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Are running backstays worth the effort and the expense?

Most boats don’t come with runners (running backstays) so why would you want to put them on your boat?

Some boats actually need runners to balance the pull of the sail on the mast and rigging. A good example of this is a cutter rig. When sailing in heavy conditions in a cutter configuration, a running backstay keeps your mast from bending and pumping as much.

But I have a catamaran, so why did I put running backstays on my cat?

Catamarans don’t heel over, and so their rigging needs to be more robust, and there is a great deal of shock loading on the rig when sailing in heavy conditions.

Catamarans have a large beam, and the hull flexes significantly in heavy conditions, and the cap shrouds go slack and then instantly take shock loading when they go tight.

This repetitive shock loading of the cap shrouds is not a problem if your catamaran spends most of its life tied to a dock. If you only do coastal cruising a couple of weeks each year with an occasional trip to the Bahamas, running backstays are not for you.

But if you are a sailor logging tens of thousands of miles offshore each year in a catamaran, then running backstays might be for you.

In the eleven years that it took to sail Exit Only around the world, I replaced my diamond stays twice and the headstay once during the circumnavigation. The cap shrouds were a different story. The original cap shrouds on Exit Only lasted twenty five years.

Why did the cap shrouds last so long?

I really don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that my running backstays decreased the shock loading to the cap shrouds for those 25 years.

Did the running backstays protect the cap shrouds from destruction all of those years? Maybe.

Did those cap shrouds give me more confidence sailing offshore in heavy conditions? Absolutely.

If a cap shroud fails catastrophically, the mast goes over the side of the boat with your sails, boom, and rigging. It’s easily a $50,000 disaster to replace all that gear. If you are supremely unlucky, the mast will punch a hole in the side of your boat while it floats in the sea before it sinks never to be seen again.

I am not comfortable sailing offshore in a boat where a failure of a single component can result in catastrophic losses and crew getting serious injuries as well.

My running backstays will keep my mast standing if I ever lose a cap shroud at sea. And if I was so unfortunate as to lose a headstay, I can move my runners forward to the bows to save my mast as well.

The small expense of putting runners on Exit Only has paid huge dividends in peace of mind when sailing offshore in heavy weather.

Andy Wall was my rigger, and he built my runners and installed them on Exit Only. He drilled a hole in my mast a couple of feet down from the top, put a sleeve through the mast, and inside the sleeve he placed a long bolt to hold the tangs to which the runners were attached. Not a big deal.

He made the runners out of 10mm wire, and then attached the runners to the chainplates with a block and tackle. I was fortunate to have an extra hole in my chainplates which made it easy to attach the runner with a simple shackle.

I don’t have to use the chainplates as the attachment point for the runners. I have additional strong points on the back of the boat where I can anchor the runners.

Runners are not for everyone.

Most production yachts are under rigged for rough offshore conditions, but most production yachts are not going to sail offshore.

Runners are easy to use, and they give you options when you have rigging issues offshore.

So there you have it.

That’s all I have to say about that.

Dr. Dave

Captain Dave - David J. Abbott M.D.





Exit Only

See what it's like for a family to sail around the world on a small catamaran

Captain Save Our Souls

Awesome music video that captures the essence of what it's like to sail offshore in a catamaran around the world when conditions are less than perfect. David Abbott from Too Many Drummers sings the vocals, and he also edited the footage from our Red Sea adventures. This is the theme song from the Red Sea Chronicles.

Red Sea Blues

Sailing up the Red Sea is not for the faint of heart. From the Bab al Mandeb to the Suez Canal, adventures and adversity are in abundance. If you take things too seriously, you just might get the Red Sea Blues.

Red Sea Chronicles Trailer

If you like drum beats, and you like adventure, then have a listen to the Red Sea Chronicles Trailer.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 1 - When Flying Fish Attack

Flying fish assault Exit Only in the middle of the night as we sail through the Arabian Gulf from the Maldives to Oman. And so begins our Red Sea adventures.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 2 - Pirate Alley

Sailing through Pirate Alley between Yemen and Somalia involves calculated risk. It may not be Russian Roulette, but it is a bit of a worry. Follow Team Maxing Out as they navigate through Pirate Alley.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 3 - Aden, Yemen

Stopping in Yemen was just what the doctor ordered. We refueled, repaired our alternator, and we made friends with our gracious Yemeni hosts. We also went to Baskins Robbins as a reward for surviving Pirate Alley.

Red Sea Chronicles Episode 4- Gate of Sorrows and Sandstorms

After you survive Pirate Alley, you must sail through the Gate of Sorrows (Bab Al Mandab) at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The Gate of Sorrows lived up to its name with fifty knots of wind and a sandstorm that pummeled Exit Only for two days. Life is good.

Patreon - Maxing Out

Captain Dave and his family spent eleven years sailing around the world on their Privilege 39 catamaran, Exit Only. During the trip, the crew shot 200 hours of video with professional cameras to show people what it's like to sail on a small boat around the world.

The Red Sea Chronicles is a one hour and twenty-two minute feature film showing their adventures as Exit Only sails through Pirate Alley in the Gulf of Aden and up the Red Sea. The professional footage documents their experiences in Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, and the Suez Canal. It chronicles the rigors of traveling in a remote section of the world rarely visited by cruisers. Exit Only dodges Yemeni pirates, fights a gale and sand storms in the Bab al Mandeb at the southern entrance to the Red Sea. The crew explores deserted islands on the western shores of the Red Sea, and learns to check the cruising guides for land mines before venturing ashore.

The Red Sea Chronicles also has outstanding Special Features including an Instructional Video on Storm Management that tells sailors how to deal with storms at sea.

And don't forget the two Music Videos: "The Red Sea Blues", and "Captain - Save Our Souls".

The Red Sea Chronicles is a first class adventure that stokes the sailing dreams of both experienced and wannabe sailors alike.


    Team Maxing Out Sails Around The World On Their 39 Foot Catamaran

    Join Team Maxingout as they sail through Pirate Alley and up the Red Sea


    Give your dream machine a shot in the arm

    See what it's like to cruise on a catamaran before you spend a bazillion dollars purchasing one


    View the storm management video to learn how Captain Dave dealt with storms at sea

    After watching the Red Sea Chronicles you will be able to see yourself sailing on the ocean of your dreams

Red Sea Chronicles

Save A Tree Bookstore

Although I like the feel of a paper book in my hand, I love trees even more. When people purchase an eBook, they actually save trees and save money as well. Ebooks are less expensive and have no negative impact on the environment. All of Dr. Dave's books are available at Save A Tree Bookstore. Visit the bookstore today and start putting good things into your mind. It's easy to fill your mind with positive things using eBooks. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you can pull out your smart phone or tablet and start reading. You can even use electronic highlighters and make annotations in your eBooks just like paper books.