's no clue as to the amount of pumping movement experienced, as we were fully occupied just hanging on during the event (40 minutes that felt like an eternity).

As to removing the secondary winches, that process occurred 2 days ago, after lots of consideration and discussion. Because we installed Harken fairleads between the adjustable jib cars and the primary winch last winter ('18-'19) we eliminated the vexing Bulgarian CF winch overrides we experienced (always) at the worst possible time (Murphy and his Laws suck). The only time we used the secondaries was to clear the Bulgarian CFs, but with the problem solved, they have become unnecessary. The solution was all about changing the entry angle to the winch, allowing the wraps on the winch to climb in an upwards direction. Simple, but it still took years to figure out. Duh!

The attached pics show what was removed (winches, cleats, backing plates, bolts/washer/nuts AND the Corean base blocks fabbed in 2010. The Crew is in the process of guessing the removed weight of all these components, the answer and winner will be revealed during our Crew Party coming up on Saturday February 22nd. It's a substantial weight, all things considered.

Hope this makes sense and helps the O34 members of this Forum. Take care.
 

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