Stays are lines, cables, or ropes on sailing boats that run fore and aft along the middleline to the main hull, deck, jib, or to other fore-and aft main sails that serve to steady the stern. A stay is often part of the main sailing rigging and is employed to support the full weight of a main sail. A boat’s stay is connected to the main sail with a jib, main strut, clew board, or boom stop and is often featured on the mast of the main sail. The mast is typically piloted by the captain while the skipper or third person is the skipper.
Stays tend to be made of materials such as fiberglass, sponges, cloth, nylon, leather, plastics, fabric, wood, and metal. Some of these materials are more susceptible to wear and tear than others and should be inspected regularly for signs of distress. Sailors should also keep in mind that some boat designs feature main stays that connect directly to the mast.
There are several types of stays to choose from for different purposes. For example, the jib stays are placed between the mast and the main sail which allows the mast to be piloted from either position. Bow stays are installed between the main sail and the tacking mast which allow the mast to be piloted fore and aft. And, the pole stay, which connects the main sail to the tacking mast at both bow and stern, is often featured in larger sailboats or racing dinghies and has its own unique set of features and characteristics.